Despite the commonly held belief that black mold exposure is a serious health concern, no convincing research suggests that exposure to this type of mold causes conditions such as cancer or lung disease.

Mold is a type of fungus. It is present almost everywhere, including the air. In general, normal amounts of mold in the environment do not pose a substantial health risk to healthy people with regular immune system function.

There is no single type of mold called "black mold" — many molds are black. When people use the term, they may be referring to a type called Stachybotrys chartarum (S. chartarum), also known as Stachybotrys atra.

There is to suggest that exposure to S. chartarum is more dangerous than exposure to any other type of mold.

However, some people may be more sensitive to mold spores than others, and they may develop respiratory symptoms after inhaling even a small number of spores. In large quantities, mold spores can cause ill health in almost anyone.

Therefore, people should remove any mold growth in the home and take steps to prevent it from growing back.

In this article, we look at some facts and myths surrounding black mold exposure. We also describe ways to remove and prevent mold growth in the home.

Some molds can release mycotoxins.
Some molds can release mycotoxins.

There is a commonly held belief that black mold — sometimes called toxic mold — can cause severe health problems because it releases mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are toxic substances that a fungus produces.

Some suggests that mycotoxins from S. chartarum have a link to serious health problems in people who live in contaminated buildings.

One such health concern is mycotoxicosis — mold poisoning. Others :

To date, there is that inhaling mold spores causes these symptoms.

Mold exposure can cause other symptoms, however. According to the , it can cause the following types of health problems:

Allergy and irritation

People with allergies may be more sensitive to mold than others. If they come into with mold, they may experience symptoms, such as:

Severe mold allergies cause more severe symptoms, including shortness of breath.

Mold exposure may also worsen asthma or lung problems in people with preexisting lung conditions.

A found that infants and young children exposed to mold in the home had an increased risk of developing asthma by the age of 7. The research examined 289 homes and 36 types of mold.

However, S. chartarum was not among the three types of mold most strongly associated with asthma development.

published in 2004 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) indicates that spending time in damp indoor spaces is related to respiratory symptoms, including those of asthma.

Infection

For most people with healthy immune systems, molds are not a problem.

However, people with weakened immune systems — such as those with uncontrolled HIV, transplant patients, or people undergoing cancer treatment — are at risk of fungal infections.

Toxic effects

Some people believe that black mold is particularly dangerous because it releases mycotoxins. However, the fact is that all molds are capable of producing mycotoxins. Just because mold is present does not mean that it is producing these toxins.

Most cases of mycotoxicosis result from eating moldy food, rather than from inhaling fungal spores in the home or outdoors. The evidence does not indicate that inhaling or touching mold can cause mycotoxicosis.

The IOM's was unable to back up claims that issues such as fatigue, lung disease, or cancer result from mold exposure.

The state that there are very few reports of unique or rare health conditions resulting from mold in the home.

Summary

It appears that many types of indoor mold — not just black mold — may cause health problems in some people, but not in everyone.

Long term exposure to mold in the home, however, may be unhealthy for anyone.

People who are of the symptoms of mold exposure are:

  • infants and children
  • older adults
  • people with allergies or asthma
  • people with weakened immune systems

The main health concerns seem to relate to allergies and irritation, which typically cause respiratory symptoms.

People with weakened immune systems may also have a risk of fungal infection.

Treatment for a mold allergy is similar to treatment for other types of inhaled allergies. Options include:

For a long term solution, a doctor may recommend immunotherapy. This involves getting a series of allergy shots over a few years.

Immunotherapy can be highly effective, but it is only suitable for certain types of mold allergy.

Thoroughly removing mold can help with long term relief from allergic symptoms.

Mold thrives in damp and humid environments.

The most effective way to prevent mold growth is to monitor the humidity level in the home. It should be throughout the day.

Check the humidity level regularly, as it can change every few hours.

Use a dehumidifier if necessary, especially during humid months.

To prevent mold, a person can also take the following steps:

To prevent or reduce the symptoms of a mold allergy:

Also, use proper safety equipment when cleaning up mold in an industrial setting or after a natural disaster.