Chaetomium is a genus of mold that can be found in indoor and outdoor environments. This mold genus contains over 80 different species, some of which can cause health issues in humans. In this article, we’ll cover key facts and information you should know about Chaetomium mold.
What is Chaetomium?
Chaetomium is a genus of ascomycetes fungi belonging to the family Chaetomiaceae. It is commonly found in soil, compost, wood materials, straw, and other plant debris. Chaetomium species are cellulolytic fungi, meaning they have the ability to break down cellulose.
There are over 80 identified species of Chaetomium worldwide. Some of the most common Chaetomium species indoors include C. globosum, C. atrobrunneum, C. strumarium, C. perlucidum, C. elatum, and C. funicola.
Chaetomium molds usually appear greenish-gray or olive-gray in color. They produce a musty odor and form ostioles, small pore-like openings in their fruiting bodies. When Chaetomium spores are released through these ostioles, it can allow the mold to spread to surrounding areas.
What Does It Mean if You Have Chaetomium in Your Home?
Finding Chaetomium mold inside a home often signifies that there is a moisture issue, such as water leaks, flooding, or excess humidity. This mold genus grows well on damp cellulose materials.
Chaetomium mold is often discovered in homes with water damaged drywall, leaky roofs or plumbing, or improperly ventilated areas like basements or crawl spaces. If you find Chaetomium growing indoors, it’s important to address the moisture source and properly remediate the mold.
Is Chaetomium Mold Toxic?
Some Chaetomium species do produce mycotoxins and can cause health issues when inhaled or exposed over long periods of time. However, many common Chaetomium molds found indoors may not produce significant mycotoxins.
Chaetomium globosum, C. strumarium and C. elatum are three species most frequently involved in building-related illnesses. These mold types produce chaetoglobosins and chaetomugilins, metabolites that are toxic to humans.
Exposure symptoms may include headache, skin irritation, fatigue, dizziness and gastrointestinal problems when around Chaetomium mold spores. Individuals with compromised immune systems may be at higher risks for infections.
How Does Chaetomium Mold Appear?
Chaetomium mold growth starts out white and cottony as newly formed colonies. As the mold matures, growth turns grayish-green or olive gray in color. The texture also changes from cottony to leathery or powdery.
Distinctive microscopic fruiting bodies called perithecia form on the surface of Chaetomium colonies 7-14 days after initial germination. Perithecia appear light orange or olive colored round structures, about 300-500 μm in size.
Inside the perithecia are hundreds of spore-containing sacs called asci. When ready, ascospores forcibly discharge into the air through a small openings called ostioles at the tip of perithecia. This is how Chaetomium mold spreads spores throughout the indoor environment.
Table summarizing key details on Chaetomium mold appearance:
|White, cottony colonies
|Olive-gray or greenish-gray color, leathery or powdery texture
|Perithecia – round, orange structures containing spore sacs
|Spore Dispersal Method
|Forcible discharge of spores (ascospores) through ostioles on perithecia
Where is Chaetomium Mold Commonly Found?
Chaetomium mold species thrive in damp, dark environments with cellulose material present. Some of the most common Chaetomium mold sources include:
- Drywall paper
- Wood framing and products
- Plant debris
- Paper products
- Compost piles
Indoors, Chaetomium mold may start in areas with water leaks, flooding or humidity buildup. Basements, crawlspaces and poorly ventilated rooms provide suitable conditions. Building materials like drywall or wood become colonized if excess moisture is present.
Outdoors, Chaetomium exists abundantly in soils, compost piles, dead leaves, rotting wood and other vegetation. Spores disperse by wind, insects or other means to new debris food sources.
How do I Get Rid of Chaetomium Mold?
If you discover a Chaetomium mold problem indoors, you’ll need to take steps to eliminate the moisture source, contain the area, and properly remediate the mold growth. Here is an overview of the process:
- Find and Fix Moisture Sources – Inspect all areas near visible mold growth and detect water leaks, humidity or flooding issues. Stop water intrusion and enact repairs.
- Contain Affected Areas – Seal off moldy rooms with plastic sheeting until remediation. Block supply and return air vents. Containment prevents spore spread during the removal process.
- Inspect and Remove Contaminated Materials – Moldy, porous items like drywall or insulation should be discarded. Non-porous surfaces may be scrubbed and disinfected. Follow guidelines for remediating building materials published by the EPA and CDC.
- Treat Surfaces with Fungicide – After bulk removal, apply an EPA-registered fungicide like sodium hypochlorite or hydrogen peroxide to kill remaining spores.
- Dry Environment – Use dehumidifiers, fans and heating systems to reduce moisture below 50% relative humidity before rebuilding.
