Black mold is a type of toxic mold that can cause a number of respiratory complications and allergic reactions in people in close contact with it. Although many types of mold are black, people usually refer to a type called Stachybotrys chartarum (S. chartarum) when they refer to black mold. This type of mold can grow in homes and is relatively common, but how serious is it for human health? Below, we will explore some of the risks of having black mold in your home.
What Are the Health Effects of Black Mold?
Black mold is dangerous because of a toxin it carries, called trichothecene mycotoxin. Mycotoxins are present throughout black mold. When the mold reproduces, it releases tiny cells, called spores, into the air. When these spores are inhaled, the mycotoxins can enter your body and cause numerous health issues.
Here are some of the most common health effects of inhaling black mold mycotoxins.
Continued exposure to black mold could result in respiratory diseases like pneumonitis, rhinitis, and other nasal infections. In particular, black mold is known to cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), an inflammatory lung disease. HP can cause a flu-like illness, including coughing, shortness of breath, fever, headaches, and more.
Having an allergic reaction to black mold is one of the most common health risks of this fungus. People who are allergic to black mold may experience symptoms similar to hay fever, including:
- Congested nose
- Frequent sneezing
- Dry cough caused by post-nasal drip
- Itchiness in the throat, mouth, ears, and nose
Even people who are not allergic to black mold may experience some of the above symptoms after prolonged exposure to black mold mycotoxins.
Continued exposure to black mold could cause respiratory issues even after direct contact is removed. A study in the journal Toxins found that patients with prior exposure to mold mycotoxins can develop chronic illnesses by harboring the mycotoxins. This means your body may carry the black mold mycotoxins internally, thus causing long-lasting health complications.
Black mold mycotoxins are, as implied by their name, toxic to humans. Even if you are not allergic to them, you may still experience symptoms of intoxication like:
- Brain fog and other minor brain injuries
- Dizziness and loss of balance
- Blurred vision
- Sleep problems
- Body pains and aches
It is also worth noting that a Finnish study found that black mold can be especially toxic for babies. In addition to the above symptoms, exposure to black mold mycotoxins could also hinder the development of newborn babies, which can be catastrophic for the baby and their family.
How Severe Is Black Mold Exposure?
Black mold can have a negative health effect on almost anyone who comes into contact with it. However, the health risks of black mold can be more severe for:
- People who suffer from respiratory diseases like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- People who are allergic to mold and other airborne fungi
- People with increased exposure to black mold
- People with a compromised immune system
However, most health complications of black mold are not severe. Many experience symptom alleviation immediately after removing contact with black mold. Depending on your situation, your doctor may prescribe you an antihistamine to reduce the effects of your allergic reaction or nasal decongestants.
How Quickly Can You Get Sick From Black Mold?
You may get sick immediately after coming in contact with black mold if you are allergic to it. However, if you are not allergic to mold, then you may not experience any symptoms after repeated exposure. In some cases, it may even take years to develop any illnesses from black mold, making it easy for many to overlook or neglect dealing with the black mold growth.
How Can I Treat Black Mold Sicknesses?
The first thing you should do if you are experiencing sickness or discomfort from black mold exposure is to eliminate the black mold. If you are dealing with a particularly tough case of black mold, it may be a good idea to avoid the room where the black mold is present or look for temporary alternative accommodations. You may also want to block the HVAC from the infested room to prevent contamination in adjacent rooms.
Once you have eliminated your contact with the black mold, the best thing you can do is eliminate as many mycotoxins from your body as possible. Nasal irrigation can be a great way to do this, as most mycotoxins tend to get trapped in the sinuses. You can use a saline spray or a sinus rinse kit to flush your sinuses.
If you are experiencing more severe symptoms, make sure to see your physician. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may run some tests to determine whether you are allergic to black mold. Common tests include skin prick tests and blood (IgE) tests. If the allergy tests are positive, your doctor will prescribe antihistamine medications.
What Causes Black Mold?
As a fungus, black mold is a naturally occurring organism found in most places in nature. Black mold grows when black mold spores land in a moist environment. Some of the most likely places in your home that could foster black mold include:
- Laundry room
- Any room with water leaks
What Should I Do if I Have Black Mold?
The first thing you should do if you have black mold is eliminate it. If you do not own your property, the landlord is responsible for removing any mold on the premises, including black mold. You should contact your landlord and request that they remedy the situation in a reasonable amount of time.
Your landlord may also be responsible for any damages incurred due to the black mold infestation, including medical bills and lost wages. If your landlord was negligent and failed to remove the black mold in a reasonable timeframe after being notified, then you may be able to recover compensation for your damages in a premises liability case.