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The Truth About Toxic Black Mold: It’s Probably Not What You Think

Black mold exposure symptoms are typically over-hyped by the media and many mold removal professionals

Few topics get us more upset than seeing misinformation publicized about “toxic black mold,” and mold in general, by unscrupulous companies and zealous media articles who seem more interested in sensationalism than fact-based reporting.

To put it bluntly, our industry is full of scare tactics and misinformation about mold—especially regarding black mold.  Because of all this black mold hype, many people contact us extremely worried about their health and well-being if they discover some black mold in their home.  Let’s cut through the hype and understand what having black mold in your home may mean, and give you some tips on how to fix the problem yourself and Save Big Money.

Common questions about black mold

What is black mold?

Black mold is the common name for a certain type of mold called “stachybotrys” that’s thought to be particularly harmful to a person’s health.  But the truth is that it has never been scientifically proven that black mold is any more harmful than other types and colors of mold. All types of mold cause allergies in certain people who are sensitive.  Therefore, many in the mold industry are trying to move away from misleading information out there about black mold, and moving toward “no mold belongs in a healthy home.”

Is black mold dangerous?

We know that black mold causes allergies (stuffy head, headaches, itchy eyes, sinus issues, etc.) in some percentage of people, which can make their lives miserable.  It can also trigger some more serious illnesses such as pneumonia in a very small percentage of people who have other underlying medical issues. But other types and colors of mold can do this as well, so singling out black mold over other types of mold is misleading.  Following the mantra that “no mold belongs in a healthy home” is the best way to keep yourself and others safe from mold symptoms.

Can black mold make you sick, cause cancer, or kill you?

We know that black mold, along with many other types and colors of mold, can trigger severe allergies (stuffy head, headaches, itchy eyes, sinus issues, etc.) in some people who are sensitive.  Living with allergies like that is awful and miserable. So in that sense, black mold can make you sick. But black mold has never been scientifically proven to cause cancer. That is misleading information that’s out there on the internet that is a lot of hype and only serves to scare people.  Can black mold kill you? Well, that’s complicated. Black mold can’t really kill someone on its own, but a strong allergic reaction to black mold exposure could trigger something like pneumonia, which could lead to death if you can’t recover from it. But we think the talk about black mold leading to death is overblown and an unfair connection to make.  Black mold causes severe allergies in certain people who are sensitive. That much we know for sure.

What is the best cleaner to kill and remove black mold?

Are you ready to save some money?  Read on. For our money, the best cleaner to kill and remove black mold is Clorox Clean Up.  We like it because it’s cheap, it’s effective, and you can find it anywhere. And after you’re done using it for mold you can use it to clean other areas of your home, such as your kitchen or bathroom.  Clorox Clean Up is a mild bleach-based cleaning solution. Spray a little of it on your area of mold, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe up with a damp scrub sponge. Repeat as needed.

If you want more power for your project to kill and remove black mold, we recommend RMR-86.  It’s a stronger bleach-based solution.

Of course, wear proper PPE (personal protective equipment) such as a mask, work gloves, chemical gloves, etc and read the labels on the back.  Safety first!

Disclaimer: The links above link to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn More

How Did I Get Mold?

Like any other living thing, mold needs food and water to thrive.  Mold problems start when a mold spore (tiny, invisible “mold seed”) that’s floating in the air lands on a wet piece of organic material (such as wet wood or drywall), takes root, and starts to multiply.  Mold spores are everywhere in the air, including in the cleanest of homes.  

In fact, every breath you take likely has some mold spores in it at low levels!  In the home, mold usually grows wherever there is dampness and moisture, like basements, attics, kitchens, bathrooms or areas that have experienced flooding.

With over 100,000 species, mold comes in about any size, shape, and color you can think of, making it impossible to tell what type of mold you have without testing by a certified mold inspection professional.

What does Black Mold Look Like?

There is a specific type of mold called Stachybotrys that’s commonly known as “black mold” because it’s black in color.  We see black mold most often when there is flooding or water damage, but there are other instances when it can take root.

What does black mold look like?  Check out these photos of a couple basements that experienced flooding:

   

Symptoms of Black Mold

According to the EPA, various types of mold can cause health problems for some people.  Those health problems are primarily in the form of allergies such as stuffy head, headache, itchy eyes, trouble breathing, etc, but they can be more serious in the young, the old, and those with other health issues.  The CDC  basically says the same thing – that mold can cause health issues in some people, or none at all.

