Is Black Mold a Health Hazard?

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Health Hazard
Photo by Daniel X. O'Neil, CC BY

Are you worried about toxic mold in your home and office?

If you suffer from a host of cold-like symptoms like runny nose and sneezing, especially during spells of damp weather, those can all be telltale symptoms of toxic mold exposure.

That was the unfortunate experience of Robyn Bell in the Brisbane home she shared with her partner Matthew Willmore. Various respiratory illnesses and skin infections plagued them during their three-year stay, not to mention other debilitating symptoms of mold sickness like constant fatigue, depression, and loss of libido. Even their two pet cats were not spared. When the suspicion finally fell on mold infestation in that house, they moved out and their mold exposure symptoms were greatly diminished shortly after moving out.

Robyn Bell feels that their house was killing them! More accurately, the toxic mold in their home was doing that job quite well. Be forewarned about the health hazards associated with black mold; they can be deadly!

Mold is a fungus that thrives in cold and damp conditions. It spreads by releasing spores into the air. These spores are everywhere, but we are pretty much immune to their ubiquitous presence in the air outside. But high concentration of spores in a toxic mold infested home can wreck our health and cause a wide range of symptoms of black mold exposure .

Repeated episodes of symptoms like runny nose, teary eyes, headaches, respiratory distress, skin allergies etc. are not the only effects of mold. Recent findings link toxic black mold to neurological symptoms like memory loss and depression, as well as the high incidence of bronchitis and pneumonia in babies with exposure to black mold in their homes.

Toxic black mold is likened to asbestos by environmental scientist Dr. Peter Dingle, the presenter of ‘Is Your House Killing You?’ on SBS. The effects of mold on our respiratory system can be as serious as that of passive smoking.

In spite of all the cleaning products available in shops, this scourge is difficult to eliminate. Pauline Ferguson, a building biologist from Queensland who deals with mold regularly, warns us against the use of harmful chemicals. Fungicides are extremely toxic chemicals. They are not fit for use in homes and offices, as very high concentrations are required for the effective removal of mold.

Ammonia and bleaches are also not effective, as they only remove the visible signs of mold. Like cancer, it can re-grow unless eradicated completely. She recommends natural vinegar for removing surface mold. A mixture of seven parts vinegar and three parts water can be applied with a soft cloth.

Mold experts (mycologists) state that 98% of mold removal depends on mechanical processes such as vacuuming, brushing, using high-pressure cleaners etc.

For deep-rooted mold professional help is the only option.

Tips from Shannon Lush who co-authored Household Wisdom:

To prevent mold in your home:

  • Hang pieces of chalk in cupboards to absorb extra moisture. They can be reused after drying them in the sun.
  • Line the back of bookshelves with chalk. It can prevent mold from growing on books and their covers.

To kill the mold in your home:

  • Spray a mixture of half a teaspoon of clove oil in 2 liters of tap water on hard surfaces with mold. Upholstery, carpets and fabrics can be treated this way.
  • Apply a mixture of quarter teaspoon of clove oil and 250ml of baby oil for mold on leather.

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