Collective Change

A couple of years ago, I noticed that my eight year old daughter had persistent symptoms of sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, mucus with a wheezy cough. At the start we assumed it was just hay fever, my husband suffers with it terribly and we put it down to that. But as time went on,  it became apparent that this was something more complex than just hay fever.  After one scary hospital stay due to very low oxygen levels and respiratory difficulties, I listened to my instincts and decided to book her in for an allergy test. The results were alarming – she has a severe allergy to mould and was producing 50 times more histamine than a normal adult. This is when I started my research into mould and its potential health concerns.

What is mould?

Mould is a fungus that reproduces by making spores (Better Health, 2015) and produces mycotoxins, which can become airborne and are capable of causing disease and death in humans and animals (Bennett & Klich, 2003). It can grow almost anywhere where there is water damage, high levels of humidity or dampness.

Nicole Bijlsma, founder of the Australian College of Environmental Studies, describes her respect for mould as the most resilient species on the planet – a type of black fungi that eats radiation was discovered inside the Chernobyl nuclear reactor (2018). 

There are thousands of species of mould, around 120 of which are associated with poor indoor air quality in both old and new homes, while 400 types are related to diseases relevant to humans, animals and plants (Bijlsma,2018).  You might think that you need to be able to see or smell it for it to be present, but this is not the case. Often it is hidden and by the time it has made itself visible on your walls you have a major issue going on. 

How can mould effect your health?

When inhaled, these spores cause the immune system to respond by creating allergic reactions as a natural defence against the foreign particles entering the body. This response however, can result in various health problems and severe allergic symptoms. If you have damp and mould in your home you’re more likely to have respiratory infections, allergies or asthma.

Mould produces toxic chemicals called mycotoxins, which are present both on mould spores and fragments of mould and fungus that are released into the air.  It is these mycotoxins that can wreak havoc with your health. In a nutshell, the immune system is sent into overdrive in response to the mould mycotoxins, which can suppress the production of glutathione, which is is critical for liver detoxification and scavenging free radicals – this can contribute to oxidative stress, leading to tissue damage and systematic illness” (Zara D’Cotta – Healthy home E-Course)

Different people react to mould exposure in different ways, but babies, children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system are usually most vulnerable to the negative effects of mould. The type and severity of the symptoms depend on the type of mould present in the home and the extent of mould exposure. One in four people are genetically susceptible to mould illness – those who carry the HLA-DR gene, which is estimated to be 24% of the normally distributed population (Surviving Mould). That’s potentially 1 in 8 people! In 75% of the population, the body identifies mould as a toxin and produces antibodies that will clear it out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t experience symptoms as a result of mould. In a person who is mould sensitive, it will stay in the body. 

With so many different symptoms associated with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (a.k.a. mould illness) and so few medical practitioners trained to diagnose and treat it, it can be hard to know where to start if you think mould may be making you sick. 

How can we treat mould?

If you already have mould present in your home, you need to find the source and get rid of the root problem with professional remediation, if necessary.  

In the event of a new water leak/damage it is imperative to address it straight away as it only takes 24-48 hours for mould to grow. 

To ensure that you keep moisture levels down within your home I recommend the following:

  • Ventilate daily with fresh air when it’s not humid outside.
  • Minimise dust and clutter, as it is food for mould.
  • Vacuum weekly with a HEPA filter vacuum.
  • Allow air to flow between furniture.
  • When showering or bathing, open window and run fan to prevent condensation for at least 30 minutes after.
  • Keep indoor humidity levels at 40 to 60 percent (have a hygrometer to measure humidity) and set up a dehumidifier if necessary.
  • Use an air conditioner with a HEPA filter to remove spores in the air, and change the filter regularly. If you don’t have AC, close windows when it’s humid.
  • Use an air purifier such as the AIR DOCTOR PRO that captures mould spores. 
  • Avoid drying clothes indoors.
  • Ensure adequate waterproofing on external walls where there are garden beds to prevent water seeping through walls.
  • Washing machines -running a cycle every now and then with white vinegar to clean the machine and add a bit of clove oil (5 to 6 drops).

How to remove any visible mould:

  • With a good quality cloth, warm water and a non-toxic detergent, wipe down the area with vinegar to treat the bacteria and vacuum the area with a HEPA filter vacuum.  
  • Tea tree and Clove essential oils have been found to be very effective anti-fungal agents.  Avoid using citrus essential oils in tiled areas as they can wear down the waterproof membrane.

How to make mould spray 

1 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
10 drops Oregano
10 drops Tea Tree
10 drops Clove
(add a dash of the On Guard Cleaner concentrate if you have it). Combine in a glass spray bottle and spray directly on to mould. 

I highly recommend watching the documentary Mouldy Movie by Dave Asprey if you want to learn more about mould and it’s toxicity. 

Written by Natasha.