Modern Australian



how to get rid of mould to protect your health

  • Written by Michael Taylor, Adjunct academic, Flinders University

As Townsville residents continue the clean-up following January’s flooding, microscopic fungi, commonly called mould, will be a concern for many.

Homes and buildings affected by the floods will likely remain inaccessible for a period of time, and with relatively high ambient temperatures and lots of water with nowhere to go, mould will in many cases begin to take hold.

If your home has been affected by water, there are measures you can take to prevent mould from developing. And if the fungi has already started to grow, it’s important to thoroughly remove it – as the presence of mould can affect our health.

Read more: After the floods come the mosquitoes – but the disease risk is more difficult to predict

How does mould develop?

Mould growth begins with water damage. You can generally resolve the problem by fixing the leak, drying the water and installing a fan. These steps should be taken as quickly as possible.

Left unchecked, spores from common fungi such as Penicillium and Aspergillus can germinate within 16 hours, and can grow millimetres a day. Within a few weeks, wet materials can be heavily colonised.

Fungi are more attracted to materials which, at least in their original form, would have been found in the environment. So mould will readily consume many materials in our homes which used to be plants, such as timber and cardboard. But many fungi aren’t fussy and will happily degrade paints and glue, and grow in dust and dirt found in carpets and insulation.

Often a musty smell is noticeable before we see the signs of brown, green and black discolouration. Most of the time by this point simply wiping the surfaces clean is unlikely to solve the problem.

In terms of mould growth, flood water can be more problematic than clean water, as it will have picked up dirt, sewage and other nutrient-rich materials along the way. This will not only increase the amount of spores splashed onto surfaces, but also provide a food source for fungi as they begin to multiply. This can make clean-up efforts significantly more difficult.

Getting rid of it

Non-porous materials like ceramics, glass, metal and plastics can be relatively easily cleaned using household detergents, because the mould can’t penetrate and multiply within.

Clothes, curtains and fabric items can usually be laundered or dry cleaned, but items like couches and pillows are frequently impossible to adequately clean once fungi have colonised.

Unfortunately papers and books, plasterboard, insulation, and some wooden items will just need to be replaced.

how to get rid of mould to protect your health You might be able to clean up some mould yourself. In other cases it may be better to seek professional help. From shutterstock.com

Wiping mould growth off a ceiling or wall using household cleaning products may be effective on small areas not impacted by flood waters. However for areas larger than a square metre with heavy growth or impacted by dirty water, regular cleaning will simply remove the spores from the surface, leaving the material colonised by mould underneath.

There’s no easy fix in these cases, particularly if buildings have been left closed up and wet for several weeks. It’s frequently more time and cost efficient to replace the damaged areas than attempt to scrub, bleach, vacuum and repaint an entire home.

Health concerns

Aside from the cosmetic aspect of mould, there are health concerns which may arise from fungi-contaminated buildings.

Fungal spores and cells often act as allergens. When inhaled, they can cause shortness of breath and cold and flu-like symptoms as well as itchy eyes and skin.

Fortunately, inhaled spores rarely cause genuine infection, with most healthy individuals being at very low risk of developing further illness.

Read more: Is your home harming you? Asthma, allergies and indoor mould

Another area we’re beginning to understand more is mycotoxins – the toxic compounds produced by some fungi as they grow. Imported food products are tested for mycotoxins frequently, but it’s more difficult to test their risk in indoor air.

Not all fungi produce these toxic metabolites, and there’s no simple test or mould colour that can tell you if you’ve got one of the bad ones growing in your home. It generally requires experts to sample the spores and determine what species of fungi is present.

We also don’t know much about the behaviour of mycotoxins in buildings – how many accumulate in different materials – or have any simple ways to remove them once they turn up.

For most people with low level mould problems, mycotoxins will not be an issue. But after large scale water damage events like flooding, explosive mould growth may produce concentrations of toxins high enough to pose a risk of severe respiratory distress, bleeding from the lungs, inflammation, cognitive impairment, or cancer.

