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Beware of winter mould, Health Unit cautions

SIMCOE, ON, JAN. 17, 2008 – If you notice a musty or earthy smell in your home, it could be the result of winter mould, cautions the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.

“Mould found in the home is often a concern in the winter months due to high humidity and poor ventilation,” explained Glen Steen, Healthy Environment Program Coordinator. “Mould needs moisture to grow, and condensation on walls, ceilings and areas around windows and doors are good sites where mould can grow, particularly in bathrooms with showers.”

Condensation in the home is caused by high humidity with poor ventilation and/or inadequate insulation.

“Knowing the signs of mould in the home is important because you want to clean it up before it becomes a health concern,” Steen said. “Mould may be any colour, black, white, red, orange, yellow, blue or violet. In some cases moulds are hidden, but a musty or earthy smell is often a sign that there is mould present.”

Most common types of mould are usually not harmful to healthy individuals. Pregnant women, infants, the elderly and those with health problems, such as respiratory disease or a weakened immune system, may have a reaction when exposed to mould spores.

Moulds can produce allergens, irritants and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances. Inhaling or touching mould or mould spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay-fever-type symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rash. These symptoms can be immediate or delayed. Once the mould is removed, these symptoms will usually disappear.

“Many symptoms of mould exposure are also associated with several other illnesses, so if you think that you or someone you know has symptoms related to mould exposure, you should consult a doctor,” Steen advised.

If the mould growth covers a large area, it is advisable to hire a professional to do the cleanup. If you spot small areas of mould in your home that are less than one metre by one metre, you can clean them up by scrubbing the areas with detergent (preferably unscented), sponging with a clean, wet rag and then drying the area quickly and thoroughly. Mould on drywall should only be cleaned with a damp cloth and dried immediately. To remove a stain left by the mould, select a stain remover specifically geared to the surface type, e.g., ceramic tile, grout, wallpaper, painted surfaces, etc.

“When cleaning up mould, be sure to wear proper protective equipment, such as safety goggles, a disposable dust mask and household rubber gloves,” Steen said.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has a variety of fact sheets on mould on its website. You can also visit the Health Canada website.

Media Contact:
Glen Steen Program Coordinator,
Healthy Environment Team
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3204

glen.steen@hnhu.org