What is Mould?
Moulds are simple, microscopic organisms, present almost everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Moulds break down organic material and recycle nutrients in the environment. Mould needs a food source to grow, which can be any organic material, such as leaves, wood, paper, or dirt, plus oxygen — and moisture. Moulds digest organic material and gradually destroy whatever they grow on.
When the conditions suit, moulds grow on surfaces with visible discolouration – green, grey, brown, or black, even white and other colours. Moulds release tiny spores and fragments, which become airborne. Often attached to these are mycotoxins and allergens all of which cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Why Does Mould Grow?
When damp conditions occur indoors, such as after a flood, roof leak, excessive condensation or any other reason, and wet conditions persist for more than 48-72 hours, mould growth begins and continues for as long as moist conditions are present. Building materials such as wood products and plasterboard and composite materials such as MDF absorb moisture and become the food for filamentous moulds to germinate and grow.
As they grow, they release massive quantities of fungal particulate, spores, and spore fragments, all of which cannot be seen with the naked eye. Microbes can release organic compounds into the air when there is adequate food supply for production. These volatile compounds, called MVOCs, are recognisable by their distinctive musty odour and can activate innate immune responses in susceptible people. It is the inhalation of these toxins and allergens, which are the main ways that mould affects humans.
Common sources of moisture that contribute to mould growth include:
– High humidity and condensation in the house
– Portable gas heaters producing wet heat
– Clothes driers and bathrooms that are poorly ventilated
– Neglect of hard-to-reach places such as wall cavities and roof spaces
– Flooding or water spillages leaving residual dampness
– The release of spores from previous mould affected areas
Can Mould Cause Health Issues?
Exposure to mould can occur when airborne mould cells; mostly spores or hyphal fragments are inhaled. These exposures can present a health risk but when exposure levels become elevated, some individuals can experience illness that can range from mild to serious or anywhere in between.
Medical researchers have associated indoor dampness and mould with cough, wheeze, nasal and throat symptoms, and respiratory infections, initiation of asthma, bronchitis, allergic rhinitis, and exacerbation of allergies, upper and lower respiratory disease, and eczema. Persons exposed in this way can become sensitised and develop allergies to the mould, or other serious health problems.
Certain moulds, whether inhaled, ingested or contacted through the skin can result in poisoning from fungal mycotoxins. Some mould species can cause respiratory infection when the live mould invades the tissues of the lungs or respiratory tract, this can be dangerous for individuals with severely weakened immune systems.
Many of these dangers are worsened when mould is disturbed and particles are released into the indoor air. This can happen when inexperienced people attempt mould removal without the proper safety equipment and controls in place.
Mould can also damage property. Mould spores grow on surfaces, tarnishing the finish and damaging paintwork. Mould can cause irreparable damage to books or important documents. Damp and humid conditions can lead to structural damage and weakening.
How Do You Remove Mould?
There are a number of well documented ways to remove small areas of mould at your property or on your home contents, but it is important to know when to engage a professional.
The goal of mould remediation is to remove mould rather than kill mould. Mould should be removed by a professional, particularly when sensitive persons are involved (this includes the pregnant, the elderly, the young and those suffering from chronic health issues).
If mould has appeared as a result of a leak or a flood, then it is always important that a professional is engaged. Before professional remediation is engaged it is essential that all sources of moisture ingress have been identified and rectified, otherwise the mould is likely to return.
As part of a professional mould removal and remediation it is essential that any ventilation issues are also addressed otherwise the mould is likely to return.
Ventilation issues may include: Mechanical subfloor ventilation to create negative air pressure and to increase airflow to the subfloor area. Installing exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchen and laundries that vent to the outdoors and not the ceiling cavity.
How Do You Detect Mould in Your Home or Commercial Property?
There are many different ways you can detect mould growth at home or at work.
– You may be able to see patches of mould growth on your walls or on your ceiling.
– You may also be able to smell a musty odour. In more extreme cases, this odour may be accompanied by difficulty in breathing and the worsening of allergy symptoms.
– Check for damp floors, wet carpets, or moisture buildup in wardrobes. Be sure to check in basements, and any other hard-to-reach places, as long as it is safe to do so.
– Use equipment that can pick up on moisture and humidity levels.
– Engage a professional to conduct an inspection or assessment of your home. This may require mould sampling of the air or surfaces or other forms of testing, just because you can’t see mould does not mean it is not there.
– Often mould is hidden in wall cavities, under flooring and carpets, behind cabinetry and in the subfloor area.
When Should You Call a Mould Removal Expert?
Mould grows quickly when conditions are right, and will cause damage within a property and harm to your health, so it is vital that you remove the mould as quickly as possible.
If you think there are conditions within your property that might lead to mould growth, you think the mould may already have spread, or if you are in any doubt whatsoever, it’s time to call a professional.
So, what happens next?
Well, you need to make sure that these professionals are up to the job.
– Ask the professional questions about how they will remove the mould and what equipment and methods they will use.
– Check the professional’s credentials, experience and certifications.
– Confirm that the professional has the skills to identify and solve the source of the moisture and mould so there is no recurrence.
– Ask the professional for a schedule of work to be performed, make sure that the process makes sense to you.