The Truth About Black Mold—And How You Can Stay Safe

Written by | Updated April 9, 2019

Black mold sounds just as menacing as it is. It releases lethal mycotoxin spores and can cause neurological breakdown, pulmonary decay, immune system degradation, skin irritation, and even death. Whether you’re working to prevent black mold from growing in your home or remediating an existing problem, here are facts you need to know to stay safe.

Black Mold Facts

1. Black mold is a neurotoxin.

The spores released by black mold attach your brain’s neurons—incapacitating your mental ability. The reaction to black mold can be tremors, mood swings, and other neurological shifts.

2. Black mold suppresses your immune system.

When you breathe in black mold spores, your immune system is weakened, so on top of being sick from the mold, you can also become more easily ill from germs.

3. Black mold can kill.

If you’re exposed for long enough, black mold spores can shut down your organs, incapacitate your immune system, and damage your brain—resulting in death.

4. Black mold endangers pregnant women.

Women who are pregnant can suffer birth defects, miscarriage, and infertility later on.

5. Black mold can harm anyone—including pets.

The young, sick, and elderly are most susceptible to black mold symptoms and damage, but all living things can be harmed by black mold.

6. Black mold has a smell.

The mold smells like mildew and must, so it’s detectable even when you can’t see it.

7. Mold grows in damp, humid, and warm locations.

All molds love this combination and thrive in it. That’s why your bathroom is a breeding ground for black mold and other types of mold.

8. You’ll suffer from a number of symptoms when exposed to black mold.

Symptoms of black mold exposure include fatigue, headaches, seizure, tremors, mood swings, confusion, fever, eye irritation, sneezing, rashes, coughing, bleeding of the lungs, and sometimes death.

9. Black mold isn’t actually toxic.

The mold itself isn’t poisonous—just the spores it emits.

10. Some damage is irreversible.

Depending on how long you live amongst black mold, you could suffer once it’s been remediated. Immune system weakening and sensitivity to mold can persist throughout your lifetime.

11. Mold is everywhere.

Mold spores are all around us all the time. Only some present major health hazards.

How To Identify Mold

DIY Mold Test Kit
Mold Test Kit

4.5/5

Before you fly off the handles, make sure the mold you’re seeing is, in fact, black mold. The easiest way to identify mold is to look at the color. Mold can be black, white, green, red, and orange. If your mold is any color other than black, it’s not black mold. Other molds can be treated with a bleach solution. However, if you’re unsure, you should call a professional rather than handle a potentially dangerous substance yourself.

Black Mold Prevention

Keeping mold out in the first place is your best plan of action. You can avoid paying a ton for mold remediation and endangering your health by doing the following:

1. Keep it dry.

Keeping your home dry is key to preventing mold from growing. Dehumidifiers in basements, ceiling fans in bathrooms, and good air flow can all improve your chances of keeping mold at bay.

2. Remove tainted material.

It’s imperative that you remove affected materials if you undergo mold remediation.

3. Keep it outside.

Never bring old wood or other porous objects in from the outdoors. Mold spores grow on everything and can go wild when brought indoors.

4. Use cleaning products.

You can use mold reducing sprays in your bathroom and damp locations. Endurance BioBarrier (Amazon) preventative mold spray is one product that discourages mold growth. It works on mildew too.

5. Get a dehumidifier.

Dehumidifiers suck moisture out of the air and prevent mold growth. The Frigidaire FAD504DWD Energy Star 50-pint Dehumidifier (Amazon) is the “#1 Best-Selling” dehumidifier on Amazon and will do the trick.

6. Keep water away from your house.

Water is key to mold growth. Don’t let your basement or home become flooded, and you’ll have waged half the battle on mold. You can do this by grading your yard to keep water flowing away from your house. You may also install downspouts that divert water from your home.

Mold Remediation

If mold creeps up on you or you buy a new house and find it hiding in the walls, don’t panic. You can have mold professionally remediated. While this can cost anywhere from $500–$10,000, you might be able to add a rider to your homeowner’s insurance policy to cover this event.

