Toxic black mold, or Stachybotrys chartarum, is an asexually reproducing fungi which thrives on water damaged cellulose, and can make people and animals very sick just by breathing the microscopic mycotoxins it produces.
Black mold colonizes on materials containing cellulose, the most common organic compound on Earth. Wood is up to 50% cellulose, so any kind of soggy wood in a bathroom or basement is not an uncommon place for black mold to develop. And cotton is 90% cellulose—yucky smelling damp towels anyone?
Paperboard, ceilings, textiles, cardboard, and rayon also contain cellulose. Water damaged buildings are especially prone to black mold, though it can also be present in grains and soil.
The air quality where toxic black mold is present can be hazardous to your health.
VOCs Produced by Toxic Black Mold
Some of the volatile organic compounds produced by toxic black mold in experiments include: 1-butanol, 3-methyl-1butanol, 3-methyl-2-butanol, and thujopsene. So, like me, you may be wondering what that means. I’ll list some of the info I’ve come across so far on these VOCs.
1-butanol or n-butanol:
1-butanol indicates that it is a water soluble alcohol, and a product of the fermentation of sugars and carbs present in many foods, beverages, and consumer goods.
Honeybees emit alarm pheromones containing n-butanol.
Liquid n-butanol is very irritating to the eyes.
At concentrations greater than 2400 ppm, respiratory pathways can be irritated.
According to some, it is the substance responsible for bad hangovers.
It is a moderate fire hazard with a flashpoint at 84F
In addition, n-butanol is a central nervous system depressant. ((not something I would want to be inhaling on a daily basis))
Isoamyl alcohol (3-methyl-1-butanol):
“Very high vapor concentrations irritate eyes and upper respiratory tract. Continuous contact with skin may cause irritation. (USCG, 1999)
Isoamyl alcohol attacks plastics [Handling Chemicals Safely, 1980. p. 236]
Kits to Test for Black Mold
In general, it is the microtoxins, found in black mold that cause the most harm. You can easily order a DIY mold test kit to learn what type of mold is present in your home. For example, the Pro Lab mold test kit is under $20 and will indicate if you have toxic mold. For an additional $30 you can send it in to have lab work done which identifies the exact count and type of mold that is present. It’s a great way to assess the quality of the air you are breathing, and a small price to pay for peace of mind. If you or a member of your household suffers from allergies or respiratory problems, I would not put off testing for black mold. If you discover you do have molds present there are professional services that remove mold as well as a number of safe effective methods of removing black mold yourself.
Now that you’ve got a handle on what black mold actually is continue on and discover how you can identify mold in your home.