Black mold--the species Stachybotrys chartarum or Stachybotrys atra--has been blamed for health problems ranging from infant lung hemorrhaging to neurological effects. However, because scientists haven't conducted many human studies to assess the specific damage this variant of mold can do, many of the links between health problems and black mold remain unproven.
Like any mold, the spores of black mold can cause allergies in susceptible individuals, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The signs of a mold allergy include a runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, coughing and congestion. A black mold allergy may also lead to red, itchy or watery eyes. Skin irritation is another possibility, and can occur from mold spores in the air, even if the person doesn't directly touch the moldy surface.
In individuals with asthma, black mold may trigger an attack. People with other respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or emphysema, may notice an increase in symptoms during exposure to black mold. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 2004 study by the Institute of Medicine established a link between indoor exposure to mold and upper respiratory illnesses in otherwise healthy children and adults, as well as asthma symptoms in people with asthma.
Health Problems in Infants
The Cleveland Clinic states that babies living in a home with black mold may be more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, although scientists have not conducted sufficient research to label the mold as a cause. A condition in infants called acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage, characterized by bleeding in the lungs, also be linked to the inhalation of black mold spores, according to Berlin D. Nelson, a plant pathology professor at the University of North Dakota. In a 2001 article published by the American Phytopathological Society, Nelson noted that the release of mycotoxins into the air by mold colonies may be a potential mechanism for producing hemorrhagic symptoms. However, the studies suggesting this linkage have has methodological problems, so whether black mold truly causes lung bleeding in infants remains inconclusive, Nelson wrote.
Effects on the Brain
Some individuals report that exposure to black mold caused neurological symptoms, including memory loss, mood changes, anxiety and lethargy, according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, these links between brain disease and black mold also remain unproven--and mostly unstudied.