While Stachybotrys chartarum (atra) occurs widely in North America, it is probably rather uncommon to find it in homes. It requires water soaked cellulose (wood, paper, and cotton products) to grow. While wet it looks black and slimy perhaps with the edges white, and when dry it looks less shiny. It is not the only or the most common black mold to be found in these conditions. If your clean-up is not simple, i.e. your water damage and mold growth is extensive and/or involves structural materials, contact your city or county health department for assistance in assessing the problem. They can put you in contact with environmental laboratories capable of identifying Stachybotrys and with abatement contractors familiar with the precautions and other specifics important for extensive clean-up. If you have a large area of mold growth (greater than two square feet or so), seek professional assistance in the clean-up. You can get quite ill yourself if you inhale a large quantity of the fungal dust or get it on your skin.
Testing for Mold
For a more detailed discussion on the assessment and remediation of Stachybotrys in indoor environments, please refer to The Proceedings of the International Conference held on October 6-7, 1994 in Sarasota Springs, NY entitled "Fungi and Bacteria in Indoor Environments", pages 201-207, published by the Eastern New York Occupational Health Program [(518)436-5511].
In cases of minor mold contamination, small isolated areas (2 to 10 sq.ft.), testing is usually not necessary. In most of these cases, the area can be addressed by using the clean-up recommendations given elsewhere on this home page.
In cases of more extensive contamination, testing may be necessary. Some private environmental consulting firms may have the ability to conduct home assessments and sample for mold identification. Please refer to the section of your yellow pages entitled "Environmental Consultants" to find a company in your area that might be capable of performing these tasks effectively. Ask if the company has experience with mold testing; it is recommended that several price quotes be obtained for field work and analysis. Consulting firms should be familiar with the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) document entitled "Field Guide for the Determination of Biological Contaminants in Environmental Samples". This document provides guidelines for the sampling of mold in indoor environments.