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Black Mold

The History of Black Mold

“Black mold” was first documented in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1837 by a mycologist (a biologist who studies how fungi relates to humans or animals) named August Corda. Mr. Corda noted a black substance growing on the interior wall of a residence. This mold was originally associated with a high moisture content in building materials and organic matter such as gypsum. In the early 1900’s, farmers across Russia and Europe reported that their animals were mysteriously dying. Symptoms included immune system suppression, bleeding, nervous system disorders and shock. After further evaluation, scientists discovered black-colored mold in the hay the farm animals consumed. The scientists named this strain of mold Stachybotrys chartarum, which is the species commonly related to the term “toxic black mold.”

Where is Black Mold Found?

Though “black mold” is commonly found worldwide, it is more common in dark and damp climates. The Pacific Northwest region of the United States, Portland and the surrounding Willamette Valley offer a climate extremely hospitable to the growth of mold.  Because moisture is a predominant part of many of our northern climates, mold has a tendency to populate in wet or damp building materials and other organic matter.

Other Types of Mold

There are thousands of types of mold across the world. All mold needs in order to grow is water and a food source. Mold spores begin growing in a damp environment with an adequate food source. The mold will then begin to grow with extended branches called hyphae. Hyphae are what gives the mold its fuzzy and discolored appearance, especially when found on fruits. Mold then flourishes, eventually consuming the whole organic matter and decomposing its source of nourishment.

Mold is most commonly associated with unwanted food spoilage. It plays an important role in our environment through biodegradation. That role is also important in the biotech and food science industries in the production of various foods, beverages, pharmaceuticals and enzymes. A lot of molds are helpful, though the most commonly known molds cause allergic reactions in animals and humans. These allergy-illnesses are associated with a sensitivity to mold spores from the growth of pathogenic molds within the body or from the effects of ingested or airborne toxic compounds produced by molds.

Molds Most Commonly Found in Your Environment

Alternaria:

Common in humans when found indoors, this allergenic mold causes hay fever or hypersensitivity reactions that sometimes lead to asthma.

Aspergillus:

This mold is the most common contaminant of starchy foods such as potatoes and breads and is found on many plants and trees. It is found where high osmotic concentration (high sugar, salt, etc.) exists. The Aspergillus species of mold are highly aerobic and are found in almost all oxygen-rich environments. They commonly grow as molds on the surface of a substrate as a result of the high oxygen tension.

Cladosporium:

One of the most common indoor and outdoor mold species, cladosporium produces olive-green to brown or black colonies with dark-pigmented conidia that are formed in simple or branching chains.  Many species of cladosporium are commonly found on living and dead plant material. The cladosporium species of mold are rarely pathogenic to humans, but it has been reported to cause infections of the skin and toenails as well as sinuses and lungs. The airborne spores of the cladosporium species of mold are significant allergens and in large amounts they can severely affect asthmatics and people with respiratory diseases. The cladosporium species of mold will produce no major mycotoxins of concern but do produce volatile organic compounds associated with odors.

Mold Effects on Health

Individuals around the globe can have allergic reactions or be sensitive to mold. In fact, hay fever can be associated with exposure to mold. People have different reactions, some mild and some more severe. For those sensitive to mold, exposure can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may cause mold to develop in the lungs.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) concludes that there is a correlation between indoor exposure to mold and upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughing, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people, and asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition. Additionally, the IOM found suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.

Because molds release tiny spores and small particles that travel through the air, we all inhale mold every day without apparent harm. However, mold can cause poor health when large amounts of mold spores are inhaled over time.

According to the Mayo Clinic, mold allergies cause the same signs and symptoms that occur in other types of upper respiratory allergies.

Signs and symptoms of allergic rhinitis caused by mold allergy can include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough and postnasal drip
  • Itchy eyes, nose and throat
  • Watery eyes
  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Mold allergy and asthma

If you have a mold allergy and have asthma, your asthma symptoms may be triggered by exposure to mold spores. In some people, exposure to certain molds can cause a severe asthma attack.

Signs and symptoms of asthma include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness

For some, moving into a new home can trigger mold allergies that a person has never experienced before. Complaints and symptoms are similar to the health effects listed above, but the difference is that all of these symptoms occurred after moving into the new building.

People who experience mold-related symptoms after moving into a new home or apartment building often complain of:

  •         Causation of new asthma
  •         Onset of allergic rhinitis (sneezing, congested nose, or runny nose)
  •         Upper respiratory symptoms, such as stuffy or congested nose or sinuses, sore throat, or irritated nose or throat that tend to go away when not in the home.
  •         Lower respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or cough
  •         Respiratory infections such as acute bronchitis
  •         Eye irritation (burning, watery, or reddened eyes)
  •         Eczema and skin rashes or irritation

If you have new symptoms of mold allergy, it may be beneficial to have professional mold testing done in your home and speak to your family doctor or allergist about being tested for mold allergens.

Mold Testing and Remediation

Home Mold Testing Kits

Mold testing kits provide limited information and can be a waste of money. They do test for the presence of mold, but mold is often already in the environment. Mold testing kits don’t offer any information about mold’s potential locations or sources, and they identify any ways to fix mold growth. Simply collecting an indoor sample yields only part of the picture regarding potential mold growth in your home. Air samples are a useful tool when they are part of an overall assessment/visual inspection. 

Healthy Home Mold Inspection and Testing

Healthy Home offers a variety of mold inspection services including thermal imaging, which detects temperature variations that may indicate moisture inside walls without the use of invasive equipment. 
Once imaging is done and samples are analyzed, Healthy Home prepares a thorough report, allowing clients to make informed decisions.

We use specialized equipment to properly find “toxic black molds” that may present danger to family and loved ones. “Black mold” can be found anywhere in bedrooms, basements and any place with low air circulation. The best course of action to eliminate any threat of “toxic black mold” is to ensure that highly probable mold growth locations are kept dry and house maintenance is performed regularly. Make sure that damaged areas are fixed, especially in locations of the home or business that are exposed to water or moisture.

It can be difficult to know what to do when you are concerned about becoming sick from mold exposure. Public Health Oregon recommends that you contact a healthcare provider if you or anyone in your household is suffering from a mold-related illness. Doctors can help determine if symptoms are allergy related.

Healthy Home technicians are here to identify mold problems in your home, rental property or business. Our mold testing services allow for peace of mind and a way forward if your home or building is affected.

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