Damp and humidity can cause mould around your home, but is it dangerous for you and your family?
It can be incredibly frustrating to discover mould, damp or mildew in your home. But can it negatively affect your health? Read on to find out. We also explore whether mould damages the materials, such as wallpaper, paint, wood or tiles, on which it has grown.
What is mould?
Mould is a microscopic fungus that thrives in damp and humid conditions. You may have spotted signs of mould in your bathroom, kitchen or other rooms in your home.
The tell-tale signs of mould include visible fuzzy black, white or green patches that can appear anywhere. The most common places for mould to appear are in corners, on ceilings and in your shower or bathtub. But mould can also grow on windows, fabric, carpet, cardboard, pipes and insulation. As well as the visible signs, you may smell a damp, musty odour.
While your home could be affected by mould all year round, winter and colder weather exacerbates the problem because of the fall in temperatures.
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What causes mould?
Mould is the result of excess moisture. When you step out of a particularly steamy shower or you’ve been cooking, you may notice the appearance of condensation on windows and mirrors. Condensation happens when the temperature falls to what is known as the dew point, and water vapour in the air forms into droplets. When these water droplets come into contact with a cold surface, the droplets create dampness. Without adequate ventilation for the additional moisture to escape, this dampness creates the perfect environment for mould to grow.
While you may want to clean away the mould as soon as you see it, it’s actually more important to understand what’s causing the mould in the first place. It may be as simple as excess moisture and steam in the air following an everyday task such as bathing or cooking. If that’s the case, there are a few different, quick and easy solutions to help remove it. But a leak, either from a pipe, ceiling, roof or window, may require repairs to prevent mould from appearing again.
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How can mould affect your health?
Mould exposure can cause respiratory infections, allergies and asthma, and if you already have any of these conditions it can often worsen the symptoms. For example, mould can trigger asthma attacks, coughing, wheezing and breathlessness by producing allergens and sometimes even toxic substances. These substances can cause an allergic reaction in the body.
Mould can also emit spores, cells and what are known as volatile organic compounds – chemical compounds – into the air. When these are inhaled or touched, it can cause a reaction, which may manifest itself as a runny nose, red eyes, sneezing or a skin rash.
According to the NHS, certain groups are more sensitive to mould than others, including older people, babies and children, individuals with existing skin problems such as atopic eczema, and those with respiratory problems, such as allergies and asthma. People with a weakened immune system should also stay away from mould and damp environments. But how can you prevent mould in the first place?
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How to prevent mould
As with most things, prevention is the best way to protect your home from mould. Taking the time to prevent mould from occurring in the first place can save you a lot of time, effort and energy in the long run.
Some of the easiest ways to prevent mould from growing or building up is to reduce the moisture in your home by opening windows, where possible, and using dehumidifiers. After showering, get into the habit of wiping down wet surfaces such as your shower wall or floor and avoid letting damp towels lie around for long periods.
When cooking, switch on an extractor fan or cooker hood. You’ll also want to watch out for any rainwater seepage after a heavy downpour, along with any possible plumbing leaks, and deal with them promptly. These steps will make it much more difficult for mould to find that ideal dark, warm and humid environment that it needs to spread.
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What if you live in rented accommodation and mould has appeared?
If you rent your home and you’ve tried to keep it as moisture-free as possible but mould is still occurring, then it’s the landlord’s responsibility to fix it. Both social and private landlords have a responsibility to ensure that the property is fit for habitation.
However, it’s crucial to note that the landlord may not be responsible if the cause of the mould is because of poor ventilation on your part. It may be worth contacting the Citizens Advice Bureau for advice and assistance on this topic if you find yourself in this situation.