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Why You Should Care about Molds and its Effects on Your Health

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| 2018 Jan 18 |
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Why You Should Care about Molds and its Effects on Your Health

Student : Tin Noel (Tina) Chan
University : University of Toronto – Scarborough

the human population living longer and better due to the advancement in science, technology, and health (in regards to sleeping, eating, drinking) we begin to forget sometimes the fundamental thing that makes us alive. Oxygen – that is one of the most basic gases that keep as afloat, breathing on this planet earth. Within that combined with other gases creates Air – and measuring how clean or not it is Air Quality. However, despite the increase in living standards it comes at the price on the quality of living with the increase in pollutants that is being caused by such globalization and modernization. Nonetheless, hope is not lost and with the help of Mold Busters we are going to explore a common cause of poor indoor air quality – molds, and its effect on human and animal health, as well as some key prevention and remediation techniques.

What are Molds?

Molds are natural fungi that are part of the natural environment. Outside, they cause biodegradation – through the breakdown of dead organic matter such as dead leaves and trees. However indoors, mold growth needs to be avoided, because their effects can cause dire human and animal health consequences. Unfortunately, as they are always associated with moisture, it is not possible to completely eliminate them for good, but good prevention (and remediation if needed to) is key to keeping them at bay.

As molds reproduce by means of tiny spores, invisible to the eye and float through the air this means that they can grow almost anywhere by landing on moist surfaces, regardless of the setting. Some common sources would be through water leakage (e.g. through broken pipes or cracked basement walls) or condensation due to improper ventilation (usually commonly found in the bathrooms and kitchens where moisture can easily accumulate). Even something as simple as drying clothing inside can increase the risk of exposure to mold growth. Typically, if materials and related items have failed to dry after several days after the suspected water incident, mold growth is suspected within wall spaces even if it not immediately visible.

How does Molds effect your Health?

Due to the growth of mold colonies and their substances released into the air, the primary hazard as it relates to indoor air quality, comes from the allergenic properties of the spore cell wall. For individuals with existing respiratory illnesses (such as asthma) it may trigger even worsening episodes and can even increase the risk of developing respiratory conditions (such as chronic coughs, allergies) and lowered immune systems as well as other health risks (such as nausea and headaches) for individuals who did not necessarily have the risk in the beginning.

Furthermore, due to their toxic creation, illness and sickness such as lung inflammatory problems, nasal and sinus congestion can occur. Some examples include runny nose, wheezing(in terms of difficulty in breathing) as well as eye (itchy, red, watery),throat, skin irritation (such as a rash), and persistent sneezing can develop. This is because of the damp indoor environments correlate with upper-respiratory-tract symptoms, such as coughing and wheezing in people with asthma, as well as the condensation of moisture on surfaces due to excessive humidity, lack of ventilation, or low temperature cause the molds to grow.

What are some Prevention and Remediation Techniques?

Given that molds are always associated with moisture, one can prevent its growth at by keeping humidity levels at least below 50%. Because they can grow almost everywhere and on any substance providing moisture is present – then the best method to prevent is to reduce the amount of moisture. One should aim to prevent first, by determining the highest sources and locations of the moisture and eliminate the problem (or reduce the levels as much as possible). The recommended relative humidity levels are from 30% to 50%. In the bathroom, one can vent showers and allow the moisture generating areas directly and preferably move outside.

Besides keeping the room temperature mild / warm (not too cold or hot) one can also control humidity levels with air conditioners and/or dehumidifiers. Turn on the bathroom fans after a relatively warm/hot shower/bath so that the air circulation will not be all contained (and forced to stay) within the room, if there is not window source to open to let the excess air as well as prevent as much as possible the dampness to develop. It is also recommended not to install carpets around fountains, sinks, bathtubs/showers or directly on top of concrete floors that are prone to leaks or frequent condensation. In the kitchen use exhaust fans when cooking or dishwashing. One can also if possible, aim to not frequently wash or dry with poor ventilation as this presents opportunity for the kitchen molds to develop given that excess and constant moisture creation after washing and drying. Keep dripping pans clean and drainage lines clear as well.

For laundry or cleaning large areas, insulate cold and cool surfaces to prevent condensation on occurring on pipes, windows, roofs and floors. One should also aim to keep the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in good maintenance and repair. For the water collectors, empty them regularly so that it does not contribute to the moisture problem. For humidifiers, ensure that they are cleaned regularly, although vacuuming may increase the exposure of the molds and spores by making them airborne. One can try using central vacuums that exhaust to the outside, or those equipped with high efficiency air filters that can help minimize this exposure. For any major spills or floods, clean them up immediately (ideally within 24 to 48 hours).

Any spillage on the floors and carpets, it is best to remove spots or stains immediately – if possible reduce the amount of water used when cleaning carpets, to prevent additional moisture buildup. If one wants to be extremely cautious (for the entire residence in general), approved and controlled icy cleaning can be done and repairing roof gutters, to prevent moisture seepage into the home as well as help monitor the indoor humidity. Finally, the best prevention of all, is to take note of any drying areas of moisture or condensation and removing their sources if possible immediately.

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