Stachybotrys chartarum has been getting a lot of press lately, and homeowners should take notice. This is the Latin name for a destructive and very toxic greenish-black substance known commonly as “black mold.” Molds of all types are believed to cause respiratory and other medical problems in some individuals, but this particularly virulent strain can cause severe problems (such as lung hemorrhage in infants) and even death in some individuals. Some studies have indicated a connection with other conditions such as asthma and chronic fatigue syndrome. Once sufficiently established, black mold can be very resistant to attempts to clean it up and eradicate it, and some homeowners have gone to the extreme solution of burning their homes to the ground and rebuilding.
In addition to the health threats it can cause, homeowners have additional reason to be concerned, because this particular mold is incredibly tough, and if it is unnoticed and allowed to develop, over time it can cause rot severe enough to cause a collapse of any structural components made of wood, paper, or cellulose (which is most of your home’s building materials). This mold develops slowly, over time forming colonies in hidden areas exposed to moisture, and it appears unaffected by wide variations in temperature. It even has the ability to grow over other less dangerous types of mold. Once established, it releases spores into the air, which can make their way throughout your home and circulate through your ventilation system. In addition to causing problems inhaled, it is also toxic if touched or accidentally ingested.
What causes black mold to develop in a home? Moisture, particularly in the form of areas which stay damp for long periods of time. Flooding is the most obvious cause, but there are other things which may cause moisture to develop and remain unnoticed. One of the most common causes of hidden moisture build-up within the structure of a home is a small roof leak from an area that may not be noticeable, except on close inspection by a professional. Larger leaks produce more immediately-noticeable results – brown stains on your ceiling, or even dripping water. But smaller leaks may result in just a slow soaking of insulation and structural wood. That’s a scenario that’s tailor-made for the development of black mold.
And the picture gets even worse. With the rising reports of this toxic substance, some homeowners’ insurance companies now include clauses in their policies which either completely exclude coverage for clean-up and repair of black mold damage, or they limit the amount they will pay. Read your insurance policy carefully. Even if there is no specific black mold exclusion or limitation, most policies will not cover mold damage unless it can be directly related to an accidental occurrence such as water coming in a home following a tree crashing through the roof. And since this mold develops slowly, you’re not likely to be able to pinpoint the cause.
Next post: What To Do About Black Mold – Spotting Danger Signs and Prevention.