Can you tell me anything about a new mold called Stachybotrys? How can I know if it is in my home? What does it look like?
Stachybotrys is a fungus that can be found in most parts of the world, although it’s not terribly common. It likes to live on damp indoor surfaces that have been water-soaked for several days. It grows on materials of plant origin, such as wood, straw, paper and building materials that contain cellulose, but little nitrogen.
The full name is Stachybotrys chartarum or Stachybotrys atra. It looks greenish-black and slimy. When the spores are airborne, they’re too small to see. Stachybotrys isn’t new, but only in the last 20 years or so have we devoted significant attention to studying it. Outbreaks of Stachybotrys toxicity seem to be on the rise, although the numbers of people affected are still very low.
Over the past few years, there have been scattered incidents of people becoming seriously ill from inhaling the particles. Infants are especially vulnerable to this toxic mold. Several young babies have died in the Cleveland area, where homes became contaminated with Stachybotrys chartarum following some flooding that occurred in the 1990s. In babies, the toxins can damage the blood vessels in the lungs and cause bleeding. With sufficient exposure, adults may suffer a variety of serious health effects.
Mold is never a good thing to have growing around your home, so you should take steps to eliminate the dank conditions that favor its growth. You might suspect Stachybotrys chartarum when you see indoor mold that matches its description growing on wood, paper or high-cellulose materials, and when there’s been water damage from flooding, leaky pipes or leaks in the walls or ceiling. If the Stachybotrys is widespread or you think it has gotten into your heating/ventilation system, you may need to have professionals remove it.