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Is NZ Mould Dangerous? Can It Make You Sick?

You see in the news that mould can make you sick. But, is that true? How much mould is enough to make you sick? And is all mould created equal?

Part of NZ’s housing shortage problem is due to homes that are poorly built which renders them inhabitable. Statistics NZ did a survey that revealed the average temperature of homes is 19oC, and more than a third had temperatures under this. The WHO recommends 21oC as a healthy indoor temperature.

The problem is due to our building codes, which have always been inferior to other countries. There’s been less requirement for insulation, double glazing, and we don’t have built-in heating solutions. Our electricity is relatively expensive too.

When Europeans arrived in NZ, they built homes that they were used to in their countries. Sadly, these were not optimal designs for NZ weather, and it’s taken decades for the building code to catch up. Think about the long eaves on older homes, to keep driving rain from ingress- they keep the sun out in summer, but in winter too.

The result is housing stock of cold, damp homes. While landlords are now being pushed to make their homes drier and warmer, there are still massive issues.

Why are Cold Homes Such a Problem?

In NZ, cold equals damp, and damp equals mould. While living in a cold environment won’t make you sick in itself, it makes you more susceptible to getting sick, as most common cold viruses replicate in the nasal cavity better when it’s colder.

And when there’s a cold, damp environment, this creates the perfect place for mould to grow. And mould can be toxic. Research by He Kainga Oranga showed that kids living in homes with retrofitted insulation were 15% less likely to develop chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma. Imagine the huge difference in health outcomes in a purpose-built, insulated, warm, dry house.

If you have mould, you might notice the following in your home:

  • Black, green, white or grey splotches on walls, ceilings, floors, or furniture
  • Discoloured grout
  • A musty odour
  • Fungi or mushrooms growing inside

Which Mould Makes You Sick?

It’s worth remembering that not all moulds are bad for everyone. Penicillin is a mould, which is an antibiotic that makes people healthy, or can trigger deadly allergic reactions in some people. Alternaria, aspergillus, cladosporium and penicillium are the four most common moulds that can result in allergies.

Black or ‘toxic’ mould is often said to be the culprit of mould-related illness, but the\is doesn’t refer to one specific type of mould. Instead, it generally means the mould produces mycotoxins, which are the substances released into the air. These are present in a number of different varieties of mould. Due to the fact that all mould produces spores into the air, they can all be viewed as toxic or unwanted, and all of them should be removed.

Some people are very sensitive to mould spores, while others are seemingly unbothered. Children, pregnant women, people with allergies or chronic respiratory conditions, and elderly people are more sensitive to mould and more likely to get sick as a result.

The more mould is present, or if you’re in close proximity to the mould, like it’s in your bedroom, then you’re more likely to get sick.

The CDC says you don’t need to identify the mould in your home- just get rid of it.

What Does Mould Illness Look Like?

Everyone is different and the strength of symptoms vary. However, mould intolerance or allergies or poisoning include:

    • Headaches
    • Memory loss
    • Body aches and pains
    • Nosebleeds
    • Mood changes
    • Runny or blocked nose
    • A sore throat
    • A cough
    • Wheezing
    • Watery, red eyes
    • Rashes on the skin
    • Sinusitis
    • Shortness of breath
    • Tiredness

With people with asthma, lung problems, COPD, their symptoms will be worse.

There is no blood test for mould, although some doctors can carry out allergy testing for specific mould allergies.

When Should You Get the Professionals In?

The visible mould is only some of the problem; the majority is in the walls, inside furniture, and in furnishings, invisible to the human eye. So if you see a square meter of mould, the problem is far bigger, and it’s time to get the professionals in. If there’s just bits and pieces around, a thorough cleaning with white vinegar and water solution (50:50) will kill the mould. Bleach does not kill the mould, only the top layer.

If you have had a flood event, it’s vital to clean up as quickly as possible and get things dry so that mould doesn’t start growing. Using professional services here is important for asbestos removal from the water as quickly as possible.

Professionals don’t just clean the mould, but can help to diagnose the cause of the problems and suggest a solution. This might be installing an extractor fan, stopping a leak or water ingress, installing a more efficient heating system, or replacing worn or ineffective insulation. Because there’s no point in cleaning the mould if it is simply going to return in a few months.

Once the source is found and rectified, they can clean the mould. Techniques and methods vary depending on the type of mould, where it’s found, and the type of materials involved. If you live in Canterbury, Wellington, or the Marlborough region, contact us at TechClean. We can quote for a mould restoration service, so you know you’re living in a warm, dry, safe home.

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