Ireland has the fourth highest incidence of asthma globally, is a damp environment to blame?
The issue of damp and its effects on our health has long been debated and in more recent time, scientifically investigated.
The word ‘damp’ and ‘mold’ can create fear when you don’t know what you’re dealing with. In this post we’ll discuss the findings from the scientific evidence as well as opinions from the medical profession.
Studies were undertaken by the WHO (World Health Organisation) in 2009 and 2011. Similarly, studies were also carried out by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences.
From these studies, it was found that evidence of dampness/mold in buildings were consistently connected with increases in a number of diseases. An example of these diseases include development of new asthma, exacerbation of existing asthma, respiratory infections, bronchitis, allergic rhinitis (inflammation of nasal passages with runny nose or congestion), and eczema.
“Moisture in homes has been identified again and again to be associated with respiratory problems and other detrimental health to people within these homes,” said Dr. Richard Shaugnessy, director of the Clean Air Program at the University of Tulsa.
Dampness on its own (high moisture levels in portions of a building), is not considered to directly cause health effects. It seems likely that mold or bacteria growth in damp materials is involved in causing the above health effects. However, the evidence was insufficient to rule out a role for other pollutant exposures that are increased in damp and moldy buildings, such as chemical emissions from damp materials.
“The underlying public health message is that we know that people get sick from living and working in damp spaces. The things that make them sick all relate to dampness. Mold — the smell, the visibility of mold — becomes an indicator,” said Dr. Harriet Amman, a toxicologist and affiliate professor at the University of Washington
What is mold?
Mold has been on our Earth for millions of years. In short, it is a fungus that grows in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae. Mold can attach itself to clothes/shoes/handbags/toys and it has the ability to travel. Mold can be airbourne and it likes to set up home in damp environments. If mold is growing in your home, it needs to be attended to and the moisture problem must also be fully resolved.
Mold growth, which often looks like spots, can be many different colors, and can smell musty. If you can see or smell mold, a health risk may be present. It is most important that the mold is removed and the damp problem fixed. The best practice is to remove the mold and work to prevent future growth.
How can I prevent mold ?
- Tend to any leaks or other sources of moisture ASAP
- Keep humidity levels less than 50%
- Ventilation! This is the most important factor to every home. Ensure you have working vents in every room. Windows should be opened daily to allow a fresh air exchange.
- Ensure wet rooms (kitchen/bathroom/utility) have extra ventilation.
- Set your heating to a lower level but for a longer period of time. Rapid heating/cooling can cause condensation as well as mold.
For more information or to get help with renovating or restoring your building, get in touch.