Mold in Your Home Can Make You Feel Lousy

It may be more than just the short days and lack of sunlight that gets us down at this time of year. During the dark months of the Greater Vancouver winter most people spend upwards of 90% of their time indoors. Dampness and molds growing inside the home could be to blame for some of our bleak moods. Molds are some of the most common of biological indoor pollutants. Molds suppress the immune system and particularly affect children, the elderly and people with medical problems. Negative health effects range from irritant to allergen to toxin. The American Review of Respiratory Disease reports that the effect of dampness and molds on the respiratory health of children is equal in power to that of parental smoking. Symptoms associated with dampness and molds include:

  • sluggishness;
  • mental fatigue;
  • irritation of skin, eyes, nose and throat;
  • respiratory problems;
  • aching joints;
  • headache, including migraine;
  • nausea and vomiting.

Prolonged exposure to pollutants can also have indirect health effects, including:

  • susceptibility to disease from other causes,
  • aggravation of an existing disease,
  • sensitization to other environmental factors.

When different parts of the home are kept at different temperatures, the cooler parts will support mold growth. Typically, homes with Electric or Radiant Heating systems are prone to mold growth because the air is not being circulated. Smaller living quarters tend to have greater mold problems due to the lower volume of air. Poor air circulation creates an environment with warmer and cooler areas. Moisture condenses and then molds grow in the cooler areas, such as around windows and skylights, in damp basements and crawlspaces, in carpets that have been wet, and on the soil surface of houseplants. Homes that have crawlspaces with earth floors are particularly susceptible – it’s naturally cool and damp, and ideal for mold growth. Take these steps to make your home healthier. Eliminate mold in the home Clean moldy areas with hydrogen peroxide or a citrus-based cleaner. Discard moldy items, such as furnishings, equipment or building components. Take measures to repair conditions that lead to mold growth (moisture, cold, etc.) Separate moldy areas of the home to prevent “off-gassing” Seal the material itself to prevent it from “off-gassing” (gradual release of volatile or toxic substances). Create a clean-air “oasis” such as a bedroom within the house. Cover the earth floor in a crawlspace with a 6 ml. vapour barrier, creating an airtight seal by attaching it to the foundation walls. Ventilate to prevent mold growth Good ventilation includes continuous air exchange, distribution, circulation, and control of temperature, humidity and pollutants. A simple solution for an existing home is to install a humidistat on a bathroom fan and a fresh air vent elsewhere in the home – as far away as possible, preferably on a lower floor. The humidistat controls the moisture level by bringing fresh air into the house and making an inhospitable climate for mold growth. Exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms remove pollutants at their source, and should be used frequently. A whole house ventilation unit, such as a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV), brings in outside air and removes an equivalent amount of stale indoor air. Heat from the outgoing air is used to warm the incoming air during cold weather. It is an ideal choice in new construction, but because of the extensive ductwork required, is costly to install in an existing building. Mold growth in the home is linked to numerous health problems, from low-grade to severe. When molds are found indoors they must be eliminated, their cause remedied, and ventilation established to maintain a constant supply of fresh air and a moisture controlled environment. Every effort made to create indoor air that is fresh, clean and odour-free will improve health, overall well being, and, with a little luck, just may chase those winter blues away. Written and published by our Vancouver home inspectors – Primus Home Inspections Ltd.