Black Mold-Does it Cause Disease?-March 2017

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety

March 2017

IN THIS ISSUE: Black Mold-Does It Cause Disease?

Black mold, or Stachybotrys, has been falsely reported as causing disease in humans. This has caused much unease and unnecessary cost wherever this mold is found.

Prior to about 1993, a type of Stachybotrys was known for its ability to produce a mycotoxin and a disease syndrome in animals. That year, a group of infants died from an unexplained lung disease called acute idiopathic pulmonary hemosiderosis (AIPH). A study examining the tragedy found that the majority of the affected infants lived in water-damaged homes and an investigation suggested that Stachybotrys in their homes was the cause. This study created a panic. Many homeowners, insurance companies, and businesses went to great expense to eliminate black mold whenever it was found.

Upon closer inspection, a number of assumptions of this study were challenged and reconsidered. Re-analysis of the data found no meaningful statistical linkage between black mold and the cases of AIPH. The Center of Disease Control (CDC) has since published a statement effectively retracting the conclusions of the original investigation. Despite the retraction from the CDC, false claims continue to be made and remediation of black mold is still a concern.

Although some molds other than black mold can cause disease in humans, it is very rare. Unless an individual already has a very severe reduction in the function of the immune system, there should be no disease effect. Fungi can produce allergic reactions, and this usually involves inhalation of mold particles. This type of problem can occur whether or not the fungus is still alive. Typical symptoms include wheezing, cough, rhinorrhea, itchy nose, sore throat, sinus congestion, etc. Thus, elimination of this form of reaction requires reduction in the amount of fungi in the environment, not just disinfection of the environment.

Black mold is no more harmful to humans than most molds. If mold is found, it is important to find the source so it can be reduced or eliminated. Mold needs moisture to grow so it only becomes a problem when there is water damage, elevated and prolonged humidity, or dampness. Common sources of excessive indoor moisture that can lead to mold problems:

  • Faulty HVAC systems
  • Flooding
  • Roof leaks
  • Storm‐driven rain through window frames, exterior walls, or door assemblies
  • Leaking pipes
  • Sewer back‐ups or overflows
  • Rainwater drainage
  • Condensation on cold surfaces

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

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