Mold remediation specialists use special ventilation masks and clothing for protection. You won’t have those products on-hand, and should avoid a DIY approach since it’s can be dangerous. In some states, it’s actually illegal (especially during a renovation) to handle the mold yourself. Inspectors will have to sign off on the remediation to ensure safety to the building’s occupants.

Black mold is an unwelcome and dangerous guest in your home, but it can be prevented and treated. You can learn more about prevention, mold control, and top water damage reducing products here. But before you go, take a second to tell us about your favorite mold prevention tips and products in the comments section.

Written by Caroline Maurer

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  • Rich

    This is not grounded in science at all. For articles grounded in science and read articles about mold on the CDC, EPA, and OSHA websites. Not a blog with affliate marketing links to mold test kits on Amazon. Ever plant flowers in top soil? You just breathed in millions of mold spores. You’ll live. Control the moisture, clean it up, move on with life. The profiteering and scare tactics need to stop. Please cite credible references that irreversible brain damage and death can occur like you claim. *Credible* peer reviewed references.

    • Roxanne Franklin

      You may need to fact check before making these statements..My sister Died due to Black and Toxic mold. So while yes, some people may not be affected like others it is NOT as simple as you are trying to make it sound. Mold Inside your house is NOT A SAFE THING! So pls do us all a favor and rant about actual facts and not your UNEDUCATED opinion. I find your response offensive considering you clearly do not know what Black/Toxic mold really does. Perhaps you should take your own advice and do further research! While yes Mold is Everywhere, it SHOULD NEVER BE IN YOUR HOME!
      If you were right my 50 year old sister would still be alive after having auto immune disease that made her Highly susceptible to these TOXIC BLACK MOLDS that killed her bc they were inside the house. It sounds like you work for Nationwide Ins and are like them and dont want to admit and pay for people who get sick and die bc they are blind, intentional or not to the actual truth of how horrible mold is for Humans! Let mold grow in your home and let your family,children, wife lived one get sick and die and see if you still see things this way!

  • Lisa Thomas

    Phil you are so closed minded how can anyone think you have credibility at all. People are telling your their life experiences, something a TRUE scientist would jump on, but instead you attack them saying they have psychological problems. I’ve gotten pneumonia from black mold, verified by science and doctors…and it wasn’t pretty.
    Open your mind and learn a thing or two. If you close your mind you’ll never be any smarter than you are now…and well…

    • Phil

      Lisa – I’m a scientist and work off data not emotional heresay – and you’d not know science if it bit you on the butt. Share the diagnostic paperwork or shut up.

      • Fanatoli Guyoff

        Where can I post my diagnostic. I’m not good with computers but I have two allergy tests showing strong reaction to black mold and my house is infected in a wall. My reaction (score of 19 whatever that means) was bigger than hazle nuts (12) which make my lips puffy. I would like to share the results with you for your research if it can help. My allergy doctor believes this is source of my chronic illness.

        • Roxanne Franklin

          Please do Not give him anything personal.of yours. He is obviously a liar Aling w being a COMPLETE IDIOT! .He is No scientist unless using a kids science kit from Walmart makes you a scientist. Because there is No way an actual accredited college gave him a degree in anything but being an idiot! My 8 year old has more factual knowledge on this than he does. He watched his Aunt, whonwas also his Godmother and Best friend Die due to Toxic Mold poisoning!. I am very sorry for what you have had to endure. I know it is Not stuff you made up in your head, who would and what do you get out of sharing that HORRIFIC experience.?? He in the other hand, these forums is probably the only time people that are not his imaginary made up friends actually talk to him and it may even be the ONLY TIME he gets to talk to females!! Please do not ket them get to you. If he is a scientist, he sits in a lab all day w a Bunch of other data collecting Geeks and has No real world experience. Or maybe he has such bad Mold exposure that he is having delusions of Granger and thinks hes a scientist whe he is actually a patient in a mental hospital.bc of how much the mold damaged the brain he once had!
          I hope you get better everyday. Pls don’t listen to people like him, he has no idea what he is talking about.

      • Stef

        I sense an internet troll here who loves to get under peoples skin. I’d love to see you stand behind your words and conduct a scientific research experiment for us. Why don’t you go lick a black mold infested wall repeatedly and let us know how you feel after a substantial amount of time? I bet you would change your mind after repeated exposure. Then again, maybe not.

