What Is Black Mold and How Do I Prevent It?

Property owners have many everyday concerns when it comes to maintenance, and one of the most important is preventing black mold infestation. Black mold is a fungus that thrives in moist and dirty environments. Basements and underground structures in moist climates generally face the highest risk of mold growth. Mold not only damages structures and leads to costly repairs, it also presents a significant health risk to everyone in the building.

How Does Black Mold Grow?

Black mold is a fungus, so it relies on spores to proliferate. Mold releases spores that feed on organic matter found in most households and structures, generally in areas with lots of water or moisture. Mold can grow almost anywhere. This can include inside of walls, under flooring and carpet, behind drywall, within stacks of paper or books, and near leaky pipes and water fixtures.

One of the most dangerous aspects of black mold is that it can potentially grow in hard-to-see and hard-to-reach areas like inside of your home’s walls. You may not notice a black mold infestation before it has already caused health problems for you and the other people in the building.

Risks of Mold Exposure

The spores that black mold releases into the air can easily cause severe respiratory problems for anyone unfortunate enough to breathe in those spores. Mold can also produce allergens, irritants, and even toxins that can also cause a host of health problems. People with allergies, lung diseases, and immune disorders are more vulnerable to mold exposure and fungal infections.

Mild symptoms of mold exposure can include wheezing, coughing, eye itching and irritation, stuffy nose, and itchy skin. More severe reactions can involve fever, shortness of breath, even the development of asthma. People undergoing cancer treatment or who have had stem cell or organ transplants also face a higher risk of fungal infection.

Other Damage From Black Mold

Not only can black mold growth lead to severe health issues, it may also damage structures to the brink of collapse, leading to significant expense for property owners. While it is possible to clean up a small patch of black mold in a private residence with conventional cleaning supplies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides guidance for mold removal in commercial structures, schools, and other large buildings.

If you encounter mold growth that covers more than 10 square feet, you may want to contact the EPA for guidance as to how to clean it safely. You can also prevent mold growth by ensuring your property is free of leaks and water hazards. For example, a leaky pipe may eventually encourage mold growth in the floor and walls around the pipe. Fixing the leak as soon as you notice it can help prevent mold growth.

Preventing Structural Damage

A dehumidifier can also help limit mold growth by removing moisture from the air in a structure. Controlling the humidity in your home or business is a great way to prevent mold growth, but sometimes mold can grow out of control before you realize the problem. Removing toxic black mold completely is very difficult and expensive. Depending on how far an infestation spreads, a property may need a complete renovation to fix the issue. The best way to handle mold growth is to prevent it in the first place. Humidity control, sealing water fixtures and plumbing, and regular maintenance throughout your home can all help curb black mold growth.

Remember, when it comes to dealing with black mold, your priority needs to be to cut off the mold’s moisture source. This typically involves fixing a leak or waterproofing an area of a structure that is vulnerable to mold growth. Once mold starts to grow in carpet, wall boards, or insulation, the only real fix is complete replacement. Avoid these costly repairs and protect your personal health by preventing mold growth in the first place.