Indoor moulds can trigger a host of respiratory symptoms, including increased susceptibility to respiratory infections and exacerbation of asthma. Other acute symptoms can include headache and fatigue, and longer-term exposure may result in environmental sensitivities. This page describes what mould is, how to recognize it and how to mould-proof your home.
Moulds are microscopic fungi, a group of organisms that includes mushrooms and yeasts. Fungi grow and reproduce rapidly.
Moulds can be useful. For example, the drug penicillin is obtained from a specific type of mould. But moulds are undesirable when they grow in our homes, and some types are very toxic. Over 270 species of mould have been identified as living in Canadian homes.
Moulds will grow if we provide them with moisture and nutrients. If we keep things dry, moulds do not grow. High moisture levels can result from water coming in from the outside, through the floor, walls or roof; from plumbing leaks; or from moisture produced by the people living in the home, through daily activities, like bathing, washing clothes or cooking. Water enters the building when there is a weakness or failure in the structure. Moisture accumulates within the home when there is not enough ventilation to expel that moisture.Different kinds of moulds grow on different materials. Certain kinds of mould like an extremely wet environment. Other kinds grow even when no water can be seen – dampness inside the material can provide enough moisture to allow them to grow.
In addition to the damage mould can do to walls, fabrics and other materials, moulds growing inside the home can cause health problems. Moulds release spores and chemicals that can be irritating or toxic. Depending on the type of mould present, the amount and degree of exposure, and the health condition of the occupant(s), the health effects of mould can range from being insignificant to causing localized irritation, allergic reactions and even chronic illness, such as environmental sensitivities. Any sign of mould in the home should be taken seriously and the mould should be removed as quickly as possible.Pregnant women, infants, older people and people with health problems, such as respiratory disease or a weakened immune system, are at greater risk of developing health problems when exposed to mould.
Discolouration can be a sign of mould; however, not all discolouration is due to mould. Carpeting near baseboards, for example, can be stained by outdoor pollution entering the home. Stains or soot may also be caused by the smoke from burning candles or cigarettes.
Mould may be any colour: black, white, red, orange, yellow, blue or violet. If you notice white powdery stains or other discolourations, particularly if there is also a musty smell, it may be mould.
Sometimes moulds are hidden and cannot be seen. A musty or earthy smell often indicates the presence of moulds. But some moulds don’t smell. Even when you don’t notice a smell, wet spots, dampness or evidence of a water leak are indications of moisture problems and mould may follow.
Small areas of mould can be cleaned with a detergent solution. Wear a mask, safety goggles and rubber gloves. If there is a lot of mould or if mould comes back after cleaning, seek professional help.
Scrub washable surfaces with an unscented detergent solution. Then sponge with a clean, wet rag and dry quickly.
Using an unscented detergent will make it easier for you to detect residual mouldy odours.
Clean the surface with a damp rag, using baking soda or a bit of detergent. Do not allow the drywall to get too wet.
Mould that comes back after you have cleaned the area is usually an indication that a source of moisture has not been removed. Seek professional help from a trained indoor air quality (IAQ) investigator. Infants and other family members with asthma, allergies or other health problems should not be in the work area or adjacent room during the cleaning.
You may need help from a trained professional when:
Repair to the building envelope is required if moisture is entering the home from the outside. At the same time, steps should be taken inside the home to reduce your exposure to mould.
4. Take steps to dry areas that get wet. Monitor the relative humidity of the air. Use a portable dehumidifier, if necessary. Ensure that the condensate drain pan of the dehumidifier is emptied regularly and clean the dehumidifier with a mixture of white vinegar and water.
Mould needs moisture to grow. Controlling the moisture and keeping your home dry prevents the growth of mould.
The information at this site is for your consideration only. It is not intended to replace proper diagnosis and treatment guidance from a health professional. This is not medical advise.
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