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Mold can be dangerous, but “toxic mold” is rare

Several military families recently filed suit against the companies that own Keesler Air Force Base properties in Biloxi, Miss. over the presence of so-called toxic mold. The suit alleges that the mold was not cleaned up correctly, and the issues that caused the mold were not properly addressed.

The families are charging the companies with fraud, gross negligence, breach of contract, conspiring to conceal dangerous conditions and other charges. They are seeking compensation for medical bills, moving expenses, punitive damages and attorney fees.

According to the Sun Herald, environmental testing was conducted at the military housing, and the molds aspergillus and stachybotrys were present.

What are toxic molds?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state the term “toxic mold” is inaccurate because it is not the mold itself that is toxic. Rather, certain molds produce toxins, known as mycotoxins.

How harmful is mold?

Aspergillus is a common indoor mold. Many strains of this mold are not harmful, but some can cause minor to serious health issues. Some people may experience allergic reactions that includes coughing, fever or worsening asthma symptoms. There is also the possibility of developing a lung infection, especially for those with already weak immune systems or lung disease.

Stachybotrys is what is generally known as black mold. This type of mold can produce mycotoxins, but it is generally rare. For it to grow, there must be constant moisture present. It also grows on material like fiberboard, paper, lint, dust and gypsum board. One strain, stachybotrys chartarum, may cause a range of neurological, respiratory and immunologic symptoms, including the development of asthma, skin rashes and shortness of breath.

The CDC also states that cases of pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss where mold is present are very rare, and that mold has not been causally linked to these conditions.

How do you know what kind of mold it is?

A mold that appears black is not necessarily a strain of stachybotrys. Even if it is, that does not guarantee that is producing mycotoxins. Generally, the CDC does not recommend getting mold tested, due to the cost of process. If you are already susceptible to issues due to a weakened immune system or lung disease, any presence of mold can be dangerous. The best way to handle mold is to clean it up and prevent moisture issues from reoccurring.

What is the best way to clean up mold?

Mold can be removed from hard surfaces with soap and water, or a bleach solution of 1 cup of bleach for each gallon of water. If mold is present on materials like carpet, ceiling tile or drywall, these may need to be thrown away. Large amounts of mold may require the use of cleaning professional that specializes in the removal of mold. Remember to wear gloves and protective eyewear when cleaning up mold. Also try to open windows and doors for proper ventilation.