Ignoring Mould Can Really Kill You
Steve Scotter on why mould is life threatening
MOULD can potentially grow in any building, whether occupied or unoccupied. It cannot normally be seen with the human eye, but it can be seen when it grows into large colonies.
The spores are all around us, but normally they are not present in high numbers and therefore should not affect us.
Many people have not been aware of the health effects of mould exposure, but this is now changing.
Guidance: Mould growth in a building is not good for human health and the Healthy Homes Safety Rating Systems (HHSRS), the environmental regulations for rented properties, consider that mould in a building is a Class One health hazard similar to exposure to asbestos.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also considers it a human health hazard.
There are many health and safety laws stating that hazardous biological substances must be contained and controlled. These laws must be complied with; this is an absolute statutory requirement.
Mould growth: When a mould spore settles and becomes damp these spores can germinate.
This germination will often lead to the growth of a fruiting body and on the fruiting body more mould spores will grow. Each fruiting body can release thousands of invisible spores into the air.
Mould spore replication can be rapid in the right conditions and this will accelerate with time. Mould digests the surface it settles on and can feed on many substances. It often prefers dark places for growth and does not like rapid air movement.
Controlling mould growth: We cannot control normal amounts of mould spores entering buildings. However, we can prevent the growth of mould by the control of moisture (on which it feeds).
Human health effects of mould exposure: Many of us have good immune system resistance to mould spore exposure but some people do not and they can easily be affected.
Human exposure, the facts:
The more exposure a person receives to mould growth the more likely it is that it will affect their health. So it is very important that mould growth must be controlled in buildings.
Mould exposure can cause our immune systems to become suppressed and this can lead to other illnesses.
Mould exposure can be pathogenic, toxigenic and carcinogenic, but all mould exposure can be allergenic.
Some mould can grow in human lung tissue. There are also some moulds that can pierce human skin.
People can be affected by the chemical substances from mould exposure, leading to chemical sensitivity.
Mould growth in a building can give off Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOC’s); sometimes you may be able to smell these MVOC’s when entering a building. Exposure to MVOC’s can change a person’s DNA and this can cause many health problems.
Some moulds will release toxins (Mycotoxins) when under threat from other moulds or when treated with chemicals; these toxins have been used in chemical warfare.
Many dust mites require mould to be present for their replication and feeding processes.
Common health problems caused by mould exposure: There are many common complaints caused by mould exposure. These include: depression, eye irritation, lethargy, fatigue, wheezing, brain fog, dizziness, runny nose, anxiety, skin irritation, lack of concentration and allergic reactions.
More serious health problems caused by mould exposure: Sometimes mould exposure can cause more serious health complaints. These include:
Asthma attacks – mild to life threatening;
Chest infections – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients are particularly susceptible;
Mould growing in, or on, human tissue – particularly in the lungs, requiring long term medication.
Flood damage restoration: Only fully (up-to-date) trained, competent technicians should undertake this work. On completion of this work, clearance tests for mould are required and these should be carried out by an independent specialist.
Drying works should start in a flood damaged building within hours. A building that has been flood damaged for three days or more is in a biologically unacceptable condition for human occupation.
Extensive strip out will be required for the decontamination process to be successful; this will result in much higher costs for building repair.
Removal of mould: To simply wipe down mould would result in the release into the air of many thousands of mould spores which could result in further contaminating the building.
Mould removal must only be carried out by trained competent technicians, and on completion of this work the decontamination needs to be clearance tested by an independent company to prove the work has been carried out correctly.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): All technicians must wear appropriate PPE when undertaking flood restoration and mould remediation.
Steve Scotter was a carpet cleaner and a member of the National Carpet Cleaners Association for many years. He now works for NCCA Corporate Member, Hydro-Dynamix, as a NEBOSH qualified health and safety manager.
This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.