Flooding across Queensland and weeks of high humidity have highlighted health issues relating to mould in workplaces and homes.
People with normal immune systems are unlikely to be affected, but for those with an allergy to mould, asthma or lung disease, the elderly, or those with chronic diseases like diabetes, or with low immunity, mould exposure may cause health problems. Symptoms include respiratory infections, irritation to the nose, eyes and throat, skin rashes and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
A musty, unpleasant odour particularly when mould has contaminated wall cavities, ceiling spaces or is under carpets or floor coverings generally means there’s a problem. If porous materials cannot be completely dried out within 48 hours, they may need replacing to prevent mould and bacteria growing. If you suspect mould contamination but cannot source the problem or if you have taken measures to prevent mould from growing and still have problems, you could employ a professional such as an occupational hygienist or environmental hygienist specialist.
To control mould:
- keep mould-susceptible building materials dry during construction and ensure adequate drainage around buildings
- regularly inspect and maintain buildings and fixtures and undertake repairs promptly
- maintain heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems and make sure these are set to the environmental conditions
- manage water vapour and condensation, especially in high water vapour areas such as bathrooms and showers
- clean up wet areas and water damage promptly (within 24-48 hours)
- keep windows and doors open and use fans to dry out indoor areas to minimise mould growth.
Using a dry brush to remove mould is not recommended as this could spread it to other areas. Thoroughly clean contaminated hard surfaces and materials using water and detergent (soapy water) or a vinegar solution and dry completely. Protect yourself from mould spores by wearing a P2 respirator, gloves and safety glasses. Clean all tools and equipment after use. On completion, do a final clean-up to remove any dust that may have settled and remember to wash your hands with soap and running water before eating, drinking or smoking, after contact with mould, and following removal of PPE.
A complete list of cleaning tips and advice, including the best products to use, can be found at Guidelines for Managing Mould and Dampness Related Public Health Risks in Buildings (Government of Western Australia Department of Health) and the Dealing with mould after a storm, flood or cyclone fact sheet (Queensland Health).
Read more on Managing Mould.