Toxic Black Mold: Myths and Facts

Mark: Hey, Mark Bossert here from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re talking mold with Mr. David Fairbairn of Fairbairn Inspection Services in Vancouver. How’re you doing today David?
David: I’m good Mark; just as excited as you are about talking about mold.
Mark: So, toxic black mold; myths and facts. So what are the myths and facts about toxic black mold?
David: Toxic black mold, you know we’ve talked about it before Mark. You hear about it in the news, see it on TV, toxic black mold, everyone’s scared of it, nobody wants it in their house, but what is it? I’d like to show you exactly what it is, where it comes from and what it’s actually called because there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of the actual name of the mold so, again I’m going to try screen sharing here, just let me know if you see the pictures come up on your screen, just give me a second here, try this again, o.k. in about three seconds you should see the photo come up on the screen.
Mark: it hasn’t come up yet. You’ve got a bit of connection – here we go.
David: So the first thing I want to talk about with toxic black mold is that it’s not actually called toxic black mold. You ask a scientist, you know, what’s toxic black mold, they’re probably going to say, oh you’re talking about Stachybotrys, I’ve got the word up on the screen on the top left there, it’s called Stachybotrys. Now Stachybotrys is the genus of mold. Mold is broken down into genus which is the family of mold, and it’s also subdivided at that point into different species. So we’ve got Stachybotrys which is the genus of mold and there’s about 50 different types of it. Now it is notable for two things, it’s extremely slimy and grows in extremely wet conditions so if we see Stachybotrys in a home, usually we have a fairly major moisture problem, it’s not just a little bit of shower mold, we’re talking about floods, huge roof leaks, nasty ventilation problems, grow ops, things like that that there are actually going to cause this to grow. So this is the worst of the worst; there’s 50 different types of it and the one that we’re talking about today in particular that is called toxic black mold by the media is called S. Chartarum and the S stands for Stachybotrys. Stachybotrys is the genus and Chartarum is the species, it’s a particular type of mold that has a very bad reputation in homes. So S. Chartarum, exceedingly slimy, it is black, in some cases it’s actually not black, I’ve seen it where it is sort of a fuzzy gray colour, it also shows up blue sometimes. This picture was taken in Surrey, it’s a shed that was leaking for about 15 years and they closed the doors and sealed it all up and we can see the amount of heavy visible growth growing in what should have been the ceiling. O.k. so this came back as S. Chartarum. You can see that we also have another type of mold which tested as a different type. We can see it’s sort of white and fluffy at the bottom of this luggage, o.k. so there’s some pretty heavy growth here.
The history of toxic black mold is, that in the 1990’s, the early 90’s, it got a very bad reputation when I believe an infant actually died in the United States of I believe it was pulmonary hemorrhaging and they did an autopsy and found that the infant had breathed in some S. Chartarum spores and that’s why the alarm was sent up that this is a particularly toxic type of mold and ever since then it’s had a terrible reputation. Now the CDC weighted their study that said actually we found no link between Stachybotrys Chartarum spores and hemorrhaging but nobody’s taking a chance and if you have this type of mold you need to remediate it, basically you don’t want to take any chances with this because it is technically toxic and so this is a close up of the S. Chartarum, see the spore cluster where it’s releasing spores into the air and as mold has evolved over the years it is getting more and more aggressive because there are other types of mold that has to compete it. This is basic evolutionary biology where the strongest wins and what mold has done particularly Stachybotrys is that it has evolved what is called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins were originally intended to kill off other types of competing molds but in some cases and in this case, particularly true that it will cause problems in humans, so it’s actually toxic to people.
What we’re finding is that we’re getting respiratory problems; it’s been in very loose ways it’s been connected to cancer, although I don’t know if that’s actually been confirmed or not so the CDC’s been doing studies on this, you should educate yourself on this. It’s been linked to cancer; it’s been linked to a lot of allergy problems, respiratory problems, itchy, watery eyes, skin infections and a host of other health problems.
So usually we see this where we have a mold situation, a flood situation so we’ve had a lot of water leakage. This is actually an addition, a room built onto the back of a house in Burnaby and what happened here was they built on the side of a hill and basically the slope of the soil directed all the water into the wall cavity and it basically rotted out the room from the outside in and they also left it sealed up all summer so this had no ventilation at all. Mold like this really thrives in very stale, damp air and this is what the conditions that were actually created in this home were perfect for Stachybotrys growth. You can see the amount of damage to the drywall sort of at the top interior and exterior where it’s taken deep roots and I mean the drywall is so soft you can just push your finger right through it so at this point we need a full remediation done.
Now when we talk about remediation, we’re talking about a couple things, you know if you hire a contractor who’s not familiar with molds they may just go and remove the visible molds but they might not completely remove, you know the source of the moisture leak, they might not remove the invisible molds and they may not do a job that will last a long time. So you have to be very, very careful once you see this, especially if you’ve tested it and it comes back as Stachybotrys that you call a mold remediation company who is certified and has a lot of experience with dealing with this.
So the answer is, now normally I say o.k., you know if you have a bit of mold growth in one spot, you’re going to want to remove it with a store bought product, if we come across Stachybotrys we need to actually call a professional, we don’t want you to hurt yourself, it’s not worth the potential health risks to you and your family by living in the house, you don’t want to be playing around with this stuff. It’s really, really nasty mold.
O.k. so the answer is usually a full remediation, so we’re bringing in the crew who have respirators, they’re N95 respirators that filter out microbiological spores and things like that. We’ve got our suits on and what we’re actually doing as we go, we’re encapsulating the mold so we’re sealing off the area, we are sealing every bit of material coming out of that room, we’re completely sealing it off and disposing of it safely. We are testing as we go. We are removing all this mold and we come back and we do a post remediation air test. We test the air, we find out if there’s still some spores left over after a certain period of time, we need to go even further, just wipe it out and that usually involves just more moisture testing, just more material removal. So in many cases we’re actually removing a good section of the building to replace it and in some cases it is treatable with certain products that usually at this point, you know, these are professional products that you’re not going to find at a hardware store, you’re going to have this company come in and do it properly.
O.k. so that’s basically what we’re going to do with Stachybotrys and that’s sort of an introduction to this material so just to sort of drive the point home, if you have this material, get it tested, find out what you have in your home. If it is Stachybotrys you need to call a certified mold company – call us 604-395-2795. We can assist with the issue and the number one is safety so don’t cut corners and don’t take any chances if you do see it. Call us right away and we can not only assist with testing and sampling, we can also come back later in the job, make sure that it’s completely gone and make sure that you’re not breathing anything nasty.
Mark: Awesome job David. So one of the things to drive home is that this is not treatable by your little spray bottle or bleach and bleach solution and pretending like you can just wipe it away. This is nasty, health injurious stuff that you need to have professionals look after for you and like David was saying, his company is certified in mold remediation so they’re the guys to call. call them at 604-395-2795. Thanks a lot David.
David: Thanks Mark, see you later.

About the Author DavidFairbairn

Author David Fairbairn is a certified, licensed home inspector serving Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. He has been featured in the media and has contributed to "24" Newspaper, and Global TV. He has spent years working with residential and commercial building projects, and holds a Power Engineering License in BC. Why not give him a call for your next Home Inspection? Call 604 395-2795 or email today!

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