Asked Questions on Stachybotrys chartarum and
I heard about "toxic molds" that grow in
homes and other buildings. Should I be concerned
about a serious health risk to me and my family?
The term "toxic mold" is not accurate. While
certain molds are toxigenic, meaning they can
produce toxins (specifically mycotoxins), the
molds themselves are not toxic, or poisonous.
Hazards presented by molds that may produce
mycotoxins should be considered the same as
other common molds which can grow in your house.
There is always a little mold everywhere - in
the air and on many surfaces. There are very few
reports that toxigenic molds found inside homes
can cause unique or rare health conditions such
as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss. These
case reports are rare, and a causal link between
the presence of the toxigenic mold and these
conditions has not been proven. A common-sense
approach should be used for any mold
contamination existing inside buildings and
homes. The common health concerns from molds
include hay fever-like allergic symptoms.
Certain individuals with chronic respiratory
disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder,
asthma) may experience difficulty breathing.
Individuals with immune suppression may be at
increased risk for infection from molds. If you
or your family members have these conditions, a
qualified medical clinician should be consulted
for diagnosis and treatment. For the most part,
one should take routine measures to prevent mold
growth in the home.
|How common is mold,
including Stachybotrys chartarum (also known by
its synonym Stachybotrys atra) in buildings?
Molds are very common in buildings and homes and
will grow anywhere indoors where there is
moisture. The most common indoor molds are
Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, and
Alternaria. We do not have precise information
about how often Stachybotrys chartarum is found
in buildings and homes. While it is less common
than other mold species, it is not rare.
How do molds get in the indoor
environment and how do they grow?
Mold spores occur in the indoor and outdoor
environments. Mold spores may enter your house
from the outside through open doorways, windows,
and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
systems with outdoor air intakes. Spores in the
air outside also attach themselves to people and
animals, making clothing, shoes, bags, and pets
convenient vehicles for carrying mold indoors.
When mold spores drop on places where there is
excessive moisture, such as where leakage may
have occurred in roofs, pipes, walls, plant
pots, or where there has been flooding, they
will grow. Many building materials provide
suitable nutrients that encourage mold to grow.
Wet cellulose materials, including paper and
paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood,
and wood products, are particularly conducive
for the growth of some molds. Other materials
such as dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation
materials, drywall, carpet, fabric, and
upholstery, commonly support mold growth.
Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra)?
Stachybotrys chartarum (also known by its
synonym Stachybotrys atra) is a greenish-black
mold. It can grow on material with a high
cellulose and low nitrogen content, such as
fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust, and lint.
Growth occurs when there is moisture from water
damage, excessive humidity, water leaks,
condensation, water infiltration, or flooding.
Constant moisture is required for its growth. It
is not necessary, however, to determine what
type of mold you may have. All molds should be
treated the same with respect to potential
health risks and removal.
any circumstances where people should vacate a
home or other building because of mold?
These decisions have to be made individually. If
you believe you are ill because of exposure to
mold in a building, you should consult your
physician to determine the appropriate action to
the people who are most at risk for health
problems associated with exposure to mold?
People with allergies may be more sensitive to
molds. People with immune suppression or
underlying lung disease are more susceptible
to fungal infections.
How do you
know if you have a mold problem?
Large mold infestations can usually be seen or
Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) cause
acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among
To date, a possible association between acute
idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants
and Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra)
has not been proved. Further studies are needed
to determine what causes acute idiopathic
What if my
child has acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage?
Parents should ensure that their children get
proper medical treatment.
the potential health effects of mold in
buildings and homes?
Mold exposure does not always present a health
problem indoors. However some people are
sensitive to molds. These people may experience
symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye
irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation when
exposed to molds. Some people may have more
severe reactions to molds. Severe reactions may
occur among workers exposed to large amounts of
molds in occupational settings, such as farmers
working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may
include fever and shortness of breath.
Immunocompromised persons and persons with
chronic lung diseases like COPD are at increased
risk for opportunistic infections and may
develop mold infections in their lungs.
How do you
get the molds out of buildings, including homes,
schools, and places of employment?
In most cases mold can be removed from hard
surfaces by a thorough cleaning with commercial
products, soap and water, or a weak bleach
solution (1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water).
Absorbent or porous materials like ceiling
tiles, drywall, and carpet may have to be thrown
away if they become moldy. If you have an
extensive amount of mold and you do not think
you can manage the cleanup on your own, you may
want to contact a professional who has
experience in cleaning mold in buildings and
homes. It is important to properly clean and dry
the area as you can still have an allergic
reaction to parts of the dead mold and mold
contamination may recur if there is still a
source of moisture.
should people to do if they determine they have
Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) in
their buildings or homes?
Mold growing in homes and buildings, whether it
is Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) or
other molds, indicates that there is a problem
with water or moisture. This is the first
problem that needs to be addressed. Mold can be
cleaned off hard surfaces with a weak bleach
solution. Mold in or under carpets typically
requires that the carpets be removed. Once mold
starts to grow in insulation or wallboard, the
only way to deal with the problem is by removal
and replacement. We do not believe that one
needs to take any different precautions with
Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), than
with other molds. In areas where flooding has
occurred, prompt drying out of materials and
cleaning of walls and other flood-damaged items
with commercial products, soap and water, or a
weak bleach solution (1 cup of bleach in 1
gallon of water) is necessary to prevent mold
growth. Never mix bleach with ammonia. If a home
has been flooded, it also may be contaminated
with sewage. Moldy items should be removed from
How do you
keep mold out of buildings and homes?
As part of routine building maintenance,
buildings should be inspected for evidence of
water damage and visible mold. The conditions
causing mold (such as water leaks, condensation,
infiltration, or flooding) should be corrected
to prevent mold from growing.
Keep humidity level in house between 40% and
Use air conditioner or a dehumidifier during
Be sure the home has adequate ventilation,
including exhaust fans in kitchen and bathrooms.
Use mold inhibitors which can be added to
Clean bathroom with mold-killing products.
Do not carpet bathrooms.
Remove and replace flooded carpets.
I found mold growing in my home; how do I test
Generally, it is not necessary to identify the
species of mold growing in a residence, and CDC
does not recommend routine sampling for molds.
Current evidence indicates that allergies are
the type of diseases most often associated with
molds. Since the reaction of individuals can
vary greatly either because of the person’s
susceptibility or type and amount of mold
present, sampling and culturing are not reliable
in determining your health risk. If you are
susceptible to mold and mold is seen or smelled,
there is a potential health risk; therefore, no
matter what type of mold is present, you should
arrange for its removal. Furthermore, reliable
sampling for mold can be expensive, and
standards for judging what is and what is not an
acceptable or tolerable quantity of mold have
not been established.
qualified environmental lab took samples of the
mold in my home and gave me the results. Can CDC
interpret these results?
Standards for judging what is an acceptable,
tolerable or normal quantity of mold have not
been established. If you do decide to pay for
environmental sampling for molds, before the
work starts, you should ask the consultants who
will do the work to establish criteria for
interpreting the test results. They should tell
you in advance what they will do or what
recommendations they will make based on the
sampling results. The results of samples taken
in your unique situation cannot be interpreted
without physical inspection of the contaminated
area or without considering the building’s
characteristics and the factors that led to the
In summary, Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys
atra) and other molds may cause health symptoms
that are nonspecific. At present there is no
test that proves an association between
Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) and
particular health symptoms. Individuals with
persistent symptoms should see their physician.
However, if Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys
atra) or other molds are found in a building,
prudent practice recommends that they be
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