Damp and mould. Evil and stubborn, and pretty unsightly. But they can also be dangerous for your health, triggering current conditions or leading to new issues. Here’s a look at how mould can impact your health.
What Is Mould?
Mould is actually a type of fungi and it thrives in damp environments. You’ll often find it growing where there’s poor ventilation or in rooms that typically get damp, like bathrooms. Airborne mould spores can be present indoors and outdoors, and these airborne particles can proliferate inside your home.
But how do you know if there’s mould? If there’s damp, often mould will follow. Sometimes you can smell damp and mould, especially if it’s an enclosed space. Sometimes you can tell by appearance whether there’s mould, but it’s not always too easy to spot. It may look a little like a discoloured fuzz-like rash on a skirting board or like a stain on a wall. In terms of colour, mould can cross the colour spectrum from grey to brown and orange, but mould most commonly appears as white, green or black.
Mildew is a certain type of mould growth. It’s typically more powdery and flat than other mould.
Then there’s Stachybotrys chartarum, aka black mould. This releases mycotoxins, which are toxic substances produced by fungus that have been linked to various significant health problems. Mycotoxicosis, or mould poisoning, is one, but various symptoms and conditions may arise, like mood changes, memory loss, headaches, aches and pains.
In your home, there are a few key spots that are more likely to feature mould because of poor ventilation and/or moisture. For instance: bathrooms, kitchens, cupboards, walls, ceilings, windows. With walls, windows and ceilings, issues leading to mould can include rain that seeps through the roof, the impact of cold outdoor and warm indoor air, and poor insulation.
There’s also the issue of rising damp if your property is subject to ground moisture seeping up stone/brick walls. Internal walls can suffer from damp, especially if you live in a country with regular rainfall.
How Damp & Mould Affects Health
Mould also produces allergens, irritants and sometimes even toxic elements. Being in an environment where you touch or simply inhale mould can trigger allergic reactions, which come in the form of red eyes, rashes, runny noses, sneezing, or leading to asthma attacks and worsening breathing for those with lung conditions. The somewhat less common but nasty form of microfungus, black mould, produces toxic spores that can lead to severe respiratory issues.
Touching or breathing in mould can affect the body but it’s thought that rather than inhaling the spores, it’s the longer term exposure that’s particularly risky for health.
Sneezing, wheezing, coughing, nasal congestion, respiratory infections are all quite common from mould.
Mould may worsen allergies or asthma, or cause a flare up of skin conditions like eczema.
It’s also possible to get a mould infection, where you may experience things like excess mucus, nail infections, skin irritation and athlete’s foot. A doctor might be able to prescribe medication to treat the underlying infection.
Mould could also trigger new conditions, like lung infections, sinusitis or bronchitis.
Those with pre-existing conditions are likely to be more susceptible to the effects of mould, including those with the likes of allergies, asthma, lung conditions and weaker immune systems. In the case of the latter, the body is less able to defend and protect itself when the immune system is impaired.
Inhaled mould fragments can inflame in airways and cause irritation in the chest and throat, which is what sparks the likes of wheezing, coughing and congestion. Long term exposure can reduce the function of the lungs, create new health issues or worsen pre-existing conditions.
Children and the elderly both typically have somewhat weaker immune systems, so they’re more vulnerable to illnesses and infections like those caused by mould. Mould exposure at a young age is thought to be capable of impacting a child’s later development, with a 2016 study by Healthy Lungs for Life showing infant exposure to mould spores in their first year of life can lead to a 14% higher chance of developing asthma in future. Furthermore, it’s important pregnant women have a hygienic environment because at the extremes mould can lead to complications for mum and baby.
Tips For Dealing With Mould
There are specialist products that can help eliminate mould, but they key is to not just clean the mould away. You need to control the crux of the problem, which is the damp from which mould thrives.
- Try to ascertain where there’s damp and where any moisture is initially coming from.
- Deep clean the mould area while a face mask, goggles and protective gloves. Close the internal doors to stop the spread around the rest of the home, but open the windows.
- Wear puncture-resistant gloves that offer good protection against most chemical cleaners. Nitrile gloves are generally great for cleaning, medical examinations, and other uses, especially if you are allergic to latex.
- Get any home furnishings shampooed, deep cleaning and dried if they’ve been affected by mould.
- Home remedies can be found online as an alternative and many people swear by white vinegar, but there are also various effective specialist sprays for mould for convenience.
- Use an old cloth that you can dispose of after use to dip into a soapy water solution, or that you can use with a specialist spray. Wipe the mould rather than scrubbing or brushing it as that might release more harmful spores. Use a dry cloth afterwards to wipe away excess and dry the area so that the cleaning doesn’t itself produce more damp. Throw away all cloths, wet wipe all surfaces in the room and vacuum thoroughly.
- Some government guidelines suggest that diluted bleach could be used to wipe down mould, but never full-strength bleach. It’s worth noting that it’s not advised to use bleach on walls.
- Only attempt to remove mould yourself if you think it’s a small area, less than a meter squared, caused by the likes of condensation.
- For larger areas or mould that could be deeper in the floors/walls/structure of the house, call a professional.
Preventing Damp & Mould
Prevention is better than cure because eliminating mould is challenging given its perversive nature and the matter of airborne spores.
- Ensure rooms receive adequate ventilation by opening windows, and using extractor fans in the kitchen and bathrooms.
- Clean all flooring appropriately and mop up any water or spills quickly. If you’re having issues with carpeting, consider wood flooring. Solid wood flooring can look incredible in any home, and it’s also easy to look after. Try a hardwood spray and a microfibre mop to gently clean and dry wooden floors.
- Make sure your home has adequate heat insulation.
- Even the likes of some indoor plants and fishtanks can cause dampness in the surrounding area, so be mindful of their placement.
- If your home has rising damp, new waterproof barriers or damp-course in the wall may be required, and ensure any vents at the base of the property aren’t unintentionally covered.
- Double glazing can help in maintaining temperature and reducing condensation.
- Keep your home warm and dry, cleaning up any water and damp once they’re noticed such as after a shower.
- Use a HEPA filter vacuum.
- Repair any leaks, plumbing problems or roofing issues as soon as they arise.
- Consider an air purifier for the spaces you regularly use – check out my review of the Levoit Air Purifier here. You can find it on Amazon US & Amazon UK.
It’s worth checking to see what potential triggers your home is susceptible to, such as poor ventilation or heating, and to check around places that might have mould that you’ve perhaps not yet noticed, like the corners of rooms, ceilings and skirting boards.
While it’s unsightly and common, damp and mould shouldn’t be overlooked because they can have ramifications for our health whether we realise it or not.
Have you had to deal with mould in your home? Do you think it has ever affected your health?
[ This is a sponsored post written by myself ]