Black mold is associated with a large number of medical and health issues, especially in children, older individuals and anyone with a compromised immune system. Black mold is a fungus that grows anywhere dark and damp. Once it reaches a certain size, it casts off spores which can be inhaled, eaten, or even absorbed directly through the skin. It is for this reason that many houses that have flood damage are condemned and made unlivable by the government until the mold can be removed.
The problem is that in many situations of minor flooding, or even flooding isolated to a single home, the government does not inspect for mold infestations so health risks can arise without anyone being aware. Many people also do not realize that mold can develop under sinks in basements, garages and other areas not frequently visited or on pipes and plumbing where leaks occur outside the awareness of the home owners.
The major health effects of black mold generally result from fluid buildup in the lungs that leads to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an inflammation or infection in the lungs that causes the alveoli, or small sacs, to become filled with fluids, usually pus. When black mold spores get into the lungs through inhalation, the body mounts an immune response, and part of that response involves diluting the spores with water. This is what leads to the formation of the pus that fills the alveoli and causes the pneumonia.
Another very common health problem associate with black mold is with the upper respiratory tract. Black mold, because of its structure, sticks to the mucus membrane of the nose and sinus cavities and causes an immune response there. The symptoms when this happens will mimic the common cold, but will progressively get worse unless the individual is removed from the environment. Over weeks, these will progress and will lead to symptoms like dehydration, headaches and nausea along with the URI symptoms of a runny nose and cough.
Black mold has also been found to be extremely dangerous to babies, and produces a condition called Infant Pulmonary Hemorrhaging. In this condition, the lining of the lungs becomes so irritated by the presence of black mold, that ulcers develop that bleed into the lungs. This results in conditions similar to pneumonia and ultimately leads to the death of the child.
Health problems related to black mold are easily prevented by making sure your home and work space is free from the environment necessary to breed black mold. This includes making sure your basement is well ventilated and dry. It may be necessary to place a dehumidifier in the basement to make sure any excess groundwater does not feed the mold. It is also necessary to make sure any rugs and carpeting are completely dry before being placed back in the house, this includes after a water accident or flood, or with normal washing. In places like the basement where there is continuous dampness, it is best not to install carpet, but instead use a floor covering that does not absorb the moisture.