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Could Mould Be Making You or Your Family Sick?

Moulds are microscopic fungi that grow anywhere there is moisture. They reproduce by making spores that can permeate our clothes and shoe cupboards, and they can also enter our bodies via the lungs and digestive tract. In doing so, they can make us sick.

As a Naturopath, I have witnessed the serious impact mould can play in a person’s health, so I am passionate about highlighting the dangers of this common, invisible threat.

Where should I look for mould?

Anywhere that is poorly ventilated (like a clothes cupboard, garage, or basement) and damp (such as a bathroom, area below the kitchen sink, or underneath a house ) can be the perfect breeding ground for mould. You don’t need to see it for mould to exist. If the area smells damp or musty or feels clammy, then mould is likely to be present. If you need to use air fresheners regularly, then chances are mould is present.

Any area that has been affected by water damage can be a haven for mould spores. Poor drainage systems, cold rooms with poor ventilation, and areas prone to flooding or rising damp are at risk.

It’s not just old buildings that are a problem; even new buildings can potentiate the growth of mould. Particleboard is generally considered to  be much worse than solid untreated timber, because the processing of the wood makes it easier for mould to take hold. Natural timber breathes, whereas manufactured building products do not, and chemicals used on the manufactured timbers can provide food for mould spores.

So, why all the concern about mould?

There is clear evidence that shows upper respiratory conditions such as allergic rhinitis, hay fever, asthma, and flu like symptoms, such as nose and throat irritation, wheezing, coughing, and headache, can be associated with indoor dampness and mould.

The American Academy of Paediatrics concluded that there was a plausible link between lung bleeding in infants and exposure to mould toxins. A 2005 study suggested a relationship between water damaged buildings and chronic fatigue illness. Other links regarding mould exposure have been drawn to skin irritation, digestive disorders, mental illness, and some immune diseases.

So how does mould make us sick?

Mould spores are foreign to the human body. When they come into contact with our tissue, whether through the airways, skin, or digestive tract, the body activates the immune system to make antibodies that are designed to clear that specific foreign spore from our system. For up to 24 percent of the population, this part of the immune system becomes hypersensitive in the presence of mould, resulting in a chronic inflammatory response to mould, which can be diverse and poorly identified. Examples include:

What can you do about mould remediation?

Mould will only grow if there is moisture. The key is controlling the moisture.

First point of call is to identify where moisture and mould may exist in the home. Conduct a visual inspection of the home, including laundry, basement, and subfloor areas, as well as roof, garage, backs of cupboards, air conditioning units, and plumbing. Are these areas stained? Are pipes or windows leaking? Is the area wet or damp? Does it smell musty? Is water pooling, and is there condensation on windows or walls?

Depending on the extent of the mould and moisture issue, you may require professional help to successfully fix the problem. This may include a plumber, builder, or air conditioning technician. In extensive cases, there are companies that specialise in mould remediation and they will audit your home, sample and measure the mould and humidity (according to the American Industrial Hygiene Association), and then utilise a specialist team to rectify the problem. If you are experiencing health concerns, you should consult a professional before commencing any clean up yourself.

General tips to keep mould at bay:

If you feel mould may be affecting your health, schedule an appointment with Kathleen McFarlane to discuss how Naturopathy may help.