Protecting yourself

Although this may sound frightening, if you’re able to fix the moisture first, mould shouldn’t be an issue. But it’s important to be thorough. Wall cavities, roof spaces and insulation will hold onto water.

If mould does develop, small amounts can be conquered – particularly on hard surfaces or items that can be thrown away. Wear gloves, a dust mask or respirator, and long sleeved clothes when tackling a clean-up.

Seek expert advice early to deal with large scale growth (more than one square metre), or to determine how best to proceed when drying your home to make sure it stays fungi free.

Authors: Michael Taylor, Adjunct academic, Flinders University

Read more http://theconversation.com/fungi-after-the-floods-how-to-get-rid-of-mould-to-protect-your-health-111341

NEWS

There's little reason for optimism about Closing the Gap, despite changes to education targets

Again this year, the Closing the Gap report delivered disappointment.www.shutterstock.comThis week saw the release of the annual Closing the Gap report. Much like the previous decade of reports, we learned...

how queer texts could fight homophobia in Australian schools

Books are a good starting place to make schools more inviting places for queer students.www.shutterstock.comRecently, the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE) — the peak professional body for...

The glowing ghost mushroom looks like it comes from a fungal netherworld

The ghost fungus emits an eerie green glow.Author providedSign up to Beating Around the Bush, a series that profiles native plants: part gardening column, part dispatches from country, entirely Australian.It’s...

Michelle Grattan on reopening Christmas Island and One Nation's shenanigans

University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Deep Saini and Michelle Grattan talk about the week in politics. They discuss including the government’s historic defeat in the House of Representatives on the medevac...

The Catholic Church is headed for another sex abuse scandal as #NunsToo speak up

All eyes will turn to Rome between 21-24 February, when senior church clerics across the world meet to discuss how to handle the widening sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic...

well placed to join the Moon mining race ... or is it?

The Moon could be mined for water.NASA/JPLIt’s 50 years since man first stepped on the Moon. Now the focus is on going back to our nearest orbiting neighbour – not...

who are the Uyghurs and why is the Chinese government detaining them?

Many Muslim minorities in China, particularly the Uyghurs, are arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned.from shutterstock.comThe Uyghurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims from the Central Asian region. The largest population live in China’s autonomous...

Electronic waste is recycled in appalling conditions in India

The vast majority of e-waste in India is processed by hand.Miles Parl, Author providedElectronic waste is recycled in appalling conditions in IndiaThe world produces 50 million tonnes of electronic and...

saints or monsters, pop culture's limited view of nurses

Nurse Ratched in the 1975 film One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Netflix is now producing a TV series built around this character, to star Sarah Paulson.Fantasy FilmsWhen health care...

when watchdogs become pets – or the problem of 'regulatory capture'

Australia's two financial watchdogs have been criticised for their cuddly relationship with banks.ShutterstockMarkets require regulators. As Adam Smith, the champion of the invisible hand, notes in The Wealth of...

For people at risk of mental illness, having access to treatment early can help

Treating somebody at risk of developing a mental health disorder may improve their outcomes later on.Jeremy Perkins/UnsplashHow can we best help Australians who are at risk of developing a mental...

You need more than just testes to make a penis

Testosterone is primarily made in the testes, and creates many of the characteristics we see in adult men. from www.shutterstock.comIn prenatal ultrasounds or at delivery, many new parents look between...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

Why you should hire equipment for your next party or eventLiving life without fearFive Trends That Will Transform Beauty Moving home is always complicated but even more challenging in SydneyWhy Chocolate Can Be Good For YouHow to Choose the Right Wedding SuitTop 5 Non-Surgical Cosmetic Procedures for Men in 20192019’s Unforgettable Valentine’s Day Ideas In SydneyFashion Trends to Know in 2019David Lennon:   Five reasons to get your car loan sorted before visiting a dealership5 Sleep-Friendly Bedroom Tips for Career WomenTop 5 Car Finance TipsAustralian Bathroom Design Trends for the Upcoming Season6 Signs it’s Time to Consider Laser Tattoo RemovalLocal Moving Checklist