A moldy patch in the bathroom or the basement doesn’t only look nasty but it presents a health hazard. In fact, mold appears in every room with poor air ventilation where the air is often humid, which is the case in thousands of Australian households.
Homeowners often fail to understand all the dangers of mold, so they react when the damage is already done. By fully understanding all of the negative effects mold has on human health, you can act to prevent respiratory diseases, for example.
Mycotoxicosis: Mold poisoning
In medicine, mycotoxicosis is a disease (i.e. a number of diseases) that is caused by eating fungal contaminated foods or coming into contact with fungi in any other manner. These include skin contact, as well as inhalation. The latter is often caused by toxins that fungal spores secrete.
The most common symptoms of mycotoxicosis include headaches, mood swings, aches, pain, and in more severe cases, even memory loss and nosebleed. Further studies are necessary to describe the full effect airborne mold spores have on human health.
Allergies combined with irritation
When it comes to people who are most susceptible to negative effects of mold (N.B. there are few positive ones, if any), then these are children and people with allergies.
Coming into contact with mold results in developing any of the following symptoms: a runny or a blocked nose, dry cough, skin rash, a sore throat, watery and red eyes, wheezing, sinusitis, etc.
The majority of the symptoms listed are related to the human respiratory system. For some folks, even shortness of breath is a symptom; a condition that severely reduces the quality of life.
Children with asthma are especially vulnerable
People who suffer from asthma have mostly learned to live with the condition. It is estimated that some 2.7 million Australians suffer from asthma, which is a worryingly high figure. However, children with asthma stand to lose the most because mold can worsen their clinical features.
Even children who don’t have asthma, luckily, have a greater chance of developing the condition if they live inside a moldy home. The most vulnerable age are children under the age of 7. If your children start showing symptoms of a respiratory infection, it is essential you address the mold problem right away.
Mold exposure may also worsen asthma or lung problems in people with preexisting lung conditions. A damp dwelling is not a healthy environment to raise your child in.
What about healthy people?
People who have pre-existing lung problems or any type of respiratory condition are definitely going to find mold to aggravate their illness. On the other hand, healthy folks with a strong immune system aren’t going to find mold problematic, at least not at first.
However, if you ignore the moldy patches in the kitchen or the bathroom long enough, then you too will start developing symptoms. The timeline is individual, as some people might start sneezing after one year, while others will get runny nose having lived in a moldy residence for two decades.
As we have seen, mold spores eventually get to anyone, even healthy people. On the other side, people with pre-existing conditions will immediately start feeling ill.
The most vulnerable groups are those with a weakened immune system, uncontrolled HIV, people in cancer treatment, and transplant patients. These patients have zero-tolerance for mold exposure.
Where does mold appear?
In order to counter the negative health effects of mold, you need to know which are the locations it most often appears inside your residence. Think of rooms where air humidity is high, such as the bathroom, the attic, the kitchen, and the basement.
Furthermore, due to diurnal temperature variation, which is pronounced in the Capital Territory and the region around it, condensation droplets are formed on pipes. Apart from this, a leaky pipe that is left unattended for months or years can also be a breeding ground for mold.
For this reason, plumbing in Canberra needs to top the maintenance priorities list. Calling the plumber every time you notice a leak will prevent mold from ever forming as it will save you money, as fixing a burst pipe is costlier than replacing a leaky gasket.
The most dangerous types of mold
For laymen, black mold is often described as the most dangerous kind, as it releases mycotoxins. However, nearly all types of mold out there are capable of producing mycotoxins. In this sense, every type of mold can be equally dangerous or benign if it produces non-toxic spores.
In fact, you are more likely to contract mycotoxicosis from eating fungal spores than you are likely to inhale them. There are even molds that are safe to touch, although you shouldn’t do this unless it’s unavoidable.
The riskiest sections inside your home
We have mentioned which rooms are the most likely sources of the mold but there are other sections of your home that are breeding grounds for molds and mildew. For instance, a damp living-room carpet will turn moldy in no time unless you take it out and dry it.
Furthermore, piles of wet paper and/or leaves are also something you shouldn’t keep inside or inside your home. Drywalls are particularly susceptible to developing mold patches, ironically enough. The inside of the washing machine and the dishwasher are particularly dangerous.
After you’re done using these appliances, make sure the door is open so the inside can dry. Finally, firewood is one of the most sinister places where mold appears.
During summer, you forget all about the small pile of firewood in the living room or the garage but if it gets wet, mold will appear and stay undetected for months.
(Moldy) personal items
Another common source of mold in the Australian household are various personal items we use every day. For instance, a water bottle should be recycled; don’t let it sit in the open for days on end. Because of the danger of mold, all thermoses should be washed often.
Further on, sponges have to be completely dry before they are stored away. If you wash your car and place a sponge that is still wet inside a closed cabinet, mold will most definitely appear.
The same goes for food containers, such as lunch boxes. You shouldn’t place the lid on if there are water droplets still inside.
Excellent ventilation is essential!
The best way to prevent mold from forming inside the house or in the office is to air rooms. Windows are by far the best option but some bathrooms don’t have a single window. In this case, a solid air ventilation system is essential.
The reason why excellent ventilation is important is that the constant flow of air dries excess water. This way, the main prerequisite for the formation of mold is gone, so your home or office becomes much safer to work or live in.
Seeing the doctor
If you fail to take all the necessary precautions and do develop respiratory symptoms described above, then you might need to see the doctor. Luckily, such cases are rare in Australia but they do occur from time to time.
If you develop an allergic reaction to mold, then the physician might give you antihistamines or another over-the-counter medicine. On the other hand, if you have asthma, then you will need urgent medical attention.
Beware of floods
We have mentioned earlier how a leaky pipe can cause mold to appear but another major issue is water damage due to flooding. Often enough, a home gets flooded after a natural disaster, such as a river flood or a hurricane.
Prevention is impossible in such circumstances but it’s always possible to do a bit of damage control. Throw away the water-damaged furniture and scape the walls to prevent mold from forming.
Bonus tip: Stay safe from outdoor mold exposure
Now that you know how to stay safe from mold inside your house, here are a couple of guidelines on how to stay safe outdoors as well. The most dangerous public areas include forests, beaches, playgrounds, sidewalks, and even your backyard.
When you go to any of these places, you should avoid piles of wet leaves, rotten tree bark, and any type of damp wood, such as park benches. Also, don’t linger for too long around stagnant water sources, such as ponds and lakes with verdant vegetation.
Even it weren’t for the numerous health issues listed above, you would want to get rid of mold just because it looks nasty. Ignoring mold patches inside your home is the worst thing you can do to your and your children’s health.