Toxic mold. It's been getting a significant amount of media attention in recent years, especially as people become more aware of the associated health risks. It can show up in homes, businesses and schools. It's quite difficult and costly to remove.
But exactly what is toxic mold? Is it the same stuff growing on that old food in your fridge?
Unfortunately, no. It's actually much more dangerous.
Toxic mold is not toxic unto itself. As it thrives, it releases gases and spores called mycotoxins into the air. When people and pets inhale mycotoxins, they can become ill. Allergies, pneumonia, asthma, headaches, itchy eyes and coughing are often associated with toxic mold.
There may be more serious complications, such as internal bleeding, but the CDC says the research is unclear.
Toxic mold is often the result of defective construction or improper maintenance. Rainwater, leaking pipes and moisture in the air are common culprits. Even if you can't visibly see the mold, it may still be present. Discoloration, water stains, condensation and a musty odor all signal a mold problem.
If you think you have a mold problem in your home, call a mold inspection company immediately. Do not try to remove the mold yourself -- you may make it worse.
If you think your workplace or school has toxic mold, talk to administrators. Employers and educators are legally obligated to keep the premises safe and that includes from toxic mold. If they won't inspect the premises, consider contacting the local health department.
An anonymous phone call may be sufficient.
Those who have been injured by toxic mold or have had to pay for its removal should consider contacting an attorney. Your construction company, employer or school may be liable for associated expenses.