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Household Mould Making Life For Some Aussies "Living Hell"

Household mould. It's ugly, and it's unwanted. Now, a number of Australians are claiming it is killing them.

Making their lives a living hell – causing asthma, memory loss and in some extremes, paralysis. And costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars to survive.

Linda Blatt said life changed when she moved into a new apartment four years ago.

household mould effect

"I would notice a musty smell but the walls had been freshly painted and the place looked really clean," she told 9NEWS.

"I'd check under the kitchen sink and behind doors for anything unusual. It wasn't until I started developing asthma-like symptoms which I hadn't had since I was a child that I sought help."

She says three GPs told her there was nothing wrong with her – dismissing it as a common cough or cold.

mould health effects

"Then I became fatigued, developed a rash, I'd have to sleep between seeing clients," the psychologist said.

"Eventually I had body-wide pain, then my brain just shut down. I couldn’t remember what I was saying, who I was talking to, why I was there."

She became bedbound for almost one year, sleeping for 20 hours a day, battling migraines, stomach pain and heart palpitations and struggling to remember her loved one's names.

"It was terrifying, I thought I had early-onset dementia, I thought I was dying," she said.

mould health problems

"My own father was a GP, I'd been sent to ten different specialists, neurologists kept telling me I was okay."


Eventually she tracked down what she said is the culprit: mouldy walls which had recently been painted, exacerbating the toxic fumes.


She left the home and says for a moment, her symptoms faded.

mould problems

"Unbeknown to me I had developed sensitivity to mould. This had been intensified by my Lyme Disease and when I thought I was cured I got in my boyfriend's 16-year-old car and relapsed. It turned out his car had toxic mould in it which triggered me again.


"Because there's not a lot of understanding of mould sensitivity here in Australia I didn't know how to manage it and everyone started to think I was making it up."


Ms Blatt said she's spent more than $600,000 of her family's and life savings seeking a cure for her debilitating physical function.


She resorted to sleeping in a tent and even on her apartment balcony to avoid any mould inside a home.


"It's a silent killer, you don’t always see it. My land lord didn’t know how dangerous it was to cover the mould, it was a cosmetic thing," Ms Blatt said.


But for some, the mould is more obvious.


Melissa Bird, 25, said mould covering the walls of her workplace triggered an illness which has left her debilitated and unable to hug her own family.


"My sister has been exposed to severe mould infestations from previous rental properties, so even with full decontamination I still react being around her," Ms Bird said.


"It is horrible, I can barely see my friends and if I do go out I usually have to wear a respiratory mask."

Ms Bird says it's almost impossible for her to leave her home.

household mould
residential mould

"There are very few buildings and shops I can enter without getting sick. Symptoms include passing out, full body pain and fatigue, anxiety, suicidal ideas, digestive issues, visual disturbances and memory loss."

Ms Bird says she has lost her entire savings due to "fighting an unrecognised illness" and is echoing calls for the Australian government to conduct a national inquiry into the health impacts of mould.

Both Ms Bird and Ms Batt said they never knew how dangerous it could be.

The World Health Organisation does acknowledge that indoor air pollution caused by bacteria and fungi does increase the prevalence of some illnesses.

But mould illness, or chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS) is treated with scepticism by some conventional medical practitioners.

mould health cause
mould inspection

Vomiting for days and riddled with migraines, the young Melbourne woman eventually contracted a lung infection. All after moving into a rental property in November last year.

She was eventually released from her lease after mushrooms and mould in the bathroom and linen cupboard were deemed the culprit.

But for others it's not so easy.

mould removal

Vince Cattermole says he argued with his landlord for more than 500 days to repair a leaky ceiling.

A mould inspector deemed the property unsafe to live in after testing mould in bedrooms and the ceiling.

Eventually the case went to VCAT and the Cattermole family won.

Commercial mould cleaner and president of the Specialised Cleaning and Restoration Industry Association Gidon Kabaker says attitudes need to change around mould.

mould treatment

"It is extremely dangerous, the issue with mould is basically toxins they release back to the environment," he said.

"Some doctors don't recognise it as yet. But I’ve been in business 21 years last ten years I've seen a big shift in changing attitudes.

"People think it’s a myth. But I can tell you, I walk into very sick houses every day. Every day. Not necessarily all members of the household are sick, but if one person is sick it affects the whole family."

© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2018

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