Moisture and Organic Materials: a Breeding Ground for Mold
Last modified: 2018/10/05 | Approximate reading time 4 mins
Organic materials such as wood, gypsum board paper and dust combined with water or moisture for more than 48 hours become a favourable environment for mould growth. Good ventilation can dry out moisture, but as soon as mould takes hold it will proliferate quickly.
According to a Health Canada portal, moulds are fungi that are present in nature and invisible to the naked eye. Drafts of air, humans, and pets can bring them into the home. Organic matter and water allow mould to grow. Once it develops significantly, mould can cause health problems.
How to recognize the presence of mold
Wherever there are damp or poorly ventilated areas in your home, you can find mold growth. Mold takes the form of pale green to black spots and leaves deposits of fluffy or powder-like appearance on walls, ceiling, carpets, around windows, and in closets. Mold gives off a musty or dirty earthy smell. Molds presence may not be apparent because of water penetration. If dark rings, buckles or chips are present, mold may be concealed behind the material. On the backside of a material like wallpaper, mold can take the form of while filaments.
When mould is present, you must inspect your home. Find where the moisture is coming from. Carry out minor repairs or maintenance work to correct leaks or have a licensed contractor perform repairs in the event of a major problem. Check to see if the repairs have corrected the issue. Applying paint over a mouldy spot only masks the problem and does not prevent the mould from spreading.
Once the presence of mould is confirmed, it is recommended to discard or replace rather than clean porous materials like: drywall, ceiling tiles, fabrics, books, papers, and cardboard. You may have to discard carpets, furniture, mattresses, pillows, plush toys or any other bedding. On the other hand, non-porous or semi-porous materials can be cleaned and preserved: metal, glass, rigid plastics, wood, and concrete so long as their structure is not attacked.
When a mould problem occurs, it is recommended to adopt strategies to prevent excess moisture inside. The solution is simple: you must do the cleaning. Regular maintenance coupled with a thorough and complete inspection of all parts and recesses once annually will keep the invading mould at bay.
To flush out the invading mould, why not carry out a full annual inspection of the exterior of your home? Make sure that the roof, the coating, the attic, the gutters, the joint seals and the drainage are all in good working order.
What are the effects of mould on health?
According to the Health Canada portal, the symptoms associated with exposure to mould vary from one person to another and depend on the other contaminants present in the home.
Symptoms include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; nasal discharge, sinus congestion and symptoms similar to the common cold; wheezing and coughing; increasing the frequency and severity of asthma attacks; chronic fatigue and headaches.
People at risk of developing health problems following exposure to mould are those: suffering from allergies, asthma or chronic respiratory diseases; infants, young children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system.
Other types of contaminants are: tobacco smoke, dust mites, volatile organic compounds, allergens, airborne particles from heating or cooking.
How to clean contaminated surfaces?
According to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), the cleaning method varies depending on the extent and severity of the damage. For large scale sanitation projects, contaminated areas of more than 3 meters or more than 100 square feet, you must call a certified professional. For the contamination of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment you must also call a professional.
As a general rule, they are small and medium-sized surfaces. Cleaning is done with soap or detergent, avoiding the production of dust. When vacuuming, use a high-frequency filter for air particles (HEPA). If mould seems to reappear once the area has been cleaned, you need to call a certified professional.
To clean small surface areas that are less than 1 square meter or 10 square feet, use an N-95 disposable respirator while wearing gloves and goggles. After preparing the surface to be cleaned, pour or spray diluted soap or detergent, or use a damp cloth and sodium bicarbonate. Make sure not to over-wet the drywall.
To clean medium surfaces, repeat the safety precautions. However, make sure that nobody is in the work area. Seal the floors, ventilation ducts and other openings with plastic sheets. You may need to shut off the HVAC system to properly seal the ducts. Before cleaning, moisten the surface slightly to remove any dust. Clean the surface with water and soap or detergent. Once the work is finished, the surface should be dry and free from contamination.
It is not recommended to use chemicals disinfectants for decontaminating surfaces as these chemicals can cause health problems. Avoid using bleach.
A central vacuum system that exhausts air outdoors or is fitted with a very high-efficiency HEPA filter is preferable if you can use a vacuum cleaner.
It is recommended to seal contaminated materials in plastic bags before discarding them.
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