Mould is a non-scientific term for many types of fungus, these are unwanted, unappealing patches of yellow, black, brown, pink, red, green, smelly, fuzzy growths. Countless species of mold are found both indoors and outdoors.
“Mould” and “fungus” have many connotations, most of them unpleasant: musty odors, damp basements, mouldy carpets, water leaks, soggy plasterboard, athlete’s foot, and poisonous mushrooms, among others. On the positive side, molds are also responsible for penicillin and the creamy blue cheese; yeasts are fungi, these are used to make bread, beer, and wine; and some types of mushrooms are considered edible. And without fungi to break them down, the world would be buried in leaves, trees, grass, and mountains of garbage.
Although mould and its spores are literally everywhere, active mold growth requires moisture. Whether on visible surfaces or hiding behind plasterboard, in attics, or under carpets, indoor mould grows in the presence of excessive water or dampness.
Mould growth in homes, schools, and businesses should be eliminated for the sake of human health, structural integrity, and quality of life. Cleaning up small amounts of mold can be done by homeowners themselves. Eliminating mould from large areas requires expertise and protection both for the removal specialists and occupants of the affected space.
Molds and other fungi grow easily in damp indoor environments. People who spend time in such environments sometimes complain of respiratory effects, headaches, and other physical symptoms. In addition to visible or hidden mold, damp spaces likely harbor mold break-down products, dust mites, bacteria, and chemicals, gasses, and particulate matter released from the materials on which molds are growing. Given the difficulties in testing for all of these elements, hard evidence of precise cause-and-effect can be elusive.
In an extensive 2004 report, the Institute of Medicine did not find enough evidence to identify health effects which were definitely caused by spending time in damp indoor spaces. However, the experts found that being in damp indoor spaces seemed related to respiratory illnesses: nose and throat [upper respiratory] symptoms, cough, wheeze, and asthma symptoms. They also found limited evidence that these environments can be associated with shortness of breath, the development of asthma in people who did not previously suffer from it, and lower respiratory symptoms (coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath) in healthy children. Based on available research, the researchers were not able to substantiate claims of numerous other symptoms such as skin irritations, fatigue, cancer, lung disease, or respiratory infections. There was enough evidence of health effects overall, though, that the researchers identified damp indoor spaces as a public health problem that needs to be addressed.
Mould spores are literally everywhere; controlling moisture is the key to preventing their growth. Sources within homes, businesses, and schools include leaks through roofs, walls, and basements; condensation on windows and in bathrooms; standing water in drains, on floors, and in heating, cooling, and dehumidifying equipment; heating/cooling ducts; and wet floors and carpets. Preventing mould growth requires preventing leaks, removing standing water, venting areas prone to condensation (especially bathrooms and kitchens), and immediately drying or removing damp carpets and furniture.
If mould is clearly present, as determined by visual inspection or a reputable inspector, it should be removed because it can destroy the materials it grows on and is associated with human health problems. Small amounts of mould on hard surfaces can be removed with commercial mold and mildew removers, or with a solution of bleach and water*