The presence of mould in our homes, schools, hospitals and other public buildings is making headlines across North America. What these stories are able to tell us about mould often isn’t enough to satisfy our concerns. Here are answers to help you learn more about this complex emerging issue.
What is mould?
Moulds are microscopic fungi, a group of organisms that also includes mushrooms and yeasts. Mould is found almost everywhere on earth. Most moulds produce microscopic cells called spores that disperse easily through the air. Spores and mould fragments act like seeds, forming new mould growth (colonies) given the right conditions.
People encounter mould every day with little to no negative impact on human health. From spoiled food the decaying leaves or wood to that black fuzzy growth on a wet windowsill and mould is a fact of life.
Moulds can be useful and beneficial. The drug penicillin is extracted from a specific species of mould. Some foods and beverages are made as a result of the actions of mould. These types of mould are selected and grown in controlled environments. It is undesirable moulds, mould that grows where we dont want them to grow that have captured media attention.
Given adequate moisture and nutrients, moulds will grow practically anywhere on anything. There are more than 100,000 species of fungi that include more than 250 species of mould living in Canadian homes.
Mould growth on surfaces can often be seen as a discolouration, frequently green, grey, brown, black, or white. Visible mould is a clear indication of a problem. However, many times, the first indication of mould is the presence of a musty odour. Mould contamination can be hidden within the wall cavities., behind wallpaper and vinyl sheets, in ceilings, under roofs, carpet or coverings, or in HVAC systems.
Small amounts of mould growth in homes (such as mildew on a shower curtain) are not a major concern. Large quantities may cause odours, health problems for some people, damage to building materials, furnishings, and in severe cases, structural damage to buildings.
Most people have little reaction when exposed to mould. Health officials believe that older people, small children, infants, and those with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to mould-related illnesses.
Exposure to airborne fungal spores or mould fragments can result in:
- Building-related asthma and allergic diseases;
- Aggravation of asthma in asthmatics who are sensitive to mould;
- Higher prevalence of upper respiratory disease;
- Increased incident of infections;
- Nose, throat or eye irritation
- Skin irritation from handling mould-damaged building materials; or
- Chronic headaches.
Mould can sometimes produce chemicals called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins may cause illness in people who are sensitive to them or people who are exposed to them at high concentrations. The health effects of breathing mycotoxins are not well understood and are currently under study. In rare cases, high or chronic airborne exposure, typically associated with occupations like agricultural work, has been associated with illnesses. At the present time, more is known about health effects of ingesting mouldy foods or feeds containing mycotoxins than about the effects of inhaling mycotoxins.
What is “black mould”?
The term is usually associated with the mould Stachybotrys chartarum, a type of greenish-black mould that can grow on building materials such as drywall, ceiling tiles, and wood. These materials are porous and if they become damp or water-damaged may grow mould. Not all moulds that are black are Stachybotrys. The black mould commonly found between bathroom tiles is not likely to be Stachybotrys. Stachybotrys can only be positively identified by specially trained professionals (e.g., mycologists).
The know health effects from exposure to Stachybotrys are similar to other common moulds, however, fears were fuelled when the mould was associated with more severe health effects in some people.
Black mould has the potential to cause health problems. Spores produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching pores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Allergic reactions to mildews are common.
They can be immediate or delayed. They can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic. In addition, mould exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mould-allergic and non-allergic people. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mould. Research on black mould and health effects is ongoing. This provides a brief overview; it does not describe all potential health effects related to mould exposure. For more detailed information consult a health professional. You may also wish to consult your state or local health department.
Mildews can gradually destroy the things they grow on. You can prevent damage to your home and furnishings, save money, and avoid potential health problems by controlling moisture and eliminating mould growth.
Removing the source of moisture is critical to prevent mould growth.
- Dry wet/damp materials or areas within 24 to 48 hours after a leak, spill or flood.
- Keep household humidity below 60 percent. (To measure relative humidity, a hydrometer is required).
- Dry moisture collecting on windows, walls or pipes as quickly as possible.
- Use exhaust fans vented to the outdoors, to remove excess moisture where it accumulates bathrooms, kitchens and laundry areas.
- Run Bathroom fans for 1 hour after showering.
- Repair plumbing leaks and leaky roofs.
- Keep humidifier clean.
- Ensure basements and crawl spaces are dry
- Regularly inspect areas for indications and sources of indoor moisture and mould.
Signs of moisture problems in buildings
- Warping floors
- Discolouration of walls and ceilings
Excessive condensation on windows
Your home is susceptible to mould infestation. Here are some of the warning signs to look for that may be an existing or impending mould infestation.
- Mould spores growing on ceiling or walls
- A white fuzzy type growth on your furniture
- A distinctive, musky odour in your home
- Dirty air conditioning and heating registers in your home
- Drywall that has existing damage from a water leak in the roof or on the walls
- Suspicious growth in or around food preparation areas, refrigerators, microwaves, etc
- Suspicious growth in bathrooms on ceiling and drywall where excess humidity exists
- Allergic symptoms seem more severe and pronounced
- A recent plumbing leak, basement leak, flood, fire
- Occupants suffering from allergy related illnesses
The following are a list of the most common symptoms of fungal exposure (bear in mind, people never fit all of below criteria). Most people with some forms of mycotoxicosis meet at least 8 (recent symptoms) of the following criteria:
- Respiratory distress, coughing, sneezing, sinusitis
- Difficulty swallowing, choking, spitting up (vomiting) mucous
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
- Burning in the throat and lungs (similar to acid reflux and often misdiagnosed as such)
- Asthmatic signs; wheezing, shortness in breath, coughing, burning in lungs, etc.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (See fibromyalgia), nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pains
- Bladder, liver, spleen, or kidney pain
- Dark urine
- Dirt-like taste in mouth, coated tongue
- Food allergies/leaky gut syndrome/altered immunity
- Memory loss; brain fog (See fibromyalgia), slurred speech, sometimes leading to dementia
- Vision problems
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Large boils on neck (Often a sign of Anaphylaxis)
- Thyroid irregularities
- Anxiety/depression (See fibromyalgia), heart palpitations – confusion, PTSD
- Extreme blood pressure, cholesterol, or triglycerides irregularities
- Ringing in ears, balance problems, dizziness
- Chronic fatigue
- Intermittent face flushing; almost always systemic (Called the Mylar Flush)
- Numbness in face and limbs, intermittent twitching
- Night sweats and hot flashes (Especially around the head)
- Multiple chemical sensitivity (See fibromyalgia)
- Nose bleeds
- Bruising easily
- Rash or hives, formication, bloody lesions all over the skin
- Reproductive system; infertility, changes in menstrual cycles
- Sudden weight changes
- Hair loss
- Joint/muscle stiffness and pain (See fibromyalgia)
- Heart attack
- Inadvertent facial movements or extremity jerking
- Hypersensitivity when re-exposed to moulds, which can lead to anaphylaxis
- Anaphylaxis upon re-exposure to mycotoxin producing moulds
- Death, in extreme cases
Note: Many of these symptoms could also be the onset of other illnesses, as well, and only a skilled physician is diagnosed to give you a full and qualified diagnosis.
Some of these pictures are Extreme Examples of Toxic Black Mould in various stages. Toxic mould can be inside walls, back of tiles, under tubs, behind appliances etc. and you may NOT be able to see it. Take the threat of Toxic Black Mould SERIOUSLY, but remember that Mould can be eliminated in a short period of time and life can and will go on as normal! Don’t risk yourself or your loved ones – Call OZ Construction today!