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What is mold and where is it found?
Mold (fungi) is present everywhere - indoors and outdoors. There are more than 100,000 species of mold. At least 1,000 species of mold are common in the U.S. Some of the most commonly found are species of Cladosporium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus. Mold is most likely to grow where there is water or dampness - such as in bathrooms, attics and basements.
How can mold affect your health?
Most types of mold that are routinely encountered are usually not hazardous to healthy individuals. However, too much exposure to mold may cause or worsen conditions such as asthma, hay fever, or other allergies. The most common symptoms of overexposure are cough, sinus problems, headache, congestion, runny nose, eye irritation, and aggravation of asthma. Depending on the amount of exposure and a person’s individual vulnerability, more serious health effects - such as fevers and breathing problems - can occur.
How can you be exposed to mold?
When moldy material becomes damaged or disturbed, spores (reproductive bodies similar to seeds) can be released into the air. Exposure can occur if people inhale the spores, directly handle moldy materials, or accidentally ingest it. Also, some molds can produce chemicals called mycotoxins. Airborne Mycotoxins may cause illness in people who are sensitive to them or if they are exposed to large amounts.
How does mold grow?
All molds need water to grow. Mold can grow almost anywhere there is water damage, high humidity, or dampness. Most often molds are confined to areas near the source of water. Removing the source of moisture - such as through repairs or dehumidification - is critical to preventing mold from returning.
What is Stachybotrys chartarum?
Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as Stachybotrys atra) is a type of black mold that has been associated with health effects in people. It is considered a serious toxic mold. It is a greenish-black mold that can grow on materials with a high cellulose content - such as drywall sheetrock, dropped ceiling tiles, and wood - that become chronically moist or water-damaged, due to excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, or flooding.
How can you tell if Stachybotrys chartarum is present in your home?
Many molds are black in appearance but are not Stachybotrys. For example, the black mold commonly found between bathroom tiles is not Stachybotrys. Stachybotrys can be positively identified only by specially trained professionals (e.g., mycologists) through a microscopic exam.
How can Stachybotrys chartarum affect your health?
Typically, indoor air levels of Stachybotrys are low; however, as with other types of mold, at higher levels health effects can occur. These include allergic rhinitis (cold-like symptoms), dermatitis (rashes), sinusitis, conjunctivitis, and aggravation of asthma. Some related symptoms are more general - such as inability to concentrate and fatigue. Usually, symptoms disappear after the contamination is removed. There has been some evidence linking the black mold Stachybotrys with pulmonary hemosiderosis in infants who are generally less than six months old. Pulmonary hemosiderosis is an uncommon condition that results from bleeding in the lungs.
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