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Bold mould

Mould may be making you sick. The most commonly reported symptoms of mold exposure include sneezing, skin irritation, watery or itchy eyes, sore throat, headache, congestion, asthma and bronchitis. It has also been suspected of causing serious medical conditions.

The extent of symptoms depends on the sensitivity of the exposed person. Infants and children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, those with existing respiratory conditions, individuals with allergies, and the elderly are the most susceptible for health problems due to inhaling mould spores.Spring 2012Mould may be making you sick. The most commonly reported symptoms of mould exposure include sneezing, skin irritation, watery or itchy eyes, sore throat, headache, congestion, asthma and bronchitis. It has also been suspected of causing serious medical conditions.

The extent of symptoms depends on the sensitivity of the exposed person. Infants and children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, those with existing respiratory conditions, individuals with allergies, and the elderly are the most susceptible for health problems due to inhaling mould spores.

“There are many types of mould, which are ubiquitous in the environment both inside and outside. For many people, mold is not a problem; however, mould can be a possible health hazard. It is dependent on the person’s susceptibility. Some people have a reaction to mould, some do not,” says Burgess Hawkins, manager of the Sudbury and District Health Unit’s environmental health division.

“Besides the person’s reaction to mould, variables that affect the mould’s effects include the amount, accessibility, concentration and type of mould.”
If there is visible mould in a home or camp, the Sudbury & District Health Unit suggests it be removed.

People with concerns about possible associated health risks and symptoms should consult their doctor.

Stachybotrys is the scientific name for black mould. It is a greenish-black fungal growth that puts down roots in damp and water – damaged walls, floors and furniture. This is just one of the types of mould that can grow in the home, but it is the most toxic.

How does mould get into the home? Mould loves dampness and humidity and it takes up residency in basements and bathrooms. It also likes to grow pretty much anywhere: in walls, cement, drywall, carpets, grout, wallpaper, within air conditioners, ductwork, a decorative pile of wood beside the fireplace, and even on clothes.

To reproduce, colonized mould releases tiny spores that float through the air until they attach to a moist indoor surface, grow roots and multiply. The spores are also easily transported to different areas in the home by attaching themselves to various hosts such as people, animals and shoes. Spores can even enter through open windows and doors.

Traditionally, homeowners have tackled mould with bleach solutions. While still used, this approach can leave users exposed to chemicals.

“With all the environmental issues and concerns today, I feel this may not be the best product. There are environmentally preferable solutions,” says Brigitte Michel-Finlay, dealer/owner of A & J Home Hardware.

“I always recommend natural products. After all, it is the future of our children that we are protecting,” she adds.

Once the mould has been removed, there is still work to do. It is important to find the cause of the problem and to fix it to prevent future spread of mould.

Local home improvement retailers and contractors can provide information about do-it-yourself products or it may be necessary to hire a professional mold detection and clean-up service. People can also get information from the Sudbury Health Unit at 522-9200 or access information from a variety of websites including Health Canada, CMHC (Canadian Mortgage & Housing Corporation) and EPA (Environment Protection Agency).

THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN THE SPRING 2009 EDITION.

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