Finding mould in the home: How concerned should you be for your health?
For many people July is a cold damp month, especially in the northern rivers. During the winter months extra indoor activities can lead to increased moisture & humidity inside the home, unfortunately this can also lead to mould growth.
Bathrooms, kitchens, windows, walls, curtains, clothes & even children’s toys are prone to the different families of mould. Nothing is sacred when it comes to this treacherous alien growth which can turn our prized possessions in to dank, stale & smelly items ready for the tip…
On the other hand with all it’s noxious annoyance, to what length should we be concerned when mould infests in our home? If our prized possessions can be effected so easily, what can it be doing to our health?
In this article, we’ll examine & explore precisely what mould is, what causes it growth, are there any implications on our health and, if so, what can be done to stop this hazardous annoyance.
What Is Mould?
Mould is a microscopic organism which plays an important role in the breakdown of organic matter, there are a diverse number of fungal species of mould in the thousands, some thrive indoors whilst others in the outdoors. The indoor species thrive well in warm, moist & humid environments & are capable of surviving the most harsh conditions. These menacing little mites spread through the production of spores & can grow on a variety of different surfaces.
Some Popular Common Household Mould’s Include:
- Cladosporium: Which is a very common outdoor fungus that can find its way indoors to grow on textiles, wood and other damp, porous materials. This mold triggers hay fever and asthma symptoms.
- Aspergillus: is usually found in warm, extremely damp climates, and a common occupant of house dust. This mold produces mycotoxins which is a poisonous chemical compound. This mold variety can cause lung infections & aspergillosis.
- Penicillium: Penicillium is a very common species found on wallpaper, decaying fabrics, carpet, and fiberglass duct insulation. It is known for causing allergies and asthma. Some species produce mycotoxins, one being the common antibiotic penicillin.
- Stachybotrys: Stachybotrys is extremely toxic “black mold” that produces mycotoxins that can cause serious breathing difficulties and bleeding of the lungs. This mold can be found on wood or paper.
So How Does Mould Get In To Your Home?
There are a variety of ways in which mould spores can get in to your home. The most popular ways they get in are through the air like open window’s, ventilation systems & open doors, some other ways can be by attaching to objects like pets, clothing & shoes. Now I know what your thinking, what chance do I have to fight these invisible pests? Well there’s some good news as these tiny spores are a little like gremlins in that they’re mostly harmless unless you add water.. so your best bet is to make it as difficult as possible for them to grow by taking away the ideal conditions of damp & moist surfaces. There are also certain ways to clean mould so it doesn’t come back as using bleach is only a temporary band aid solution which camouflages the mould but doesn’t get rid of the spore itself.
What can I do to get rid of mould?
The obvious solution is to take away the damp conditions in which mould spores thrive. Unfortunately this isn’t as simple as it sounds? If you live in the tropics or places with damp climates like the northern rivers where one minute you have sunshine and the next plenty of rain, you’re in for a surprise! Those boxes stored in your garage can be prime real estate for some fuzzy velvet greens.. even worse your kids bedroom cupboard can be a breeding ground for some powdered fungi? or how about some lovely black spots on your bathroom tiles where you shower.. You get the picture, we’ve all had that surprise where we accidentally came across a mouldy surface and held our breath! Now the average person will wipe away the mould with some bleach not realizing they’re just masking the symptoms.
Getting rid of mould spores is a bit of an undertaking but well worth it in the long run for your health and your loved ones. They say that prevention is better than a cure so a couple of rules to keep in mind would be to make sure your place is well ventilated by regularly leaving windows opened so that the air can circulate around the house (I know what your thinking, but wont that invite more spores in? Well I like making sure there’s no dust around the home as this is one major way in which the spores can be transferred around the home! So vacuuming and wiping surfaces regularly is extremely important).
Here’s a few key point to keep in mind:
- Remember to use fans in the bathroom when showering or to open windows if none are available.
- Turn on the range-hood in the kitchen when cooking to suck up the steam and open windows afterwards.
- Invest in a good quality Dehumidifier or also a couple of Himalayan rock salt lamps.
- Vacuum up all dust from carpets, rugs and floor surfaces.
- Wipe all dust off furniture.
- Do a spring clean and empty out your cupboards, then wipe all the surfaces with a natural cleaning solution.
- Keep indoor plants to a minimum.
- Don’t hang any washing laundry indoors and make sure any damp fabrics are cleaned properly and well dried.
- Clean and replace any filters in your air-conditioner or other household appliances.
- Dust any blind’s.
- Condensation on windows can lead to mould, so open windows to let some air in.
- Wash clothes, curtains or any infected fabrics in a hygiene laundry rinse like Canesten.
- Use an Ammonia solution for bathroom surfaces (be careful not to breath this in & keep the room well ventilated).
- Alternatively use a natural cleaning solution of clove & tea-tree oil mixed with some bicarb and vinegar.
- You can also make a hydrogen peroxide solution to use as another natural alternative although you may want to be careful not to fade your furniture or item.
- Some porous woods & surfaces may not completely have the mould removed so you may need a professional to thoroughly clean it.
- Throw out any old furniture which is infected to stop it from spreading.
- If your worried about mould or your health, contact a health service adviser.
So remember to keep your home clean and dust free with lots of air circulation and think about getting a dehumidifier especially if you have mould problems in your bedroom as this can cause some serious health risks.
How bad is mould for your health?
It can be pretty bad and in some rare cases even prove fatal! Of the 100,000 fungal species known, some 500 are thought to be harmful to people. There are many factors like the type of spore and the health condition of the person who comes in to contact with the mould type, however it will affect everyone to some degree. People with allergies may be more susceptible to health problems due to potentially toxic substances like allergens, irritants and mycotoxins found in moulds.
Some health problems which may occur due to exposure are:
- Eye irritation or Blured vision
- Blocked or runny nose
- Itchy or sore throat
- Chronic cough
- Sneezing or itchy nose
- Skin rash
- It’s possible that it may cause the onset of asthma in some children
- People with asthma can have their symptoms triggered by mouldy environments
- Certain spores can cause serious lung infections and scarring of the lungs
- There are even cases where it could prove fatal for patients with rare blood disorders
Certain studies have been conducted on the health risks of mould, like one in 2004 where the Institute Of Medicine (IOM) found evidence to connect the development of upper respiratory tract problems in healthy people to indoor mould.
Another study conducted by NIEHS-funded scientists shows that mould exposure during the first year of life may increase the risk of childhood asthma.
Whilst it doesn’t affect everyone in the same way, Mould is no laughing matter! If you’re concerned about regular health problems and notice mould around the home, go see a health professional to make sure it’s nothing serious and then clean it up or throw it out.
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