Moulds are a type of fungi, the group of very common organisms that includes mushrooms and yeasts. Moulds are most likely to grow in wet or damp conditions. In the home, places at threat from mould growth include wall, ceiling and floor coverings, insulation material and wooden constructions that have become dampened by water ingress. Water may find its way into the structure through poor maintenance or design.
Whilst mould and its spores (moulds spread by releasing millions of tiny spores into the air) are not harmful to healthy individuals, the elderly, very young, people who are ill or who have chemical sensitivities or allergies may be at risk. Exposure to mould can cause, eye, nose and throat irritation, sinus congestion and common cold like symptoms as well as increase the occurrence of asthma attacks and allergic reactions. With an increasing volume of research identifying the detrimental effect on health of moulds this is an area of increasing concern to healthy house builders.
So how do we avoid this risk?
- Protect against humidity & moisture in the building through adequate provision & maintenance of damp proofing.
- Make sure that water is successfully conveyed away from the building by correctly functioning guttering, down pipes and drains.
- Ensure that the building is well ventilated; that air flows through the building and that areas of humidity and moisture are not allowed to build up.
- Maintain all internal plumbing to avoid leakage.
- Where possible & appropriate, use natural materials in construction that enhance the breath-ability of the structure. For example, lime in mortar, render and even lime-crete for floor construction or sheep wool insulation.
NOTE: This last point is a complex and intricate one. Approaches to damp control vary greatly between traditional and modern buildings. A misguided combination of traditional and modern may lead to a poor meshing of technologies & materials and an exasperation of damp related issues. In general traditional building techniques promote the breath-ability of the building to manage damp, whilst modern buildings seek to use impervious materials as a barrier to damp.