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Black Mold

Finding out you have Black Mold is no laughing matter. But really, how dangerous is Black Mold?

If you follow the news and you hear the term “Black Mold” you are probably thinking you have 24 hours to live.


Chances are, you will be ok.

Regardless of the current state of the media with what’s “Fake News” and what’s real, we can all agree that sometimes the media can exaggerate things.

But what about with mold?

Specifically, the term”Black Mold”.  How dangerous is Black Mold? Does the media exaggerate that as well?

In this article, we will dissect the following as it relates to black mold:

  • What Is Black Mold?
  • Is All Mold That Is Black In Color Dangerous?
  • How Does Black Mold Grow?
  • Can Black Mold Be Cleaned?
  • What Are The Health Effects Related To Black Mold Exposure?

What Is Black Mold?

mold in the news

The Term “Black Mold” Is A Media Creation

Black mold is a slang term that was created by the media. There is no scientific definition for Black Mold.

Here’s the thing:

If the media makes up a term we, as a society, tend to run with it.

When you hear that term, it is actually referring to one particular species of mold. Keep in mind there are over 365,000 species.

The species of mold is named Stachybotrys (pronounced: Stacky-Bot-Tris). Throughout this article, you will see the term black mold, toxic mold, and black toxic mold which will all refer to Stachybotrys.

While Stachybotrys is considered the king of toxic mold, there are other types of mold that may be toxic as well.

Some of those spores are:

  • Memnoniella
  • Chaetomium
  • Few Strands of Penicillium and Aspergillus

different types of toxic mold

So how did this one particular species get so much notoriety?

The mold itself is not toxic. Stachybotrys can produce something called Mycotoxins. Mycotoxin is a fancy word for toxic. While Stachybotrys is not the only type of mold that can be toxic, it is the most feared of the toxic mold types you would find growing indoors.


That alone did not make black toxic mold famous. The media actually did its job and reported on a couple of high profile cases, some of which involved celebrities which will always get more attention.

The Cleveland Drop Case

In the early 1990’s, the unthinkable happened:

A bunch of infant deaths in the Cleveland area was linked to bleeding lungs that the CDC concluded was due to black mold exposure.


I don’t want to bum you out, so you can research this case at your own discretion.

Bottom line is this:

The media reported on the large number of infants that mysteriously passed away from a rare illness, a link with black toxic mold was made, and fear was installed in parents all over the world (rightfully so).

This case had a major influence on what we now know about black toxic mold.

The Ed McMahon Case

Depending upon how old you are, Ed McMahon may have been big part of your childhood


He was Johnny Carson’s sidekick on “The Tonight Show” from the 1960’s to the early 1990’s. This was back when there weren’t a trillion late night talk show hosts either so this man was extremely famous.

ed mcmahon mold

Ok enough about television history, you want to know what good old Ed has to do with Black Mold…

Well, in 2003, Ed Mcmahon won a lawsuit against American Equity Insurance Company for $7.2  Million dollars for black toxic mold not being cleaned properly and spreading throughout his entire home. Him, his wife, and all the people that worked at the home became ill.

This caught the attention of the public eye and really catapulted black mold to become the phenomenon that it is today.

Is All Mold That Is Black In Color Dangerous?

The short answer for this is…


Many different species of mold can be black when it appears on building materials or contents. Not all of those species are toxic.


All these mold spores that are black in color have one thing in common:

You don’t want it anywhere in your home!

Let’s investigate this a little more…

is all black mold bad?

Mold Comes In All Shapes And Colors

In my 10+ years in the mold industry, I have seen mold in shades of black, gray, green, brown, white, and even red!

I have seen them form some weird patterns as well.

Look at the picture below and tell me if you saw this in your home what you would think:

mold on the walls

You are probably thinking that the black part is the “black toxic mold”, correct?

You would be wrong…

None of that mold is actually Stachybotrys at all. The type of mold that was found here was called Penicillium/Aspergillus. These are two separate mold species that are generally grouped together because they are very hard to differentiate under a microscope.

Here’s the thing though:

As I told you earlier, there are certain strands of these types of spores that may produce mycotoxins. Either way, you would want the mold damaged wall and entertainment center removed.

If you look at this picture further, you will see that black is not the only color present. There is also brown and green.

This is what you need to know:

Just because mold is black in color, does not guarantee that it is toxic.

What Does Black Mold Look Like?

Just because mold is black doesn’t mean it’s toxic black mold.

Below is a picture of the actual toxic black mold in one of my client’s kitchens.

what black mold looks like

Toxic black mold can be dangerous and can even potentially threaten you and your families health if you come into contact.

However, as I mentioned just because mold is black doesn’t mean it’s actually toxic black mold.

MoldAnswers has a lot of great pictures of mold in homes, for you to compare, but I highly recommend calling a mold inspector if you have concerns.

Another common question, when regarding black mold…

Does Black Mold Have A Smell?

The short answer?

Yes, yes it does.

Black Mold has a distinctive odor that smells very musty or like mildew.

