Chances are you have probably heard about “Toxic Black Mold” in the media, from friends, or from a contractor that you have worked with. With the word toxic in the equation, it has developed caused mold growth to have a certain stigma as something to be feared. Stachybotrys Chartarum is the specific species of mold growth that people are referring to when they are knowingly talking about “toxic black mold”. This specific species stands out from the rest as it can release mycotoxins into an indoor environment which can lead to some serious health complications. Stachybotrys is a species of mold that is usually accompanied by others including but not limited to Penicillium, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Chaetomium. This is usually the case as Stachybotrys is a slow growing mold and the aforementioned are more common and faster growing.
The term “toxic mold” is somewhat misleading and has led to misunderstandings and confusion regarding the health-related dangers of mold. In high enough concentrations, all molds — toxic or otherwise — may cause health problems. As a result, some sources refer to all mold as “toxic mold.”
Strictly speaking, however, there is no such thing as toxic mold. A few forms of mold are called “toxigenic,” meaning that under certain conditions they can produce small molecular toxins, called “mycotoxins.” These mycotoxins are usually spread by way of the mold’s spores and may be the cause of potentially serious health problems if ingested in sufficient quantities over time.
In contrast with mold in general, which is to be found virtually everywhere, toxigenic molds are less common. Two of the best-known examples of so-called “toxic mold” include:
Stachybotrys chartarum – Sometimes called S. chartarum or Stachybotrys atra, and popularly known as “black mold,” this toxigenic mold is a greenish-black fungus that requires a moist environment in which to grow and is most commonly found in flood-damaged buildings. The mycotoxins produced by Stachybotrys chartarum are potent, but there is some evidence that only a few strains of Stachybotrys chartarum are toxigenic, indicating that this particular type of “toxic mold” may be quite rare.
Aspergillus – Aspergillus is a family of molds, and only some aspergillus molds are toxigenic. The mycotoxins produced by toxigenic strains of Aspergillus are less potent than stachybotrys chartarum mycotoxins, but infestations of Aspergillus mold are probably far more common. Aspergillus may be found in any of the mold-friendly environments discussed above. Though some people become ill from these mycotoxins and toxigenic mold, many of the more common health problems thought to be potentially mold-related may be caused by mold that is not strictly speaking toxic (or toxigenic).
Health problems can sometimes be an indicator that there’s mold present in your home. Sensitive individuals sometimes exhibit symptoms like sore throat, stuffy nose, eye irritation, wheezing and rashes. In more extreme cases, they might endure fever, shortness of breath, and mold-related lung infections when exposed to a mold-laden environment. But even if no one is sick at your house doesn’t mean you don’t have mold.
If you believe that you or someone in your family has symptoms that you suspect might be linked to mold exposure, you should consult a physician who has experience with mold exposure illnesses. If mold testing was performed in the house or building, bring a copy of the report, including any accompanying data tables to your doctor. Keep in mind that many symptoms associated with mold exposure can also be associated with other environmental problems. Tell your doctor about the symptoms, when they began, and the period of time you think you were exposed to mold. An indoor mold inspection will be important in finding mold contamination sources and suggesting how to solve the problem.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other governmental agencies have yet to establish guidelines for evaluating the health risks of specific mold concentrations or strains in buildings, but they have stated that the most prudent practice when discovering mold in your home is to remove it. All mold varieties should be considered the same when evaluating their potential risk to your family’s health [source: CDC].
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was mined heavily throughout the industrial age and is still mined in some countries throughout the world. Asbestos was widely used throughout the industry because of its tensile strength, resistance to fire and chemicals, and in its natural form could be woven into cloth like materials. It is the only known substance on the planet that will not burn.
Most asbestos containing products were phased out during the 1970s. Some products can still be purchased that contain asbestos, especially those manufactured overseas where regulations are not as stringent. In order to liquidate stock, some products that were manufactured in the 1970s were still sold, but no longer produced, in the 1980s.
Current rules and regulations state that a homeowner (i.e., the actual owner of the property) is allowed to remove asbestos from his/her home. Prior to doing so, you must check with all local, state, and federal agencies for proper transport and disposal methods for these materials. However, if you are not familiar with asbestos removal, we strongly recommend that as much research be done as possible prior to any impact of these regulated materials. Without doing so, there is a high probability that you could expose yourself, family, friends, or others to hazardous concentrations of asbestos. We never recommend that a homeowner perform removal activities themselves due to the possibility of exposure.
Some common indoor air pollutants include:
· Biologicals: Bacteria, mold, viruses, animal dander, pollen, dust mites. These are more likely to be a problem in buildings with high humidity, or water-damage.
· Carbon Monoxide: From unvented gas heaters; leaking chimneys or furnaces; gas stoves; automobile exhaust. Low levels can cause headaches, flu-like symptoms. High levels can be fatal.
· Respirable Particles: From fireplaces, wood stoves, kerosene heaters, and smoking.
· Organic Gases: From household products including: paints, paint strippers, and other solvents; wood preservatives; aerosol sprays; cleansers and disinfectants; moth repellents and air fresheners; stored fuels and automotive products; hobby supplies; dry-cleaned clothing.
· Formaldehyde: Usually from pressed wood products (hardwood plywood paneling, particle board, fiberboard) and furniture made with pressed wood products; or urea-formaldehyde foam insulation.
· Pesticides: Products used to kill household pests, and lawn and garden products that may drift or be tracked into the house.