Following structured remediation guidelines is vital whenever attempting DIY mold removal. For severe mold cases, consider hiring a professional mold remediation contractor.
Is Chaetomium Mold Considered Toxic Black Mold?
The term “toxic black mold” often refers loosely to the mold species Stachybotrys chartarum. While Chaetomium mold can produce some harmful mycotoxins, it is not the same organism as Stachybotrys and is not classified as a black mold.
Most Chaetomium species appear grayish or olive colored with a powdery or cotton-like texture. Only a few dark Chaetomium varieties could be inaccurately identified as black mold. As a group, Chaetomium molds produce lower amounts of mycotoxins compared to other virulent molds like Stachybotrys.
Still, precautions should be taken around confirmed Chaetomium mold, especially for individuals with chronic illnesses or weakened immune function. Monitor your health and contact a doctor if you experience unexplained symptoms that may correlate with exposure.
What are the Health Effects from Chaetomium Mold Exposure?
Health impacts from Chaetomium mold vary significantly by the specific species and the extent of exposure. As mentioned, a few toxin-producing types like C. globosum can cause illness when inhaled over longer periods.
Documented conditions related to Chaetomium mold exposure include:
- Headaches, fatigue, nausea
- Skin irritation, rashes, dermatitis
- Eye redness, respiratory issues
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Immunotoxic reactions
- Neurological symptoms
Additionally, Chaetomium fungal infections have been reported in immunocompromised patients. Rare cases of onychomycosis and cerebral phaeohyphomycosis have occurred from Chaetomium mold penetrating into nails, skin or the central nervous system after traumatic injury.
Healthy adults may only experience temporary symptoms like coughing or eye irritation around actively growing Chaetomium mold. However those with allergy sensitization or comprised immunity can get much ill from exposure to toxigenic species like C. globosum. Infants, young children and the elderly also have higher susceptibility.
If you notice symptoms that correlate with periods around mold exposure, make an appointment with your doctor. Keep a record of possible mold-related illness to share with your physician for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Common Questions About Chaetomium Mold in Buildings
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about finding and remediating Chaetomium mold growth indoors:
Is Chaetomium mold black mold?
No, Chaetomium mold is not considered a black mold. Most species appear green, gray or olive colored when growing. Only a few Chaetomium varieties produce darker pigmentation that could be inaccurately identified as black mold.
What is a high level of Chaetomium mold?
There are currently no governmental standards for an acceptable amount of Chaetomium mold spores indoors. Since some species release toxic compounds, any Chaetomium growth found inside should be addressed through moisture reduction and professional remediation.
How do I get rid of Chaetomium mold?
Properly eliminating Chaetomium requires fixing moisture problems, containment, removal of contaminated materials, fungicide application and drying out the environment. Follow published guidelines for mold remediation or consider hiring a professional for cleanup.
What diseases are caused by Chaetomium mold?
Chaetomium species like C. globosum can cause headaches, fatigue, nausea, skin conditions or gastrointestinal distress when inhaled. Immunocompromised people may suffer fungal infections or respiratory illnesses as well over time. Severe or chronic exposure has also been linked to neurological damage.
What are the health concerns related to Chaetomium mold?
Exposure to Chaetomium molds is associated with allergic responses, respiratory issues, skin irritations, eye redness and systemic infections. Toxigenic species can produce compounds leading to headaches, vomiting, rashes, immunotoxic reactions and neurological damage. Those with weaker immune function are at higher risk for severe illness from chaetomium spores.
Chaetomium is a genus of mold capable of growing indoors and causing health issues through allergenic spores and mycotoxin release. Member species thrive in damp environments, breaking down materials like drywall and wood. Controlling moisture and properly remediating Chaetomium growth is key to preventing exposure.
While not a true black mold, Chaetomium mold found inside warrants quick action to avoid spore inhalation. Sensitive individuals may develop skin rashes, respiratory distress, chronic fatigue or gastrointestinal discomfort after continuous contact. Seek medical care if you experience unexplained symptoms that correlate with periods of confirmed chaetomium mold exposure.
With structure drying, contaminated material removal and fungicide treatments, Chaetomium mold can be fully eliminated from a home or business. Stop spores at the source by fixing all water intrusions, leaks and humidity drivers allowing mold colonies to initially germinate. Follow published remediation guidelines and enlist professionals as needed for cleanup and indoor air quality testing after the process.
Stay vigilant for signs of excess moisture or returning mold growth. Request mold inspection services if you suspect Chaetomium or experience allergy issues inside buildings. Addressing water and mold problems early on prevents more extensive contamination requiring time-intensive remediation down the road.