Understanding Mould: Its Types, Health Impacts and Prevention

Mould, an ancient inhabitant of our planet, has silently existed for millions of years. It can be found virtually everywhere – outdoors, indoors, in the air, and on various surfaces. Mould, a type of fungus, thrives under specific conditions: organic materials, moisture, suitable temperature, and time.

Mould comes in two categories: some are beneficial, while others can be harmful. The harmful varieties require a food source and moisture to germinate. Unfortunately, mould growth indoors is not uncommon, especially in wet or poorly ventilated areas like walls, ceilings, bathroom tiles, carpets (particularly those with jute backing), insulation material, and wood. When moisture accumulates, mould often makes its presence known on indoor surfaces. The potential health risks associated with mould exposure cannot be overlooked.

What Health Problems Can Mould Cause?

To reproduce, mould generates tiny particles called spores, which can become airborne and pose health risks when inhaled by sensitive or allergic individuals. Health effects of mould exposure can include a runny or blocked nose, eye and skin irritation, and even wheezing. Those with asthma may experience asthma attacks triggered by mould spores. In rare cases, severe mould infections, usually in the lungs, can develop. It’s important to note, however, that most people won’t experience health problems from mould exposure.

Who Is Most Vulnerable to Mould-Related Health Issues?

Certain individuals are more susceptible to mould-related health problems. People with asthma, allergies, or respiratory conditions tend to be more sensitive to mould. Those with weakened immune systems (such as individuals with HIV infection, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, or organ transplant recipients) and those with chronic lung diseases (like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or emphysema) are at a higher risk of mould infections, especially in the lungs.

How Can You Prevent Mould Growth in Your Home?

Mould can be found almost anywhere, but it requires moisture and nutrients to thrive. The key to preventing mould growth lies in reducing dampness in your home. Here are some steps to achieve that:

  1. Maintain Proper Ventilation:

    • Use exhaust fans, especially during activities that generate moisture such as cooking, boiling the kettle, showering, bathing, laundry, using the dryer. Hey, the moisture has to go somewhere, right?
    • Open windows when possible for better cross ventilation.
  2. Reduce Humidity:

    • Limit the use of humidifiers.
    • Reduce the number of indoor plants and fish tanks.
    • Minimise the use of un-flued gas heaters.
  3. Control Moisture and Dampness:

    • Address water leaks and plumbing problems promptly.
    • After water intrusion, thoroughly clean  and dry water-damaged carpets and materials.
    • Address rising and lateral dampness with proper measures like installing damp courses or waterproof barriers and ensuring weep holes and air vents are clear.
What Should You Do If You Have Mould in Your Home?

It’s essential to tackle mould as soon as it appears. However, remember that mould may return unless you address the root cause of the issue. If you’re renting your home and have taken steps to improve ventilation but mould persists, communicate the problem to the owner or real estate agent.

How to Remove Mould from Your Home:
  1. For routine mould cleanup on surfaces, use a mild detergent or a vinegar-water solution (4 parts vinegar to 1 part water).
  2. If the mould is stubborn discard item while wearing protective gear like PVC or nitrate rubber gloves, safety glasses, and safety shoes. Ensure good ventilation during the cleaning process.
  3. Thoroughly dry the cleaned area.
  4. Absorbent materials like carpets may require professional cleaning or replacement if heavily contaminated with mould.
Do You Need Mould Testing?

Most mould is visible, making testing unnecessary for typical scenarios. However, if you suspect mould but can’t locate the source, you may consider hiring a building biologist or an occupational hygienist for specialised mould testing and consultancy services, for a fee.

Conclusion

In conclusion, understanding mould, its potential health impacts, and prevention measures are essential for maintaining a healthy living environment. By taking proactive steps, you can reduce the risk of mould growth in your home and protect your family’s well-being.

References:
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Mold
  2. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences – Mold
  3. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Mold

Author

  • Carol Parr

    We’re glad you’re here. We’re Carol and Tony, founders of one of the longest running Healthy Home Blogs in the world, Mitey Fresh Australia. We’ve been on this journey for the last 25 years and are passionate about helping families sift through health hazards and triggers like allergens, mould, water damage, chemicals and EMFs, to get clarity about what’s toxic and what’s not so they can create a healthy and happy home for their family they love. Each month, people visit this blog seeking focus on the health and wellbeing of their loved ones, sustainable and effective practice tips and guides, to help create and manage healthier indoor spaces, improve the built environment that is pleasing to the senses and support healthy living and nature, every day. Starting this blog was to help change people’s lives, one family at a time, and we can’t wait to share how its allowed us to stand next to you and show you how interpreting these synergies between buildings and the environment they are built in will impact upon the health and well-being of those who occupy them. Find out more about Healthy Homes and what this blog can do for you!

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