The Most Dangerous Mold & How To Spot It, From A Remediation Expert
It's safe to say that we've all heard about how harmful Stachybotrys, or "black mold," can be for our health. This species of mold isn't the only one we have to be vigilant about, though. For instance, Chaetomiun is another black toxic mold often found right alongside Stachybotrys that can be just as dangerous.
Still, as a mold remediation and air quality expert, I don't believe that either of these species qualifies as the No. 1 mold to look out for. That superlative goes to Aspergillus. That's right! A "common mold."
Aspergillus is one of the main species growing inside a large percentage of the spaces that I see for remediation. Many of the individuals I've seen suffering from the adverse effects of mold exposure have had this particular species in their homes.
I call Aspergillus the "cactus of molds" because it has the ability to begin growing and surviving with very little water. It doesn't need a catastrophic water event that saturates the floors or walls of a home. A spore from this species can begin to colonize simply if you have high indoor humidity.
In comparison, black mold requires much more available water for a spore to begin to colonize the area.
What makes it harmful?
Aspergillus has the ability to produce microscopic toxins called mycotoxins. When the colonized mold feels threatened, it will begin producing these tiny toxins along with more mold spores. One example of a threatening situation is when another species of mold moves in and starts encroaching on the Aspergillus' territory.
Everyone responds differently to mold exposure. Genetics, length of time exposed, the volume of exposure, and preexisting conditions all play a role. While one person may not feel any symptoms, another may have severe reactions.
Those with compromised immune systems are especially prone to developing symptoms. Their immune systems are not equipped to rid their bodies of mold spores, mold particles, and toxins. Transplant patients, for instance, are at a higher risk2 of getting sick or rejecting their transplants if they're exposed to mold because they're on a series of immunosuppressants. Individuals with compromised immune systems are also more likely to develop Aspergillosis3, a disease caused by exposure to Aspergillus.
How can you spot it?
One of the issues with Aspergillus is its ability to go undetected in a home. This is largely due to its lighter color. There are over 180 species of Aspergillus identified so far, and they come in a variety of colors, but many are greenish-yellow hues.
Unlike black or brown mold that looks like coffee-like stains and draws the eye, this muted color often blends in with its surroundings. This means that Aspergillus can continue to grow for much longer before being detected.
Where does it tend to grow?
Like all species of mold, Aspergillus requires some moisture, which means it thrives in any humid, wet areas inside of a home with lots of condensation potential. (Think attics, crawlspaces, windows, windowsills, and basements.) Water events like leaks and flooding can also lead to Aspergillus growth indoors.
Make sure to look carefully throughout these spaces since Aspergillus is often so light in color (although, it can be brown or gray, too!). Using a flashlight is a great way to shine a light on any hard-to-see mold growth. During this mold hunt, make sure to rely on your nose as well. Mold growth often creates a musty, earthy, rotten, and damp scent.
What to do if you find it.
If you smell mold, find visible mold growth, or see water stains, coffee-like discoloration, or dirty-looking surfaces that could point to mold, I would recommend calling a mold inspector as soon as possible. It's always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to mold growth.
This mold inspector will be able to give a picture of what the mold situation is, including what species of mold are present, if there are any other moldy issues elsewhere in the home, and if any other contaminants exist as well. Armed with this information, you can determine whether a remediation team is needed to come in and properly remove the mold, fix the source of the problem, and handle all contaminants present.
Michael Rubino is a mold and air quality expert and founder of HomeCleanse, a revolutionary company with the vision to end the worldwide health epidemic caused by poor air quality and toxic indoor environments.
As President of HomeCleanse, Rubino specializes in working with people who are immunocompromised or have acute and sustained reactions to mold exposure. He works closely with the company's advisory team, which includes global well-being trailblazers Deepak Chopra’s The Chopra Foundation and Gwyneth Paltrow, to achieve the company's mission to improve the quality of life for 100 million people each year by 2030. Rubino is also the founder of Change the Air Foundation, a nonprofit committed to empowering the world to achieve better health by establishing safer and healthier indoor environments.
Through collaboration with over 100 doctors globally, Rubino strives to not only raise awareness globally but also provide solutions to correctly identify and remove the pollutants causing this worldwide health crisis. Rubino specializes in working with people who are immunocompromised or have acute and sustained reactions to mold exposure and has helped heal over 1,000 families so far—including celebrities and athletes. He is a council-certified Mold Remediation Supervisor by ACACa nd IICRC and is a contributing member, sponsor, and speaker for the Indoor Air Quality Association.