Mould hazard

WHETHER it’s a few pesky patches in the corners of the shower or around window frames, or black tides spreading up the living room walls, lots of people notice some degree of damp and mould in their homes.

The key cause of mould is moisture. This can be moisture in the air through poor ventilation or because you’ve been drying clothes indoors, as a result of leaky windows and pipes, or because external walls are in need of repair, or even after a one-off flood.

Modern and clean homes aren’t immune — wherever there’s moisture, mould and damp can be an issue. Not only can it be deeply unpleasant to live with and tricky to fix, it’s also a potential health hazard.

Hollywood actress Brittany Murphy’s untimely death in Dec 2009 highlighted just how dangerous mould can be. Though pneumonia and anaemia were cited as primary causes of the 32-year-old’s death, toxic mould in her home was also noted as a possible factor.

There are hundreds of thousands of types of mould and the majority do not cause serious problems. However, damp and mould in Irish homes could be affecting the health of many people who might not be aware of the link.

This is particularly the case for people who may be allergic to mould spores. Just a small amount of mould gives off millions of spores and can cause a reaction. Symptoms are mostly respiratory and include being bunged up and congested, as well as itchy, puffy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose. It might feel like you’ve had a cold or sinusitis that just keeps on lingering, but the key difference is that with an allergy, you won’t have had that initial ‘unwell’ phase, perhaps with a fever/high temperature, that occurs with viral infections. If you experience these symptoms and have noticed damp and mould in your home, it’s important to mention it to your GP, as they might not automatically make the link.

If there’s a chance you could be allergic to mould, your GP can refer you to a specialist for tests after looking at your clinical history and the pattern of symptoms.

Allergies aside, mould can be problematic for other people, particularly those who are in vulnerable groups, like babies, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems, due to other health conditions or medication.

Tackling severe damp and mould problems might include having an expert to assess your property and pinpoint exact causes, and tackling these might involve spending some money.


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