Usually, if you smell a strong mildew smell, it means there is moisture, where black mold loves to grow.

High-risk areas include HVAC ducts, bathrooms, kitchen or really wherever else water may be.

If you smell a strong odor when you turn on your AC, you may very likely have black mold growing in your vents.

How Does Black Toxic Mold Grow?

It is not easy for black toxic mold to grow. Stachybotrys is considered a slow growing mold and needs a ton of water over an extended period of time to grow and thrive.

Most of the homes that I inspected over the years where black mold was present, it was in an area of the home which was rarely used, the home was seasonally used and/or vacant, or the home was just straight up neglected.

…Don’t be the person to neglect your home!

The Ingredients For Black Mold

What is needed for black mold to grow are the same for any other type of mold, just more of the three ingredients for a longer period of time.

If you have not been through anywhere else on this site, the three ingredients are as follows:

  • Water
  • Relative Humidity 60% or above
  • A nutrient (drywall, wood, etc.)

how mold can grow

There is no exact time known for Stachybotrys to grow. I have heard professionals in my field say anywhere from 13 days to two months. I act under the presumption if the area has been leaking or flooding for anywhere over two weeks, it is possible for Stachybotrys to grow, but that is not based on scientific research.

Bottom Line:

If an area is leaking or flooded, it needs to be dried out immediately.

Can Black Mold Be Cleaned?

This is a large gray area that I am going to try to make as clear as possible.

But here is a disclaimer:

Many government agencies do not agree with what I am about to say…

This is my opinion based on being in the industry for 10+ years as well as listening to some of my colleagues and other professionals.

If building material has Stachybotrys growing on it. It needs to be discarded.

Period. The End.

You may read some publications that tell you to clean the area with a bleach solution and water but that is not something that I will recommend.

Because Stachybotrys can produce mycotoxins, if you think it is present, a licensed mold professional should be contacted to do the following:

  • Determine if the mold present is Stachybotrys
  • Determine if the spores are airborne and spread to other areas

Here’s an analogy for you:

Let’s say you have an ingrown toenail. If you ever had one of these, you know they are extremely painful! Removing them involves cutting off a portion of your toenail vertically which hurts even more.

This is something you can probably do by yourself if you have numbing medication. However, if done incorrectly, it can either cause an infection or also come back.

That is why you go to the foot doctor who does this on a regular basis to perform the procedure. He is a trained professional.

Same thing with mold removal.

If done incorrectly, it can cause the mold to spread or come back.

What About If Black Mold Is On Personal Belongings?

mold on clothes

If black mold is on any kind of porous surfaces such as a fabric couch or clothes that have also been wet for an extended period of time, it is suggested that you discard the items.


If there are no signs of visible mold on your clothes, they generally can be put in conventional laundry machines to be washed. However, there are specialized dry cleaners for mold and fire damaged clothing.

That is a personal choice that you should make.

remove mold from cloths with vinegar

As far as furniture, they can generally be sanitized during the mold remediation process if they were not water damaged.

What Are The Health Effects Related To Black Mold Exposure?

The Institute of Medicine did confirm in a 2004 study the link of certain symptoms related to mold exposure. There are links that are confirmed, but the extent is not.

The most significant link that has been confirmed by health officials is the risk of acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage in infants.


Health officials are slower to confirm the link of specific symptoms of people related to Stachybotrys exposure.

All will agree though, Black Mold exposure to people, in general, is something that should be avoided.

Black mold exposure in infants, elderly and people with compromised Immune Systems should be addressed IMMEDIATELY.

black mold health effects

The Harvard School Of Health

Here’s The Deal:

We aren’t going to acknowledge every studied associated with the health effects of toxic mold, but there is one study that I will point out.

It was a study in 2014 that linked Autism with women who were exposed to high levels of air pollution during pregnancy. This can include toxic mold.

The study showed the risk of autism doubled in children whose mother was exposed to high levels of air pollution during the third trimester of pregnancy.

I did look over the study and there are some limitations. But overall, it holds an argument and is worth checking out. You can check it out by clicking here.

Some Health Effects That Studies Have Linked To Black Mold Exposure

Other health effects that may be associated with Toxic Black Mold exposure are:

  • Upper Respiratory/Bronchitis type symptoms
  • Itchiness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Memory Problems
  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Blurred Vision

So how dangerous is Black Mold? By the sound of those symptoms, seems pretty dangerous. If you have it growing in your home, think of it is the same health effects of being in a home where cigarettes are smoked all day and night.

Is There A Way To Determine If You Have Mycotoxins In Your System?

There are ways that doctors and labs can now determine the levels of Mycotoxins in your system. It can be measured in your urine by a doctor.

If you want to know if black mold is present in your home, you should have any suspected areas as well as the air quality in your home tested by a licensed mold assessor.

Been Exposed To Black Mold?

If you think you have been exposed to black mold, you should seek a medical professional immediately. Have you had an experience where it was confirmed that you were exposed to black mold? I want to hear your story! Please comment below.

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