        We all are very skilled at our chosen careers, but I can be woman enough to say I don’t know everything about mine. New things are being found out every day and people are choking on thier past words. Best way to evolve and further grow our own self intelligence is to not be so close minded.

  • Gregery Raibon

    Hi my name is Greg I am going through black mold exposure and I’m here to tell you it is the most miserable craziest thing I have ever experienced in my life.. I mean to tell you the smoke is pouring out and raining on me in my house and then I can go to my auntie’s house and it will do the same thing have anybody heard of this and what can I do to stop it from raining on me I also have videos to prove this<b>

  • Rebecca Linton

    We live in South Carolina and we have very selfish landlord and bad mold here in our house. We don’t have any windows open. We are scared to contact someone about it because we have all the symptoms.

    We are afraid that we will end up on the streets because our house is a mess and they will look at us as unfit for living in a house/apartment.

    TBH what do we need to do? How will the health department judge us based on how we clean our house? Will they come back at us because we are living in a messy house or will they look at our landlord because she has really bad black mold?

  • cloud-life

    I have no idea why people wouldn’t first reference the CDC and EPA websites instead of some blog for this information. At the very least, cross-reference and put some priority to the more researched source. In the vaaaaast majority of cases, there is little cause for concern.

  • Libblaster

    As a contractor and mold remediation specialist I am unaware of any codes or statutes making it “illegal” for a DIY’er to handle mold themselves. If it is illegal, why are you selling remediation products for general population use?

  • ConservatusCarnifex

    How is somebody supposed to get a mold area cleaned up who can’t do physical labor, and is disabled and has no money to hire someone?

    Drain backed up into the laundry room, plumber left the sludge there to muck up the floor, walls, old clothes around it.

    No one ever thinks of how people without money are expected to survive. Screw greedy people. Government should have an agency that comes and cleans it up, paid by pooled taxes.

  • https://www.themiamifloors.com The Miami Floors

    The facts of black mold its origin, intro, and how to prevent it from being spread more, just seem very informative. Have to say, you have nailed down the parameters really well.

  • Roxanne Franklin

    OMG People Shut up unless you actually know what your talking about!! These molds are VERY DANGEROUS! Explain “OH WISE ONES,”why the CDC & EPA will NOT SET ACCEPTABLE LEVELS ON MOLDS?? Oh you CANT bc you are talking our of ur butts. It is Impossible to set acceptable limits bc YOU may Not be affected the same way 1000 others are. Regardless. BLACK TOXIC MOLD IS DANGEROUS. Maybe you have Toxic mold brain damage and that is why you say such stupid things! Have your 50 year old sister die from Toxic MOLD exposure and then tell me how it is Not dangerous or that is is JUST THE BOOGIE MAN!! MAN PEOPLE LIKE YOU MAKE ME SO MAD! NATIONWIDE INS AND YOU GUYS ARE ALL EQUALLY IGNORANT!! I JUST HOPE IF YOU EVER HAVE TOXIC MOLD IN YOUR HOME YOUR FAMILY GETS OUT AND LEAVES YOU SO YOU CAN SEE FIRST HAND. ALSO I HOPE YOU HAVE NATIONWIDE INS SO THEY CAN REFUSE TO DO ANYTHING AND LET YOU DIE LIKE THEY DID MY SISTER!! Please people SHUT UP if you Don’t know what your talking about!! For those of us that have been through it and also lost a LOVED one to the very TOXIC MOLDS you are dismissing, it is very infuriating and honestly, KARMA IS A BITCH!! KEEP THAT IN MIND!!

  • Roxanne Franklin

    how does a mold bomb fogger dry out the molds food source? How does it clean the mold? How does it do anything that will actually fix the problem and not just masj it. Maybe your talking about Roaches, but no fogger is going to actually correct and clean up.mold.

