Mould is a common household problem.
It can be caused by poor ventilation, leaking pipes and moisture in the air, which causes condensation. Everyday activities such as bathing, cleaning, cooking and even fish tanks and indoor plants can cause dampness in the air, leading to condensation and eventually mould. Even new built homes can be affected, if water was used in the building process it could still be drying out something which is made more difficult when coupled with those everyday household tasks.
Mould actually serves the planet well by breaking down old or dead organic matter. However, when it grows in our homes it releases spores into the air, which can get into our bodies if we breathe them in.
Untreated, mould can cause allergies and respiratory problems, so it is important to ventilate your home well, keeping the moisture levels to a minimum and look out for potential problems. Mould can be tricky to get rid of once it starts to grow, so it is best to be aware of prevention methods before it multiplies and causes a much larger problem.
Different kinds of mould
There are many different varieties of mould that grow in an array of colours such as green, black, white, orange and blue. Some strains of mould are more harmful than others, and one particular strain of mould can grow in a variety of colours, depending on different circumstances. This makes it difficult to identify exactly which strain of mould is growing in your home, and therefore it is hard to determine whether or not you should be worried. Generally, it is best to get rid of all kinds of mould, before it spreads and either you or your family members become ill.
The most common types of mould that grow in the home are the black and green varieties.
Green mould is very common in many houses in the UK and typically belongs to the aspergillus, cladosporium or penicillium families. Green mould can often be found growing on damp walls, inside cupboards and carpets and on damp fabrics and mattresses.
Penicillium can cause sinus infections and inflammation of the lungs, whereas other strains of green mould can cause bronchitis and even pneumonia if left untreated.
All kinds of mould can be harmful to health, however, black mould is famously the one to watch out for. Most black moulds are fairly common and often come from the same strain as green mould. They can be treated with normal treatment methods, and are not to be a cause of great concern. There is, however, a particularly difficult type of black mould known as ‘toxic black mould’ or ‘stachybotrys’, which can have much more serious implications on your health.
Toxic black mould
Stachybotrys, or toxic black mould, is harmful in the home because it produces mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are invisible to the human eye but can enter the human body through inhalation, ingestion and even through the eyes. These mycotoxins are very dangerous and can cause problems with the reproductive system, vision, skin, the circulatory and respiratory systems and can even have psychological and neurological effects.
If you are experiencing worrying symptoms and cannot identify the cause, it is important to check your house for signs of black mould.
Mycotoxins can kill neurons in the brain, which directly affects our mental capacity and can alter our psychological makeup. Some of the neurological symptoms of the ingestion of mycotoxins include confusion, dizziness, a ‘foggy’ brain, hallucinations, seizures and trembling.
Other important symptoms to look out for, relating to respiratory, circulatory and other conditions, are difficulty breathing; bleeding gums; nose bleeds; cold and flu symptoms; vomiting blood; wounds that won’t heal; blurred vision; nausea; and jaundice.
There is also evidence that mycotoxins are carcinogenic, which can lead to the growth of cancers.
How to identify black mould
Toxic black mould and less harmful black mould look very similar, which can make the degree of severity of your problem difficult to ascertain. Toxic black mould tends to be a greenish-black and is often slimy, however, it can also become dry and powdery over time.
It requires a high cellulose and low nitrogen com-positional surface on which to grow, and also requires more moisture than other strains of mould. It is often found in and around particularly damp areas and is a particular problem in areas which have sprung leaks that are hidden from view, such as inside walls or in floors and ceilings. Deformed walls and peeling patches of paint are key things to look out for, as they are indicators of internal dampness.
If you discover an area of mould in your home that suspect may be toxic, the only way to properly identify it is to enlist a professional mould inspector, who will look at it using a microscope.
What causes black mould?
The majority of mould found in the home are caused by excess moisture, usually this is due to high humidity levels in the property but it could also be caused by leaking pipes, rising damp, rain seeping in due to a damaged roof or window frame. In new build properties you may start to notice excess moisture and even mould due to the property not drying out yet. It is important to remove the mould problems in your home as soon as possible as left untreated it can soon become a health risks to those living in the property.
How to treat toxic black mould
If you are experiencing symptoms due to toxic black mould, the only way to treat it is by removing either the mould or yourself from the environment. Over time, your symptoms should begin to disappear, however, some damage can be permanent, which is why it is important to monitor mould in your home and treat it as soon as you notice it.
If you have a problem with toxic mould, then you need to seek professional treatment in order to ensure that your home is a safe environment for you and your family. If you find a colony of toxic mould, it is very important that you do not disturb it. Touching or moving the mould can cause an enormous amount of harmful spores to be released in the air, to the detriment of you and the people you share your home with.
For other, more common strains of mould, there is a wide variety of treatments available, which are easy to use on your own.
A simple solution for removing non-toxic mould from your home is to clean it using a non-toxic, mould cleaning solution. When the mould has been eradicated, it is important to dry the surface thoroughly, in order to prevent the mould from returning.
Once you have treated your mould, it is important to make some changes to the way your room is ventilated, in order to prevent further outbreaks.
In addition to ventilation and heat retention products, it is also important to ensure that your home is well cared for in other ways, in order to prevent unnecessary moisture.
Check to see if your windows are allowing rain to seep in and if the sealant around them is damaged. Additionally check there is no damage to your roof as this could also allow rain to seep in and damage the interior of your property.
Always make sure that you dry wet areas immediately. Wipe up spillages and make sure to dry floors and walls after you take a bath or shower. If possible, dry wet clothes outside or in a dryer rather than on radiators, as the moisture from your clothes travels straight into the air. Never leave wet clothes in the washing machine and replace water-damaged carpets and fabrics immediately.
There are a lot of products available to aid with mould prevention, such as mould sprays and mould prevention paint. If you are having building work completed in your home, it is possible to obtain mould-resistant drywall or gypsum board, which is designed to prevent moisture within the structure of your home.
A good way to monitor humidity in your home is through a moisture meter, which can be bought from most good DIY stores. Ideally, humidity should be between 30 and 60 percent.
Although indoor plants improve the air quality of your home, moist soil and leaves also provide the perfect breeding ground for mould. Make sure you clean and move your plants around regularly, in order to prevent a build-up of mould.
Leaks are commonly caused by broken gutters or drainpipes. Make sure to inspect the exterior of your house regularly, in order to prevent a simply cracked drainpipe from becoming a larger and more expensive problem.
Finally, it is important to let air circulate through your home. Keep internal doors open as much as possible and move the furniture away from walls. Open windows on dry days to let fresh air blow into your home, which will reduce moisture and therefore help to prevent mould.
To arrange a Building Biology assessment of your home please contact Hale on 0404 046 184 – during a Building Biology consultation Hale will help identify issues around your property that can be causing health obstacles for you and your family and offer guidance for remediation.
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