One of the most common questions that I am asked as a remediation specialist is: Is it black mold?, you know, toxic mold? The answer is very simple. I have no idea and anyone who tells you otherwise without a lab test is trying to scare you.
There are several different types of mold in the world that happen to be black. The black mold most often referred to is Stachybotrys chartarum/atra. It has been found that macrocyclic trichothecenes produced by Stachybotrys chartarum/atra can become airborne and thus contribute to health problems among building occupants. What this means is that as molds continuously grow and die they release mycotoxins which can be dangerous in substantial amounts. The trouble with saying “toxic black mold” is that black is not the only color of mold that is toxic. There are tens of thousands of molds in the word and we have identified only a fraction of them. Toxic mold could potentially come in every color of the spectrum.
Some of the most common molds that happen to produce mycotoxins are Aspergillus, Fusarium, and Penicillium none of which are generally black in color. All, however, are “toxic”. The problem, in my opinion, is the distraction and misinformation involved with using terms like “Toxic” and “Black mold”. The presence of mold in your home is an indication of an unhealthy environment for the human and animal inhabitants due to an excess amount of moisture and lack of air circulation, also sometimes associated with poor house keeping. No amount of visible mold in your home is good for you. Regardless of whether or not the mold growth is toxic it should be addressed and if the area affected is larger than a few square feet it should be addressed by a professional remediation contractor. Whether you choose to clean the mold yourself or have it remediated by a professional you should at least consult a professional to ensure you have fixed the problem that led to the mold issue in the first place.
Proper mold cleanup of small areas can easily be accomplished by a DIY home owner. Using straight 3% hydrogen peroxide on a clean rag, place the rag directly over the affected area and wipe clean taking care not to push the mold around but to encapsulate it with the rag and then place in a bag for disposal. Repeat this process until all of the affected area has been made clean. Then using another clean rag and peroxide, scrub the area until the hyphae or root structure is removed. While it is ideal that the area of mold first be vacuumed with a HEPA rated vacuum it is not recommended to use a household carpet vacuum. For this reason I advise the clean rag method and careful practice.
When dealing with larger areas of mold (over 2sqft) it is recommended that a certified mold remediation contractor be called in. The reasoning is very simple here. When cleaning large areas of mold it is important to contain the affected area and prevent the spread of spores to unaffected rooms of the home. Even the process of spraying the mold area with cleaners can cause what is called sporulation. This is the dispersal of spores from the sporangium in the reproduction process. For this reason a HEPA vacuum should be used to remove the spores from the surface of the affected area before cleaning with chemicals begins. Containment and negative air scrubbers should be placed so that no spores can escape the remediation area and contaminate the unaffected areas of the home. After all cleaning processes have been effectively completed the area has to be made dry using dehumidifiers and air movers. It is extremely important that the affected areas be dried to 16% or less as mold has the potential to grow at levels higher than this. Once dry has been established the areas previously affected by mold should be encapsulated with an EPA registered mold sealant to ensure no mold growth is recurrent in a reasonable time frame and barring any water intrusion in the area.
There is currently no magic bullet to kill mold. Fogging, bombing, Ozone and Hydroxyl treatments will not remediate mold. The steps laid out above with a few additions and exceptions are the only sure way to remediate a mold situation. It is important to remember a few things, dead mold spores will affect an individual the same way live mold spores will. Simply killing the mold is not enough. Bleach, while effective at removing discoloration and killing mold on non-porous surfaces WILL NOT kill mold in areas where there are porous surfaces such as wood, sheetrock, insulation, and other common building materials. Bleach is not a remediation chemical. No matter what color or kind of mold you have in your home you have a responsibility to your family to take care of it. Working from fear is bad foundation and you can’t expect to make progress without good footing. If you have any doubts do not hesitate to call a professional. If you have no doubts then you’re not asking enough questions.
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