The presence of mould in our indoor environment is a potential health hazard, whether it is in our home or at our workplace. Health risks to building occupants will vary. Some people can enter visibly mouldy areas and show no real reaction, while others can react very strongly to small amounts of contamination. This is dependent on factors such as the degree of exposure to mould and human response. This makes it difficult to determine a “safe” level of mould. Mould is not a “designated substance” in Ontario and therefore does not require some of the same legislation as things like asbestos or lead. However, regulators such as Health Canada consider indoor mould growth a significant health hazard and recommend visible mould growth be removed, regardless of mould type. There are many published standards for this work. Any mould growth greater than 1 sq meter (10 sq ft), should be removed by trained professionals in conjunction with one of the published standards.
While no exposure to mould is healthy, it poses a greater health risk to:
- Infants and children
- Immune compromised people
- Pregnant women
- Individuals with respiratory conditions
How do I control mould?
NO indoor environment is free of mould spores. Mould spores are always present in some quantities. What matters is the type of mould and the quantity.
There are many things property owners can do to minimize the potential for mould growth. Controlling moisture/water intrusion limits the opportunity for mould to grow.
Mould grows on natural fibers. We fill our indoor environments with the type of products that mould uses as its food source. Things like raw wood (such as plywood and OSB), paper products (cardboard, paper backing on drywall), natural fiber clothing, furniture, etc.
Since the indoor temperatures that we are accustomed to are ideal for mould growth and we fill our indoors with food for it to grow, the only defense we have is to control its opportunity to access moisture. Moisture for mould can be from many sources. It can be from direct sources such as a leak, or even from humidity and condensation.
Visible mould growth is evidence that there is an issue somewhere that needs to be addressed. This may be as simple as reducing humidity in certain areas, or as much as repairing leaks to foundations or hidden sources such as pipes leaking behind walls. Once mould appears, it will not go away on its own, even after the moisture source is eliminated. It may no longer be viable (able to produce spores), but it may remain dormant and just waiting for an opportunity to access moisture again.
What do I do if I see mould growth?
- If the mould growth is minor (less than 1 sq meter/10 sq ft), such as along a window sill, you can simply clean it with any cleaning solution you regularly use. Generally speaking, there will be a source of moisture that can be found and should be rectified to prevent the opportunity for regrowth.
- If the mould is greater than 1 sq meter/10 sq ft, do not disturb it. Disturbance of mouldy material allows spores to collect in the air, giving the opportunity for them to be inhaled.
- In all instances, the source of moisture must be corrected in order to reduce the opportunity for future issues. There may be more than one source of moisture contributing to the issue at hand. In some cases, the services of a building science engineer will be required to determine what is required to eliminate the moisture sources.
- Contact Power Environmental to discuss your unique situation so that we can help guide you through the next steps safely.