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Mold on walls: The health hazards

Friday, September 22, 2017

With the rainy season very much on, the problem of mold on walls remains a constant threat. Nilesh Ghadge explains why you shouldn’t ignore the damp effect

The damp stains on the walls of your home do more harm than merely spoiling the look of your interiors – they spoil your health, too. Indoor mold may be unsightly and smelly, but the potential problems are more serious than that. By definition, actively-growing mold damages the material it lives on, thereby impairing structural integrity. In addition, mold is associated with some untoward health effects in humans, including allergies and infections

Check these areas
Molds thrive on sources of freely available nutrients, such as sugar, starch and protein, and in the presence of moisture. Besides the far corner of the refrigerator, they are most likely encountered indoors on tile grout in the bathroom and window sills. Basements and the back walls of cupboards on a cold wall are other likely locations. Molds can grow on drywall, paint, wallpaper, acoustic tiles, wood products and other building materials, particularly if they get wet. This information is of special significance to our homes, where monsoon often causes leakage and seepage of water in walls and ceilings.

Mold can also grow within wall cavities if there is enough moisture – for example, due to a leak, or if water vapour condenses inside the wall due to faulty construction. In older constructions, unsealed openings into the wall cavity can allow fungal products into the living space. They can also grow on curtains and wooden furniture, especially after the monsoon season.

Effects on health
The effect of molds on human health depends on the extent of infestation, the sensitivity and immune levels of the individuals and the duration of exposure. In addition to fungal growth, indoor air quality, interior finishes and furnishings, indoor activities of the occupants, cleaning products and the condition of the heating and ventilating system also determine the health of the residents. But given the right conditions, molds can wreak havoc with human health. Some of the molds are toxic and the effects are visible only when they reach a threshold level in the air.

Respiratory diseases, like asthma, coughing and  wheezing occur more often among people living in humid indoor climates, sometimes even among otherwise healthy people.

If mold  is inhaled or contacts the skin, rashes or dermatitis can occur. Mold exposure can lead to burning sensations in the skin, eyes, nose, throat and lungs.

Useful tips
To get rid out of dampness, Ameya Benare, an architect and interior expert says, “Structures should be treated with anti-fungal coatings during the construction phase. Homes and workplaces should be carefully and thoroughly inspected for dampness and molds.

Special attention should be paid to old constructions. Apart from the stains, the fungi emanate a peculiar smell. Also, curtains should be regularly washed, especially after monsoons. The home should be well-ventilated. Windows should be kept open so as to allow sunrays inside.”

Further he adds, there are also products available in the market, like coatings and injections that can be mixed with water to keep away dampness.
Understanding mold symptoms and health effects can help you and your family identify these indicators and take swift action to protect your health and your home.

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