Many of us are concerned about mould and its effects on health. With the right information, you may be able to clean up existing mould in your home and prevent future growth.
Mould gained attention in the 1990s when ten infants died from bleeding of the lungs in Cleveland, Ohio. These infants lived in homes where Stachybotrys chartarum was found. This mould can produce toxins. After detailed study, Stachybotrys was not found to be the cause of death. Still, many people became concerned about the health effects of mould.
Moulds are a part of our natural environment. Everyone is exposed to some mould. Most of us do not experience health effects from mould exposure. However, certain people are more at risk – those with allergy to moulds or whose immune (defence) systems are severely challenged. This includes people with HIV or on cancer chemotherapy.
|Toxic or irritant||Sneezing, runny nose,
itchy watery eyes
|Allergic symptoms||Wheezing or worsening of asthma|
|Infection||Weight loss, fatigue,
Moulds can cause infections and allergies. The most common health effects of mould include sneezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes. A toxic or irritant mechanism can also produce these symptoms. As illnesses such as the common cold can have a similar effect, it can be hard to pinpoint the cause with certainty.
Mould can make asthma symptoms worse and cause asthma attacks. Since children often experience asthma and other respiratory illnesses, they may be more likely to show symptoms when exposed to mould.
Those with severely challenged immune systems are more at risk of infection from moulds such as Aspergillus. In the case of HIV or cancer chemotherapy, special precautions are sometimes taken to prevent infection.
If you think someone’s health is being affected by mould in your home, get your doctor’s advice.
In order to be affected by mould, you must first be exposed to it by:
In our daily lives we can be exposed to mould in many places, including outdoors, at home, work, and school.
Mould spores are widespread in the outdoor environment. Spores enter your home through open doorways and windows, and on people and animals. Although you cannot prevent spores from entering, it is important to keep them from growing once they are inside.
Under the right conditions, spores can grow and form colonies of mould. Mould needs an adequate temperature, nutrients, and enough moisture to grow.
Most homes are kept at an adequate temperature for mould growth. Nutrients for mould are found in all homes and can include drywall, wood, wallpaper and ceiling tiles, as well as many food items. Moisture is the controllable factor for mould growth.
Moisture should be controlled in homes and other buildings. At times, homes have increased moisture from:
Mould comes in a variety of colors. It creates musty odours and rots materials. Mould sometimes grows in hidden areas, such as under carpets, behind wallpaper, in basements, bathrooms and other areas where water can accumulate. If you see mould in your home, figure out why it is growing, fix the problem, and clean up the mould.
Treat all moulds the same way, both for potential health risks and for cleaning. To properly clean up mould, think about how much mould there is and where it is growing.
Prevent production of moisture
Take prompt action on leaks and spills
Increase ventilation to remove moisture
If your home has flooded, clean affected areas within 48 hours. After that amount of time, mould can start to grow on moist surfaces.
Clean small areas of mould where the surface has not been damaged, such as windowsills or corners of the room, with a mild detergent or mild bleach solution.
Areas of mould over a metre in diameter can be more difficult to clean. With large areas of heavy mould growth, cleaning may disturb the mould and send spores into the air. Wear goggles and a mask. If you are uncomfortable cleaning up the mould, hire a professional to do the job.
Mould cannot be cleaned properly from all materials. For instance, if mould is growing on drywall or wood with moisture damage, replace the surface rather than clean it. Carpets can also be hard to clean. It may be better to remove mouldy carpets rather than attempt cleaning.
The most effective way to protect you and your family is to stop mould from growing in the first place. As moisture is necessary for mould growth, mould control means moisture control.
Dampness inside the home is also associated with dust mites and bacteria invisible to the naked eye. Dampness in the home, even without visible mould growth, can affect your health. To prevent health effects from mould or indoor dampness, control the moisture.
Mould exposure in the home can affect health, most commonly irritating the nose and eyes. Although it is an unwanted guest in your home, you can address it. Clean up mould promptly, either on your own or by hiring a professional. The key to preventing future mould growth in your home involves preventing excess moisture.
Articles in the Prevention section of Family Health OnLine are sponsored by: