Sinus, skin and respiratory infections, yeast infections, headaches, aching joints, asthma, fatigue, loss of libido, depression and anxiety are some of the problems experienced by people living in homes containing mould. We have even heard of people’s pets suffering from fungal infections and constant vomiting.
"Mould is toxic, dangerous and consumes everything around it. Unless you treat the source and kill it, it will take hold of your life."
Mould thrives in damp and humid conditions, in places which are not well ventilated. These conditions have been exacerbated this summer along Australia's eastern seaboard due to La Niña, a weather phenomenon which brings excessive rain. Sydney, for example, has recorded its wettest summer for more than a decade.
Queensland building biologist Pauline Ferguson says she has been run off her feet since the 2011 Queensland floods and now the recent very wet summer.
She stresses the importance of not letting mould grow unchecked in your home.
"It's toxic and can cause illness," Ferguson says. "It will exacerbate existing illnesses such as asthma or allergies and slows healing of wounds. It damages the physical structure of your home or building and contaminates anything it contacts.
"While mould is everywhere and we breathe in spores with every breath, it's when the concentration builds that it can start to play havoc with our health."
Dr Peter Dingle, environmental scientist and presenter of the SBS show Is Your House Killing You?, says that in the US mould is now being referred to as the "asbestos of the new generation".
"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 says. "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."
Supermarket aisles are filled with cleaning products which profess to kill 99.9 per cent of germs and mould. But Ferguson says any chemical which could permanently kill household mould would be too high in toxic concentrations for safe human habitation. "Mould is like cat hair – you can kill it as much as you like, but unless you remove [the source], it will still be there, and it will still make you sneeze and get sick," Ferguson says.
"According to mycologists [scientists who study mould], 98 per cent of the effective removal of mould is mechanical – that is, physical action, with cloths, vacuum cleaners, brushes and high-pressure cleaners," she says.
Shannon Lush, co-author of Household Wisdom (ABC Books), urges people to avoid using chemicals such as bleach or ammonia because they won't work against mould.
"Bleach merely bleaches mould so you can't see it, but it's still there," she says. "It doesn't kill the root system and the mould will grow back in weeks."
She says a formulation of oil of cloves and water is the best way to remove mould once and for all. "No matter what the bottles of chemicals say, they will not kill mould and the problem will get worse."
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