Health Effects of Black Mold (Stachybotrys Chartarum)

Elderly man wearing surgical mask with his physician

Are you worried about black mold? Despite fearing black mold, many people don’t actually understand its implications for human health. If you’re one of those people, it may be time to educate yourself on the topic. Research suggests that as the climate changes, black mold could become more prevalent in homes.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regions of the U.S. will experience heavier rains, hotter weather and more frequent and intense natural disasters in the coming years. These weather events will likely accelerate wear and tear on homes and cause water damage that leads to mold growth, including black mold growth.

Fortunately, there are several effective strategies to reduce mold and avoid sickness. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to run a high-quality air purifier for mold. Keep reading to learn about the health effects of black mold and how to prevent mold sickness.  

Need a powerful air purifier for mold? Air Oasis purifiers drastically reduce airborne contaminants, including mold, allergens, VOCs, smoke, viruses, bacteria and more. Visit our online store today and start breathing easier.

Why Is Black Mold Dangerous? 

When people refer to black mold or toxic black mold, they’re generally talking about Stachybotrys chartarum — a specific variety of microfungus. Not all black-colored mold is black mold; there are many types of nontoxic molds that are black in color. What makes black mold (or any toxic mold) dangerous is its byproducts. 

Black Mold Spores

All molds spread through tiny reproductive cells called spores. Airborne spores float until they land on a surface; if the environment is moist and cellulose rich, they grow. Mold spores, including black mold spores, are a common allergen. When inhaled by someone with a mold allergy, black mold spores can cause symptoms similar to hay fever. However, spores aren’t what makes black mold dangerous, but rather the mycotoxins they may carry.

Black Mold Mycotoxins

Certain types of molds produce mycotoxins, secondary metabolites that can harm human and animal health. Black mold can produce two types of trichothecene mycotoxins, but only one of them is toxic. Researchers estimate that only about one-third of black mold is able to produce toxic trichothecenes. As a result, some Stachybotrys chartarum colonies are much more dangerous than others, and mold testing offers little insight as individuals can have drastically different reactions to the same strain. 

Black Mold Exposure

Whereas some people who are exposed to black mold will experience serious health consequences, others will be unaffected. The severity of health effects depends on a number of factors, including the following: 

  • Whether the person has a mold allergy
  • Whether the black mold colony produces dangerous mycotoxins
  • The dose of mycotoxins inhaled
  • The duration of black mold exposure 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), certain factors increase risk for experiencing adverse health effects. People who have poor nutrition, a weakened immune system, low detox capability and comorbid illnesses are more likely to experience severe health effects. 

Health Effects of Black Mold

Toxic black mold is a controversial topic, and some researchers argue that the non-allergic symptoms associated with mold toxicity have been overblown by the media. However, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that in addition to allergic and inflammatory reactions, exposure to high levels of mycotoxins can produce severe health effects. 

Allergic Reaction 

For people who have mold allergies, repeated or single exposure to mold (including black mold) can cause hay fever-like symptoms like headache, sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rash. However, even people who are not allergic to mold can experience eye, skin, nose, throat and lung irritation when they breathe in black mold. Infants, older adults and people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or a compromised immune system are more likely to experience black mold allergies. 

Black mold is especially dangerous for asthmatics and can cause shortness of breath, cough, chest tightness, wheezing and asthma attacks. Although the connection between mold and exacerbated asthma symptoms has been established for years, new research suggests there may be a connection between mold and new-onset asthma.

Respiratory Disease

People who live or work in buildings with black mold are at risk for developing hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an immune system disorder that causes chronic lung inflammation. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is an allergic reaction that occurs after sustained exposure to a particular irritant or allergen. Black mold can also cause acute neutrophilic rhinitis, an upper respiratory disease that results in persistent nasal infections. 

In a 2013 meta analysis, researchers found that dampness and mold in the home were associated with all types of rhinitis, not just allergic rhinitis. They observed the largest risk in relation to mold odor, as well as increased risk in relation to visible mold and exposure to dampness. These findings suggest a positive correlation between mold odor and inhalation of biotoxins. 

Chronic Illness

Long-term exposure to black mold can cause chronic illness. With repeated inhalation of toxic trichothecenes (a type of mycotoxin), some people develop chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS). CIRS affects many different systems of the body and can cause neurological and digestive issues, as well as extreme fatigue, body pain, nasal congestion, mood swings, vertigo and more. 

