What is Toxic Black Mold?

Identifying, Exposing, and Swabbing is Often Required for Diagnostic Testing

The term “Toxic Black Mold” is not a scientific term and was created by the media.  Stachybotrys Chartarum in particular, is the mold commonly referenced as Toxic Black Mold.  During the mid 90s, the CDC linked Stachybotrs to severe life-threatening disease fueling the media exposure. 

While Stachybotrys Chartarum has been around since the beginning of creation, the broad focus and legal hype around “Toxic Mold” hit the main-stream media when a lawsuit in Texas caught America’s attention.  In 2001, a 7,400 sq. ft. home purchased outside of Austin experienced water damage due to water intrusion events.  The plaintiff claimed that the insurance company undervalued repairs and mishandled claims. By chance, the owner was inadvertently introduced to an environmental professional who ‘determined’ that the type of black mold described was very dangerous to human health.  The plaintiff had the home tested with positive results for Staybotrys and other molds. At the end of the trial, a jury awarded 32 Million Dollars to the homeowner. The case made headlines and brought significant  attention to mold issues in homes.  Since then, there have been numerous lawsuits, many settled out of court.

As a result, federal and state government’s began setting guidelines for the mold remediation industry and mold safety.  Since then, there have been numerous efforts by public health and global health organizations that have confirmed that mold can be toxic to humans in many ways.

Toxic Black Molds

Where to Find Toxic Black Mold?

In most cases, “Black Mold” is readily visible on water damaged homes. It is not always Stachybotrys.  Chaetomium is a mold that is common and has similar characteristics: dark in color, turns black over time, and produces mycotoxins.  It also is rarely found circulating in the air.  

Both of these species are common with water-damaged homes.  In particular, when building materials are soaked with water due to water intrusion or flood.  Today, most buildings are made using gypsum drywall and a variety of fabricated wood particle boards. The cellulose materials and adhesives used in their fabrication are absorbent and retain moisture.  In both cases of Stachybotrys and Chaetomium, spores grow outward with limited ability to become airborne for a variety of physical reasons: the sticky nature of the mold spores, hyphae and cellulose fibers constraining the new growth, clumping, and the absorption and retention of moisture in the adhesive layering of the materials.  Until the water damaged material is completely dried out and disturbed during demolition and replacement, it is not uncommon  to find these mold spore counts lower during pre-remediation testing and have relatively higher counts in the air after remediation. As a result, you must search below and behind carpet and walls to identify these species. 


Toxic Black Molds

Testing for Stachybotrys and Chaetomium

What is important to understand is that these mycotoxin producing molds are very common indoor molds when there is indoor water damage in homes constructed with today’s common building materials such as gypsum and paper drywall, wood particle boards, and carpet padding.

In cases, where the mold contamination is visible on baseboards, drywall, or near registers, a swab must still be used to capture the sticky mold spores for testing. Gravity plates may yield the presence of these molds, but not the level of contamination.

One option is to use a swab or Q-tip to rub against the agar in a gravity plate.  ImmunoLytics diagnostic test kits come with well -designed swab using absorbent tips to capture mold spores. This Immunolytics Swab Kit is also available on Amazon. After swabbing, they can then be enclosed in the small tube to be sent in with plates. 

Toxic Black Molds Testing

Suggestions to identify and expose black mold when not obviously visible:

  • Use a mask and gloves when directly exposed to mold.
  • If mold is suspected under carpet or flooring, you must pull back carpet to look for black or dark green discoloration in order to swab a carpet tack strip, wood subflooring, or damp padding.
  • If it is suspected below tile, find an edge to lift and swab below if there are dark stains.
  • Peeling back wallpaper in water damaged areas will often expose mold
  • Damp drywall will be soft and easily penetrated. Find an inconspicuous area and use a knife to expose black mold for swabbing.