Mould in the right places is a friend eg. blue cheese, decomposing leaf litter in a forest, but mould in the wrong places can have devastating effects for human health and building materials. Mould is nature’s greatest decomposer!
Mould/fungi spores + food (e.g. leaf litter, building materials) + moisture = mould growth
You don’t need to smell or see mould for it to be a problem.
In recent years fungi’s impact on human health has increased due to:
- Buildings are now built more air tight for energy efficiency which decreases natural ventilation
- Introduction of fungicides into building materials creating different strains of fungi that are potentially more dangerous to health
- Poor building practices e.g. inadequate waterproofing in wet areas, insufficient ventilation in cooking and bathroom areas
- Fast track construction techniques
- Changes in building materials including cheap man made timbers
- Failure of occupants to manage moisture and humidity properly
- Reliance of HVAC systems for comfort
There are adverse health effects of living or working in a mouldy water damaged environment (see documented symptoms further down page). Fungi can cause sickness in four ways –
- Allergic reaction
- Produces toxins that makes humans and animals sick by ingestion or inhalation
24% of the population cannot make antibodies to mould. It can affect people very differently so symptoms can vary between them. This can mean one family member in a home may suffer from symptoms related to a water damaged building whilst everyone else feels ok. Mould does not have to be alive to cause allergic reactions and other health effects, this is why the mould must be removed and not left in or on material.
Documented common symptoms include, but not limited to –
- Flu like symptoms – cough; nose and throat irritation; headaches and migraines; nausea; fever; watery, itchy red eyes
- Sinus issues, blocked nose, frequent sneezing
- Aggravate asthma
- Brain fog
- Memory deficits
- Rashes (dermatitis)
- More serious symptoms can include neurological issues
Tips for preventing Mould
(Note: this list is by no means exhaustive but it’s a start)
- Find the source of the water leak/damp building materials and have it repaired. It is pointless removing mould if the cause is not remedied or removed as it will keep on returning.
- Always have the exhaust fan operating when showering or bathing and continue to leave it running for 10 mins after finishing showering.
- If possible keep a window open whilst exhaust fan is operating as the fan will not have to work as hard and will also be another escape for the steam.
- Keep the home free of dust and clutter.
- Keep under the bed free from storage and clutter so the mattress has sufficient air flow and the items don’t become food for mould.
- Problem areas – insufficient ventilation, cold and / or enclosed areas – may need a dehumidifier.
- Using the kitchen exhaust fan when cooking.
- Having the home insulated.
- HVAC system cleaned and serviced regularly.
- Opening doors and windows when possible to encourage fresh air flow into the home.
- Keeping the home between 45 – 55% humidity is ideal. Purchasing a hygrometer * can help you determine humidity levels in your home and address problem areas (constantly over 60% may lead to mould/mildew issues)
*Ausclimate has a Hygrometer available for $19.95 with free postage.
or Phone: 1800 122 100 (free call)
If you need any further advice please do not hesitate to get in touch
Visit my website www.westcoastbuildingbiology.com.au
American Academy of Paediatrics, 2006, Spectrum of Noninfectious Health Effects From Molds http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/118/6/2582
Bijlsma, N. 2016, Mould Testing Manual, Australian College of Environmental Studies, Melbourne.
CCAA, 2007, Moisture in Concrete and Moisture-sensitive Finishes & Coatings, Datasheet
EMSL ERMI and ARMI Sampling Guide
Henrik & Wolf, 2011, Innate Immunity and the Pathogenicity of Inhaled Microbial Particles
IICRC R520-2015 Manual, Third Edition, Dec 2015
IICRC S520-2015 Manual, Third Edition, Dec 2015
Lin & Shoemaker, 2007, Inside Indoor Air Quality: ERMI
National Academies Press, 2004, Damp Indoor Spaces and Health https://www.nap.edu/read/11011/chapter/2
Peel BF, Munday BL, Obendorf DL, 1993, Mucor amphibiorum infection in platypus from Tasmania https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8355354
Shoemaker R MD, 2014, What is a Water Damaged Building,
US Dept of Housing and Urban Development, 2006, Healthy Homes Issues: Mold, Healthy Homes Initiative (HHI) Background Information, Version 3
US Environmental Protection Agency, 2012
World Health Organisation, (2009). Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality. Dampness and Mould, Copenhagen, Denmark