Black mold doesn’t cause chronic illness immediately; many people develop chronic illness after prior exposure to water-damaged buildings. In a 2014 study, researchers found that the sinuses can continue to harbor mold even after a person leaves a moldy environment. The mold continues to release mycotoxins over time, contributing to the development of chronic illness. 

Black Mold Poisoning

In severe cases, exposure to toxic black mold has been linked to non-allergic symptoms, including neurotoxicity. Mold toxicity can present with a host of symptoms such as the following: 

  • Circulation issues, swelling
  • Loss of balance, dizziness
  • Brain fog, cognitive impairment
  • Digestive issues
  • Blurred vision 
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Fatigue
  • Muscular and joint pain
  • Neurological issues

In a 2017 study, Finnish researchers suggest that exposure to toxic indoor mold can cause insomnia, migraine, motor, and sensory peripheral neuropathy, as well as failure to thrive in newborn babies. Researchers argue that even a short-term stay in a building with toxic mold can be hazardous to health — and life. Their findings also suggest that exposure to toxic mold can increase risk for developing cancer. 

If you suspect black mold poisoning, it’s essential to seek medical attention. Buildings with black mold infestations often require professional mold remediation services before they are safe for occupants again. 

Rare Health Effects of Black Mold

In numerous human studies of stachybotrys mycotoxins, researchers have observed rare and bizarre health effects. Many of these health effects cannot be conclusively linked to black mold exposure, as multiple mold strains and unique environmental conditions precipitated sickness. Regardless of causation, researchers observed associations between black mold exposure and the following conditions: 

  • Severe vomiting and diarrhea 
  • Pulmonary hemorrhages 
  • Viral meningitis 
  • Pseudotumor cerebri
  • Low levels of T-lymphocyte cells

The vast majority of black mold exposure does not cause serious health effects. In fact, it’s possible to live with black mold without ever being aware of its presence. However, as indoor mold is increasingly common, it’s important to be aware of its potential hazards to health. 

Mold Allergy Treatment

In addition to making you miserable, persistent mold allergies can wear down your immune system and make you more susceptible to sickness. The best way to get rid of a mold allergy is to eliminate mold from your indoor space, but mold remediation is a long, daunting process. In the meantime, you can reduce mold allergy symptoms with the following treatments: 

  • Antihistamines. During an allergic reaction, the immune system releases histamines, which cause a runny nose, sneezing and itching. Antihistamines block histamines. 
  • Nasal corticosteroids. If you’re dealing with nasal inflammation as a result of a mold allergy, your doctor may suggest nasal corticosteroids to reduce swelling. 
  • Immunotherapy. Instead of daily medications, some people choose to get allergy shots to tame their symptoms. Certain allergy shots target mold allergies. 
  • Nasal rinses. Saline rinses are an easy way to clear out allergens that may be stuck in the nasal passages, causing irritation. 

Although these treatments provide short-term relief, the only way to completely stop allergy symptoms is to remove mold from an indoor space. However, even after mold is removed, it will grow again if the conditions are right. For this reason, prevention is key. 

Mold spores are ubiquitously present in nature, and as a result, all homes have mold spores. However, in order to colonize and grow, mold requires a constant source of moisture, as well as nutrients. To prevent mold growth, homeowners should keep humidity levels at no higher than 50% and ensure proper air flow. It’s also important to fix leaks in the roof, walls or plumbing, as mold growth can begin with 24-48 hours of flooding. 

Air Purifiers for Black Mold

Without moisture and food, black mold will be unable to colonize in your home. However, that doesn’t mean it goes away completely; mold spores will still waft through the air and lay on surfaces, waiting for the opportunity to grow again. One of the best ways to prevent black mold growth is by running an Air Oasis air purifier. 

Air Oasis air purifiers can greatly reduce, if not eliminate, indoor mold. Multiple scientific studies illustrate the effectiveness of Air Oasis purifiers against both airborne fungus and visible mold colonies. Air Oasis purifiers achieved this through a combination of powerful purification technologies, including overlapping filtration techniques and ionization. 

If you’re concerned about the health effects of black mold, you need the best air purifier on the market. Air Oasis has got you covered. Questions? Contact us online or give us a call at (806) 373-7788.

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