Black mold, also called toxic black mold, is the more familiar name of a type of mold called Stachybotrys Chartarum. There are several other molds that have a remarkably similar appearance to this type of mold, and they all have some other characteristics in common, including the fact that in and of themselves they are not toxic. Instead, it is the mycotoxins that are present in the spores that cause a multitude of health problems ranging from brain fog all the way to coma or even death. The CDC suggests that for safety purposes, all molds should be treated as toxic and handled in the same way. That is to find the source, eliminate it, and then prevent it from returning in the safest, fastest, and most effective way possible.
What Are Mycotoxins?
Mycotoxins are the toxic chemical products of mold. It’s possible to have several different types of mycotoxins growing within one colony of mold at the same time. The most common household mold types typically produce the following mycotoxins:
- Aflatoxins are produced by the mold Aspergillus. There are six varieties of this mycotoxin. Bleach is an effective way to get rid of it in most cases.
- Trichthecene is the mycotoxin typically found in stachybotrys chartarum or toxic black mold. There are three subgenus of this strain including saratoxin, vomitoxin and T2. Like the aflatoxins above, bleach can be used in some cases to kill these mycotoxins.
- Fumonisins has two strains of mycotoxin.
The problem with mycotoxins is that you cannot always test for them effectively. It’s hard to identify them as a problem, unless you have first detected mold. In some cases, even after bleaching or trying other methods of removal, they can remain in the home.
Mycotoxins are all around us. Not only are they in mold spores in our home, but also in the air we breathe and in the soil our foods grow in. For some people, the mycotoxins have to be in fairly substantial numbers to cause a problem, but for others, only a small amount can cause serious systemic damage. Every system in the body can be affected by these mycotoxins.
Mental and Neurological Problems
Your neurological system includes your brain and your nerves. Here’s how your neurological system can be affected:
- Brain fog and confusion
- Short attention span, difficulty staying on track
- Slowed reflexes
- Memory problems especially with short term memory
- Changes in personality
This includes your lungs and the pathways to your lungs. Here are some symptoms you can experience in your respiratory system if exposed to mold:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Pulmonary edema, which is swelling in the lungs
- Bleeding in the lungs
- Sore throat with no known cause
- Burning sensation in the mouth
- Runny, itchy or stuffed nose
- Nose bleeds
Your circulatory system includes your heart and miles of veins, arteries and capillaries that take blood from the heart to every other part of the body and then back again. Here are some of the issues your circulatory system can experience if exposed:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Lowered blood pressure (which can cause fainting when going from a sitting or lying position to standing)
- Unexplained bleeding, may first be noticed by odd bruises with no known injury or cause
- Poor or very slow clotting, in some severe cases the blood may not clot at all
Some of the possible vision issues include:
- Eye inflammation or soreness
- Red or bloodshot eyes
- Blurry vision
- Vision getting worse, especially if there are sudden changes
The skin is the largest organ of the body. It is supposed to protect us from damage from things like mycotoxins; however, there are times when these organisms can attack our skin instead. Here’s what they can do to your skin:
- Crawling sensation on the skin especially on the arms or legs
- Rashes, blisters or itchy patches that cannot be readily explained by other things
Other Problems Caused by Mycotoxins in Black Mold
There are a number of other problems that can be caused by mycotoxins that are often overlooked. Because these problems can be symptomatic of other conditions, black mold is often missed and it may take finding the mold itself before a connection is made.
- Chronic fatigue (often mistaken for symptoms of depression, lupus or other conditions)
- Weakness (often dismissed as the flu)
- Aches and pains (dismissed as the flu)
- Muscle pain (may be dismissed as strain or overdoing it)
- Chest pain (may be dismissed as a pull or strain or treated as angina)
- Headache (may be dismissed as hormonal, seasonal or tension)
- Fever (dismissed as the flu)
- Nausea and/or vomiting (dismissed as a stomach virus)
- Hair loss (dismissed as hormonal or hereditary)
- Weight loss (May often be overlooked as a symptom unless severe)
- Hearing loss (may be dismissed as a sign of aging)
It is important that the mold be found and then removed promptly. Calling in a professional to handle the cleanup and removal is the safest route. The best mycotoxin removal methods are also not available to the average person. Once this has been done the next step is to prevent the mold from coming back. However, here are some helpful steps people can take to minimize the risk of mold accumulating in your home:
- Eliminate all sources of dampness including condensation around pipes and high humidity.
- Install and use ventilation wherever there is none.
- Install an activated charcoal filter. While a HEPA filter can handle dust particles and other airborne contaminants, it cannot do much with the mycotoxins.
- A vacuum may not be strong enough to remove the mycotoxins and mold spores from the carpet, but can help keep them out of the carpet once it has been professionally cleaned.
- Make visual inspections of the spaces where mold loves to grow, such as the laundry room, crawlspaces, the attic, under cabinets, and behind appliances.
- The kitchen, bathroom, and basement are three of the top offenders when it comes to mold. Always start your inspection there.