We all know it’s not good, but here’s exactly why you should be taking preventative measures to stop mold and dampness in your home. Although mold is everywhere, it’s when the concentration builds up that it starts to affect health. British homes are particularly susceptible to mold and damp because it is so cold and wet and because a lot of the housing is quite old.
There are hundreds of thousands of types of mold but only about ten types cause health problems, commonly sinusitis, bronchitis and other respiratory conditions, as well as allergies. The most infamous type of mold is black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) which produces toxic spores. In 1994, it was linked to a serious respiratory illness after ten children experienced bleeding from the lung – resulting in the death of one child. There is also speculation that mold was responsible for the death of Hollywood actress Brittany Murphy and her husband Simon Monjack – although this has not been directly linked.
We all know finding dampness in your home is never a good thing, but this is why you shouldn’t be ignoring it.
The problems mold can cause:
- Molds produce allergens which in turn can cause an allergic reaction, along with irritants and even toxic substances.
- Inhaling mold fragments or spores can cause airway inflammation, nasal congestion, chest tightness, wheezing and a sore throat. Irritation from mold can also cause skin rashes and watery eyes.
- Prolonged exposure can cause chronic lung problems. According to the World Health Organization, a large proportion of the world’s 300 million cases of childhood asthma is caused by exposure to indoor damp and mold.
Those who already suffer from asthma and allergies are more likely to have more severe symptoms when exposed to spores. The symptoms are a result of the body recognising the spores and helping you get rid of them.
The people most at risk; some people are more sensitive than others, including:
- babies and children;
- elderly people;
- those with existing skin problems, such as eczema;
- those with respiratory problems, such as allergies and asthma;
- those with a weakened immune system.
Homes which lack appropriate heating and ventilation, plus those with failing insulation can be more susceptible to damp and mold.
Although those with existing health issues are at a greater risk of health issues from mold, exposure can also affect healthy people.
Mold is a result of moisture. It’s a type of fungus which thrives whenever there is moisture in the air. This is commonly around showers, washing machines, dryers and in the kitchen.
Malcolm Richardson, Professor of medical mycology (the study of mold) at the University of Manchester told the Daily Mail: “The common places for mold to grow in houses is wallpaper, flooring, behind wall tiles and on window frames. “It can form in any poorly ventilated house, no matter how grand or ordinary, but it’s especially likely where there is moisture leaking.”
Leaking radiators and pipes are also a major cause of damp and mold. Leaking water in an inconspicuous spot means many won’t notice until the damage has already been done. Rising damp due to a defective damp-course or because there is no damp-course can cause mold to spread. Flooding is also a factor – and unless the mold is fast-growing, the damage may not be noticeable for years. Even human breathing puts considerable moisture into the indoor air.
How to prevent it
It is important to remember that currently no safe levels of indoor dampness and or mold have been identified. So health-based standards or guidelines do not exist.
But there are steps you can take to prevent mold and dampness:
- adequately heating and, in colder climates, insulating your home to reduce air humidity levels and condensation and not letting rooms and walls become cold
- install and use appropriate ventilation – especially in wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchens
- nsure the roof, pipes and window frames are watertight
- putting lids on saucepans, drying washing outside and avoiding using paraffin or bottled gas heaters
- opening the bedroom window for 15 minutes each morning
- if you’re cooking, showering or bathing – opening the window, putting the fan on and closing the door of the room you’re in
- dry washing outside if possible. Otherwise, hang it up in the bathroom, close the door and have the window open or a fan working continuously while it dries
- move items of furniture away from the wall slightly so that air can pass behind them.
- Leave the doors of cupboards open from time to time to air them out
- always repairing leaks and other building faults
- remove mold quickly when it reappears
What can be done if you have mold
If you have mold or dampness, it’s important to find out why you have excess moisture in your home. When you know what’s causing the dampness, you can make sure your home is repaired or take steps to limit the moisture in the air. You may need to get a professional to remove mold for you – but, if it’s only a small amount, you may be able to remove it yourself.
How to remove it
Once you’ve identified and fixed the source of moisture in your home you can get rid of any mold. You may be able to remove ityourself, or you may need to have a professional to remove it.
You should only remove mold yourself if it’s caused by condensation and covers an area less than one metre squared (1×1 metre or 3×3 feet). Don’t try to remove the mold yourself if it’s caused by sewage or other contaminated water. Protect yourself from mold spores by wearing goggles, long rubber gloves and a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Open the windows but keep doors closed to prevent spores spreading to other areas of the house.
- Have a plastic bag ready to take away any soft furnishings, clothes and soft toys that are moldy. Soft furnishings should be shampooed and clothes professionally dry cleaned.
- Fill a bucket with water and some mild detergent, such as laundry detergent or a soap used for hand-washing clothes.
- Use a rag dipped in the soapy water to carefully wipe the mold off the wall. Be careful not to brush it, as this can release mold spores.
- When you’ve finished, use a dry rag to remove the moisture from the wall.
- Afterwards, put the rags in a plastic bag and throw them away.
- All the surfaces in the room should be thoroughly cleaned by either wet wiping or vacuuming to remove any spores.