Health effects of black mold

According to the CDC, Stachybotrys black mold is unproven to cause serious medical issues beyond those mentioned above.  In other words, symptoms of black mold are only proven to be similar to other molds.  The CDC simply states that various types of mold may cause health symptoms, to consult with a doctor if symptoms persist, and that no color or type of mold belongs in a building.

It’s important to note that even though there are many media reports, studies, and websites out there that link mold to cancer, it is not widely accepted as scientifically proven.  We prefer to trust the CDC and the EPA and let them make the official determination.

You may be thinking “If all we know for sure is that mold causes allergies in some people, and maybe some serious health problems in a small percentage of other people, then what’s the big deal?”

Well, our answer to that is to imagine yourself as one of those people who are sensitive to mold.  Constant allergies, constantly feeling sick, and miserable in your own home. There’s even a scientific name for it:  Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).  Mold, along with other problems such as radon, Chinese drywall, and other factors, can cause Sick Building Syndrome.  Suffering through Sick Building Syndrome is a terrible way to live, and we wouldn’t wish it upon our worst enemy.

Mycotoxins & Toxicity

Media reports of Black Mold often refer to molds that can produce toxins,specifically mycotoxins, such as groups of molds known as Stachybotrys.

Mycotoxins will not always be produced when these types of mold are present. To put it another way, the presence of mold does not necessarily mean mycotoxins are present. The conditions needed for mycotoxins to be produced are not fully understood. Further, mycotoxins can be produced by other types of molds besides Stachybotrys and these molds are not always black.

Do I Need Professional Testing?

In short, usually not!  And that is good news because a professional mold inspection with testing can run anywhere from $300-$750.  In most cases where mold is clearly visible, knowing exactly what type of mold you have is unnecessary. We advise most of our clients to forgo the inspection process and just apply that money “saved” to the cost of fixing the problem. The EPA agrees that testing isn’t necessary in most cases.

There are exceptions, however, such as when a mold inspection with testing is required as part of a real estate sale or if you require “proof” that a mold problem is present, such as for a legal dispute.  If you think you may have a mold problem, but aren’t sure, then we recommend formal testing from a professional.  And if you require clearance testing to verify an “all clear” after a mold problem is fixed, then professional mold testing is necessary.

Is black mold dangerous? Here’s the Truth.

As you’ve read above, many people aren’t negatively affected by mold.  However, mold can cause allergies in some people who are sensitive to mold. In these cases, it can make their lives miserable.  Mold can also cause severe medical issues with a small percentage of people who have other health complications.

Bottom Line:  No mold belongs in a healthy home.  Be it black mold, or any other color of mold.  It should all be treated the same. If you have mold, remove it.

Considering removing black mold yourself? 

In many instances, a hiring a mold removal professional isn’t necessary and black mold can be removed by a homeowner. We’re sharing our years of experience with you so you can save some money:

  1. How to remove black mold from drywall and wood.
  2. In-depth guide to DIY mold removal

Handy Table of Recommended Products for DIY Mold Removal

**Note:  The links below are for Amazon.com because, let’s face it, they’re the easiest with fast shipping and their prices are reasonable.  The products recommended are not always the cheapest, but they are solid quality and good value for the money. You’ll probably have a lot of these items already, so there’s a good chance you can buy all the remaining stuff you need for less than $500.  If you are able to do the job yourself, you’re likely saving at least $1000 by not hiring a pro.

CHEMICALS AND CLEANING
Mold Killer & Stain Remover Combo
Scrub sponges
SAFETY
Work gloves
Chemical gloves
Kneepads
Work shirts
Work pants
Drop cloths for flooring
Plastic sheeting for furniture
Face Respirator Masks (Use N95s when they become available again)
CONTAINMENT
Plastic sheeting for containment
Zip wall system (for large work areas)
Painters tape
Box fan
Window fan
HEPA air purifier (for small & medium jobs)
HEPA air scrubber (for large jobs)
DEMO
Contractor bags
Carpet scissors
Utility knife
Hammer
Pry bar
Drywall jab saw
Power drywall saw (for large amounts of drywall cutting)
CLEAN UP WORK AREA
Microfiber cloths
Simple Green
Mop

Disclaimer: The links above link to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn More

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The Moldman Difference

  • No overstating mold problems
  • No scare tactics
  • No pressure, no hassles
  • 100% focus on mold and water damage
  • Licensed, insured, and certified
  • Thousands of jobs worth of experience
  • 10-year warranty & 100% satisfaction guarantee

Free Estimates • On Time • On Budget

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