Moulds can produce irritants; allergens; or toxins which can be hazardous to your health. Irritants are what they sound like – substances which irritate your eyes, skin, nose, or other parts of the body.
They aren’t typically damaging. Allergens are substances which cause an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions triggered by mould may be mildly irritating or can be very serious, even fatal. Asthma attacks and existing skin conditions such as eczema are often made worse by exposure to irritants and allergens. Mould has been shown to cause respiratory problems, including coughs and wheezing, in healthy adults. Babies, children, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems and people with pre-existing breathing difficulties (including asthma) are at greater risk from mould.
Are all moulds dangerous?
There are thousands of different kinds of mould – it’s a catch-all term that covers everything from penicillin to blue cheese to bread mould to the black spots on your ceiling. Not all moulds are dangerous – in fact many are safe to eat and are found in products from soy sauce to cheese to wine.
What about toxic mould?
A few types of mould produce myotoxins, and scientists are investigating whether these so-called “toxic moulds” are linked with serious conditions such as neurotoxicity, Parkinson’s or pulmonary haemorrhage. Reports are very rare, and the CDC describes the term toxic mould as “not accurate”, the case reports as “rare” and the causal link as “not proven”. The recommendation is to treat all moulds in the same way, as described below.
Why is my house mouldy?
Mould is always present in our homes in dust and dirt and other materials. It will take root, grow and spread wherever it finds a damp, warm surface out of direct sunlight. Modern homes can be excellent breeding grounds for mould as they are often well sealed, which means that the water vapour put into the air by common activities such as breathing, bathing, cooking and washing is trapped and causes damp. Leaking roofs, gutters, pipes and appliances can also create wet spots where damp thrives.
Recommended read: How to determine if your home has mould
How to prevent mould and mildew
Mould (and mildew, which is its precursor) will die without water so the best way to deal with mould and to prevent mould is to ensure that your home is well ventilated. Moisture is pushed into the air by daily activities like breathing, bathing, cooking, cleaning and washing so this needs a chance to escape and be replaced by fresh, drier air. Opening all the windows for just 10 minutes a day will be a big help. It’s also important to take advantage of any easy ways to remove moisture from your home.
For example, you can make sure that any built-in venting (such as trickle vents and air bricks) are free flowing; you should use (or install and then use) an extractor fan in the kitchen, bathroom and near your dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer as well as near any fish tanks or similar; and you may find it easy to move some wet activities outside or contain them – you probably won’t want an outdoor shower, but you might be able to use the washing line instead of the dryer and pop a lid on your saucepans when boiling water.
If you have mould and are looking for a solution we can help. We are damp and mould experts and if you have a property that has mould we can find the best solution for the problem. For more information on how we can help with damp and mould, view our damp and mould services page.