There is no doubt that Australia's housing infrastructure is beginning to age. As the Baby Boomer generation grew up and began to build and buy homes, new property numbers began to ease, leaving Australia with a huge percentage of buildings constructed between 1970 and 1990.
Over time, these buildings have faced many harsh summers and winters – decreasing in resilience and increasing their potential for mould. It is important to remember that mould is part and parcel of the natural environment and a vital cog in the ecological system. However, mould can pose a serious threat to human health if it begins to grow inside the home.
This issue was cited in the SBS series "Is Your House Killing You" which offered many Australian examples of how exposure to mould can dramatically impact health and how removal of mould can have major life changing consequences.
How does mould grow in the home?
In nature, mould reproduces by releasing tiny spores into the air which float around the environment. If they land in a moist or damp area, the mould will begin to grow. This is the same way that mould enters a home.
When mould spores enter a building's leaking roof, damaged drainpipes, inadequate ventilation systems or any other poorly maintained network, it can actively start to grow and spread which can lead health problems and further house deterioration.
One of the real problems with mould in a home is the fact that it needs to be cleaned up promptly after its first initial growth. However, unless someone is looking for mould in the above locations, it's unlikely that it will be noticed until issues emerge.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), locations that are damaged with water and/or moisture need to be addressed within two days to prevent significant mould growth.
What health problems can mould cause?
The human impact of mould varies depending on the genetics, age and/or current health condition of the person. As mould grows it produces irritants and toxic substances. Most mould related health issues relate to allergic reactions, however some people may also experience toxic and pathological responses depending upon their immune system.
Typically the symptoms of mould exposure appear similar to the flu or hayfever. This can include red eyes, skin rashes, runny noses, sneezing and irritations of the ears, nose and throat. About 15% of the general population are allergic to mould, and medical research has shown a link to mould exposure and the onset of asthma.
The US EPA reports that insight into mould and its health effects continue. However, it is easy to come to the conclusion that mould is an unwelcome guest in our home.
Environmental scientist Dr Peter Dingle told Body and Soul that mould is described as the 'new generation of asbestos' in the US.
"The effects of moulds and dampness on the respiratory health of children are comparable to the effect of passive smoking and include other effects such as asthma and chronic bronchitis," he said.
"Mould exposure is associated with catching more colds, more infections in the lower respiratory system and irritation of skin, eyes, fever and headache. In severe cases, it can cause death."
Due to its humid and wet climate, Queensland homes are at particular risk from mould. In fact, Body and Soul told the story of a Brisbane couple who lived in a mould-infested house for three years.
The couple, and their cats, experienced a number of health-related problems, yet they were unaware of the cause until spending time away from the house. Removing the source of moisture and removing the mould were stressed by the couple in reflection.
How can Greencap help?
Greencap understands the problems that mould can cause so have developed a team of independent indoor environmental professionals to help. Leading from the front, we assist our clients to assess mould damage, manage its control and then offer advice on how to remediate both the building and the mould source.
For more information on how Greencap can support mould control, contact our expert team today.