  • Roxanne Franklin

    Here is just a quick snip of actual.fact based info on Mold and what it DOES to Himans and animals. So for all you people in here saying it is Not harmful., tell that to the Numerous people that have suffered it and either have Life long illness or have died such as my sister. So PLEASE EITHER SHUT UP OR GET YOUR FACTS CORRECT!
    11 Signs of a Mold IllnessBrain Fog, Memory Problems, Trouble Focusing, HeadachesFatigue and WeaknessUnexplained Muscle Cramping, Aches and Pains in the Joints, Persistent Nerve PainNumbness and TinglingEye Problems like Red Eyes or Light SensitivityAsthma and Sinus Problems like Cough or Shortness of BreathTremors and VertigoDigestive Issues like Change in Appetite, Diarrhea, Nausea, Abdominal PainMetallic Taste in the MouthTemperature Regulation or Night SweatsExcessive Thirst and Increased Urination

  • Warthog

    Hello folks. Bio-Med Engineer here, presently working in the third world in my capacity of infection control, especially Stachybotrys Chartarum aka black mold, in medical clinics. Here in the third world they do not chlorinate municipal water supplies and they aerate the water. That translates to black mold delivery system in every faucet and of course, a spore spray in your face in the shower.

    So where to start. Chlorine does not kill this mold. Only retard it’s growth. I suspect the spores are up to duking it out with thermonuclear devices. In our home I was forced to install a 5 micron water filter which facilitates an 18 watt UV sterilizer. Then I have shocked the pipes throughout the house for 3 months with 50-100 ppm chlorine in an effort to eradicate the remnants adhering to the insides of the pipes. I think we have reduced the mold growth around 99.9%. But it only takes a few dozen spores to create a few billion new colonies in a few weeks.

    Okay. Brass tacks time. The spores DO pack a powerful neuro-toxin. And the average healthy human immune system is capable of fighting off the fungal growth.
    -Most people infected by this mold have it growing in their sinuses. Stuffy nose, sneezing and an irritated sensation. Often this has been mistaken for neuralgia.

    Is there a quick fix for an infection. NO! As any ENT doc or chronic sinusitis sufferer will tell you, sinus infections are a beast. They can smolder and recur over and over again. There are antibiotics that can kill the mold but the sinuses and to a lesser degree the lungs provide an ideal habitat for the mold to regrow. Simply put, the mold can grow as fast or faster than the drugs can kill it, and the spores encapsulate themselves and are impervious to all drugs and can survive in very hostile environments like a strong chlorine solution. Stachybotrys Chartarum spores have been found floating on the surface of 50% hydrogen peroxide and successfully isolated and grown in a lab. Industrial duty heavily armored stuff.

    The real skinny is, the human body in a healthy conditioncan fight off this mold. BUT this taxes the immune system. There is no black and white here. Weakened immune system, over use of antibiotics, age, inherent disorders both acquired and genetic, all can contribute to growing a flourishing mold garden in your sinuses or lungs.

    Do not expect a quick fix from the medical profession like taking your car in and having a part swapped out. Your defense and solution is ultimately your immune system.

    1. Get healthy and stay healthy. Sorry folks but smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, all weaken the body’s ability to fight off diseases. This mold just happens to be a superstar of the infection world.
    2. Find and remove the source. If it is readily and repeatedly growing in your bathroom the spores are in your water supply. Avoid spraying water directly on your face, rinse the toothbrush in sterilized drinking water and be vigilant as to what you are doing that can allow the spores to enter your body.
    3. If your water system is heavily polluted as ours is, the mold has literally damaged and penetrated our bathtub, a water filter and sterilizer should be considered.
    4. Search out and consult a medical authority that is fully versed in infections and infection control. Not all physicians are end all be all wonder people. Some research on your part is in order.

  • Coreen Kerr

    I live in Burnaby, B.C. Canada & they have discovered mould in our 17 floor building (which was built in 1984) (actually 16 cuz they don’t count the 13th floor) its costing us millions to get rid of it. My apartment is 864 square feet & my payment is $70,057.33 so I’ve gone from totally owning my home to now owing the bank $70,057.33 so I won’t live long enough to every own my own home sigh. On the bright side no-one’s died from it unless we all jump off our balcanies due to stress oh wait I live on the bottom floor.