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Could Mould Be Making You Sick

Allergy, Asthma | June 24, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

allergy, Asthma

Could Mould Be Making You Sick

Mould is part of a group of very common organisms called fungi. Its job is to decompose dead organic materials and is present virtually everywhere. It is commonly found indoors in wet or moist areas that lack ventilation and can also be found outdoors on decaying plant matter. Unfortunately, moulds are common allergens, with 40% of people having some sensitivity to breathing in mould spores. A reaction to moulds include a runny or blocked nose, irritation of the eyes and skin and occasionally sneezing. There are many different types of mould—all of which have the potential to cause health concerns.

Where does mould grow?

mouldMould grows indoors in damp and humid conditions, especially if there is poor air flow. Other sources of indoor moisture include household damp from rising foundations or leaking roofs or guttering. It usually occurs on walls, ceilings, bathroom tiles, carpets, insulation and wood. Common indoor species of mould include Rhizophus, Alternaria, Cladosporium, Curvularia, Penicillium, Rhodotorula and Trichoderma.

Outdoor mould exposure can be achieved by mowing the lawn, digging in soil, raking of damp garden mulch or contact with compost. Increased exposure also occurs with activities such as farming or animal husbandry.

Mould spores

Various moulds are released into the air, all year round as tiny fragments called spores. These microscopic seeds allow moulds to reproduce. The amount of mould in outdoor air varies considerably and depends on the climate. Some moulds are released on hot windy days, others on rain splash and some on sunny days after a wet spell. Buildings that are contaminated with mould, often have very high levels in the air. This mould may not be visible as it can develop in areas such as under the carpet, on drywall and even wood.

The health risks

Mould spores are a health concern for people who are sensitive or allergic to them but issues can also occur in immunocompetent individuals. There are three mechanisms in which mould can contribute to disease in humans –allergy, infection and toxicity.

mould allergyMould is well known in triggering asthma attacks, wheezing, eye and skin irritation, runny or blocked nose and an allergic reaction.

For people who suffer from continual sinus infections, it could be allergic fungal sinusitis.

Mycotoxicosis, an example of mould toxicity, is exclusively the result of ingested food contaminated with mould. 

Mycotoxins, a toxic chemical produced by certain moulds, can contaminate crops and can have dire consequences for those who consume them. Very rarely, it can contribute to pneumonia and other lung infections.

But growing research has found mould has a wider impact than just causing asthma. A US study found a link between damp homes and depression and Harvard University researchers discovered that babies who grew up in damp homes where mould and mildew was present were more susceptible to respiratory illnesses such as croup, pneumonia and bronchitis.

“Sick building syndrome” and mould

There is much controversy surrounding the health risks of contaminated buildings with mould, reported in the media as “toxic mould syndrome” or “toxic black mould”. The media hype over this subject occurs because the concept of “sick building syndrome” has been misinterpreted. In these instances, vague symptoms appear including headache, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, brain fog and shortness of breath. Unfortunately, there is little research to validate these findings but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest otherwise.

Getting rid of mould

It’s time to ditch the bleach and opt for more simpler products. Why?...because bleach doesn’t kill mould.

To remove mould from non-porous surfaces, soak a microfibre cloth in 4 parts vinegar to 1 part water and wipe the affected surface. You may need to rinse and repeat a few times. On timber floors, you may need to use a solution of 70% alcohol, such as ethanol.

Alternatively, a formulation of oil of cloves and water can be put into a spray bottle (1/4 tsp of clove oil to 1 litre of water) and sprayed onto fabric, leather and hard surfaces such as windows, walls and kitchen tiles and wiped clean.

If there are very damp areas in the house you could hang chalk sticks to absorb the water. When they are damp, you can simply place them in the sun to dry and re-use.

If mould is entrenched, removal by a professional may be needed. Absorbent materials such as carpet may need to be replaced if they are heavily contaminated.

mould ventilationReducing dampness in the home

The trick to reducing mould is to find the source and to reduce dampness, therefore preventing mould from growing in the home. This can be achieved by:

Maintaining proper ventilation

  • Open windows to allow air flow and to avoid condensation on windows
  • Turn on exhaust fans in the laundry when drying clothes, when cooking or while showering or bathing.

Reduce humidity

  • Limit the use of humidifiers
  • Limit use of unflued gas heaters

Finding the source

  • Repair all plumbing problems and water leaks i.e. leaking roof, blocked gutters, leaking bathroom and damaged water pipes
  • If water enters your home, immediately clean and dry carpets and building materials
  • Rising and lateral damp from ground moisture is a common cause of moisture in the house. Contacting an experienced building consultant may be needed to find the source of the damp and to find solutions to the problem. This may involve installing a new dampcourse or waterproof barrier in the wall.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


McEvoy R (1992). Allergies and other environmental illnesses: a practice handbook for doctors. The Environmental Allergy Centre, Australia

Terr Al. Sick building syndrome: is mould the cause? Med Mycol. 2009;47 Suppl 1:S217-22

Borchers AT, et al. Mold and human health: a reality check. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2017 Jun;52(3):305-322

Shenassa ED, et al. Dampness and mold in the home and depression: an examination of mold-related illness and perceived control of one’s home as possible depression pathways. Am J Public Health. 2007 Oct;97(10):1893-9

Stark PC, et al. Fungal levels in the home and lower respiratory tract illnesses in the first year of life. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2003 Jul 15;168(2):232-7

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