Black mold can pose danger
By Derek Gentile
Berkshire Eagle Staff

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Black mold, also called mildew, is about as old as dust. There is even mention of it in the Old Testament.

According to the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 14, verses 33-38, "on the seventh day, the priest shall return to inspect the house. If the mildew has spread on the walls, he is to order that the contaminated stones be torn out and thrown into an unclean place outside the town."

Black mold is a member of the fungi kingdom, of which there are more than 1 million individual species, including mushrooms, molds and yeasts.

Black mold or mildew is a subset of fungi that can produce fluff or powdery growth on a variety of surfaces, according to an informational Web site about mold, blackmoldinfo.com.

Molds can grow on cloth, carpets, leather, wood, gypsum wallboard, insulation and almost any place where moist conditions exist.

Excessive exposure to black mold can, for some individuals, result in adverse health problems that range from allergic symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, respiratory problems, rashes and sinus problems to more serious neurological problems.

According to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, there is some form of mold or mildew in more than 50 percent of the houses in the United States. A vast majority of the mold or mildew is either harmless or a minor nuisance that is usually quickly removed.

But the CDC warns that certain strains of mold, such as stachybotrys, can be toxic to humans at certain concentration levels. The key to good health is to limit one's exposure to mold and mildew, according to the Web site.

The most important factor in limiting human exposure to mold, according to the National Association of Home Builders, is to control the moisture level in a structure or home, as excessive moisture promotes growth of the organisms. Thoroughly cleaning and maintaining the house or building also are important, according to NAHB.

The NAHB recommends that residents or building owners who are concerned about black mold or mildew purchase a hygrometer, also known as a moisture meter. The devices cost between $25-$50.

Hygrometers measure the humidity in a building. The NAHB notes that a humidity level of 55 percent or less is recommended to ensure that mold does not proliferate. Building owners should check each room in their building, as well as the attic, space between the roof and ceiling, crawl spaces, wall cavities and ductwork.

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