WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
What is mould?
Moulds are a type of fungus and can be found in both indoor and outdoor environments. In order to have mould growth, it requires a source of moisture, a warm environment and a food source. Food sources could be leaves, paper, wood, glue, drywall to name a few. Moulds will release tiny, reproductive spores that travel through the air and these spores can be inhaled by humans.
What symptoms will arise from excessive mould exposure?
Usually the first reaction to mould exposure is an allergic reaction. These can be compared to seasonal allergies that are exhibited during the summer months. The typical symptoms are nasal and sinus congestion, sneezing, irritation in the eyes, nose and throat and coughing. For a person who is sensitive, more serious problems may develop, including:
- frequent headaches
- trouble concentrating
- nausea and dizziness
- shortness of breath
- skin irritation
- fatigue asthma
- mood changes
What causes excessive mould growth?
A moist environment will cause mould to grow. Any excess moisture in a home or office can lead to amplified mould growth. Moisture sources can include flooding and water damage from leaking roofs and pipes or a foundation crack. However, the moisture may not be from an obvious source. Improperly constructed building foundations can cause excess water vapour to seep through the floors of buildings. This can cause mould growth in carpets and in wall spaces where ventilation is poor. Improper ventilation systems throughout a building that are not properly vented to the outdoor can cause moisture build up in the interior portion of the building amplifying mould growth.
How does mould contribute to poor indoor air quality?
Mould exposure occurs daily and under normal conditions, mould exposure is not a problem. However, certain environmental conditions within buildings, such as excess moisture, can cause mould to amplify indoors, leading to high levels of airborne spores. Inhalation of spores in greater numbers than the body is normally used to can cause health problems in sensitive individuals.
How can I tell if I am sensitive to moulds?
Those with pre-existing respiratory conditions or allergies are likely to be more sensitive to mould spores and mould exposure. Other individuals that may be sensitive include immune compromised patients, infants and young children and the elderly. Most individuals are exposed to mould daily with little or no reaction. Prolonged exposure over a long period of time can make an individual sensitive to moulds when they previously did not have a reaction.
Are mould related health problems permanent?
In most cases, mould related health problems go away after the mould is removed or after the occupants leave the impacted building. However, it is believed that the affected individuals may have a greater sensitivity to moulds at a later time and a lower level of exposure may generate the same type of symptom that the individual experienced previously.
How do I know if I have a mould problem?
Two signs of a mould problem are visible mould and/or a musty odour. However, not all mould is visible. Mould can grow undetected in attics, wall spaces, beneath carpet, under sinks, cupboards and under appliances. Hidden mould growth can release dangerous spores to the air and into an indoor breathing space. Any building that has had water damages or is unusually humid should be inspected for excessive mould growth by an experienced environmental consultant.
How is a building tested for mould?
When testing for mould in an indoor environment, both surface and air sampling is generally required. Surface sampling involves collecting a sample of material suspected of harbouring mould with a sterile swab or tape. This sample is then viewed under a microscope to determine if the sample contains mould, and if it does, what type of mould. Air sampling involves collecting a known volume of air and determining the number and types of mould spores present. Indoor levels are then compared to outdoor levels to determine if mould amplification is occurring within a building. Mould levels indoors generally should be 30-70% those of outdoor levels. If they are higher, then there is a mould problem.
How do I know if a consultant is qualified to test for mould?
It is important to discuss qualifications with the consultant of your choice. Currently there are Associations that deal with certifying individuals based on classroom attendance, work experience and passing of a closed-book exam and review of a governing body. Upon passing all the criteria set forth by the association, an individual can obtain accreditation for mould inspection and testing.
What is the cost of a typical mould inspection?
The cost of sampling will vary depending on many factors, such as the number and types of samples collected, the method of laboratory analysis to be used, the type of report needed, and the location of the site. For residential clients, the costs will vary depending on the number of samples taken.
Copyright 2004, Canadian INvironmental Services.
10 Things You Should Know About Mould
- Exposure to elevated levels of mould can cause serious health problems, such as respiratory problems and sinus problems, cold and flu-like symptoms, headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and memory loss. Those most susceptible include, young children, the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and other sensitive individuals.
- There are many moulds that have the potential to cause health problems including Alternaria, Aspergillus, Chaetomium, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys. (Just because you cannot pronounce it doesn’t mean it cannot harm you.)
- Mould spores can cause health problems even if the spores are dead.
- Mould spores are very common outdoors and there is no practical way to eliminate all mould spores indoors.
- Mould requires an organic food source, such as cloth, dry wall, or wood, and a moisture source to grow. Mould can begin to grow if any organic material remains wet for more than 48 hours. The way to control mould growth indoors is to control moisture indoors.
- Moulds can grow undetected inside wall spaces, under carpet, and inside HVAC systems.
- Mould growth can often be the visible sign of a structural defect that allows moisture to intrude into a building.
- When doing mould abatement, it is first necessary to find and eliminate the moisture source. If the moisture problem is not resolved, the mould growth will return.
- Clean-up of large areas of mould growth can cause airborne levels of spores to increase up to 10,000 times that of background levels resulting in acute exposure to those doing the clean-up if personal protective equipment is not worn.
- The best way to abate mould growth indoors is to remove the impacted materials. Cleaning the surface of a material with mould growth may not always kill the mould, especially if mould is growing on porous materials like drywall or wood.