Is “Black Mold” Equivalent to “Toxic Mold”? No, black mold is not equivalent to toxic mold. “Black Mold” is a term that is often used incorrectly to refer to toxic mold. In fact even the term “toxic mold” is also not entirely accurate. The correct term to use is “toxigenic mold”. Toxigenic molds refer to those molds that produce byproducts (i.e.,secondary metabolites) that are toxic to humans and animals. These toxic byproducts are referred to as mycotoxins. It is important to note that not every mold produces mycotoxins and toxigenic molds do not produce mycotoxins all the times. Several factors influence the production of mycotoxins by toxigenic molds. These include environmental conditions such as temperature, water activity, and humidity. Other factors such as pH, fungal strain, and substrate also play a role.
While certain molds produce mycotoxins, the molds themselves are not toxic or poisonous. However, both toxin and non-toxin producers are may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
Are All Black Molds Toxigenic?
Not all black molds are toxic molds. The color and production of mycotoxins by molds are two different things. Black colored mold has a black pigment by nature which is not in any way associated with being a toxin producer.
The incorrect association of black color of mold with “toxicity” came about because of Stachybotrys chartarum, a dark black or sometimes dark green fungus. It can grow on material with a high cellulose content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, and paper. Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth. In the 1990s, Stachybotrys chartarum was implicated in the death of children in Cleveland, Ohio. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a possible association between acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage (sudden unexpected bleeding of lungs) among infants and Stachybotrys chartarum has not been proven . Although there isn’t clear evidence linking sudden unexplained bleeding in infants to Stachybotrys chartarum (black mold), the fact that it’s black has caused the general public to think that all black molds are harmful.
Studies have shown that Stachybotrys produces and releases mycotoxins on cellulose-containing water damaged building materials. These mycotoxins can also be present in the spores that get released into the air and, while not scientifically proven, could cause danger to human health when inhaled.
Other Examples of Black Molds Commonly Found in Water-damaged Buildings.
Aspergillus niger: This mold is black and is commonly found in soil, decaying vegetation, and food. It is commonly present in indoor environments but is not typically associated with contaminated building materials. However, Aspergillus niger can also grow on damp building materials such as drywall and wallpaper as well as leather products. While it is an infrequent cause of aspergillosis, it can cause infections in the ears, nose, and lungs, particularly in individuals with compromised immune systems.Chaetomium globosum: This mold appears black and is commonly found in water-damaged buildings. It grows on cellulose-rich materials such as drywall, wallpaper, and carpet. Chaetomium globosum may cause allergic reactions especially to immunocompromised individuals.
Cladosporium sp: This mold may appear black. It is very common in indoor environment. Cladosporium sphaerospermum for example is very common on wet building materials especially acrylic painted walls, wallpaper and insulation. Cladosporium species are well known causes of allergy.
Ulocladium sp: This mold is black and is commonly found in water-damaged buildings. It grows on cellulose-rich materials such as wood, paper, and cardboard. Little is know about the health effects of Ulocladium.It’s crucial to emphasize that all molds pose a potential health risk, regardless of their ability to release mycotoxins. As a result, it is advisable to remove any mold growth in occupied indoor environments, regardless of the mold type. Additionally, identifying and addressing the cause of mold growth is essential.