Could you have a silent killer in your home?

If there’s mould in your home, you’re at risk, researchers warn.

Could you have a silent killer in your home?

Asthma affects around 339 million people around the world and kills as many as 1000 people every day, according to the Global Asthma Report 2018.

In Australia, one in nine people – around 2.7 million – have been diagnosed with the condition and the estimated cost in 2015 was $28 billion or $11,740 per person with asthma.

On World Asthma Day, is there a game-changer on the horizon?

While allergies, pollens and storms are known triggers, researchers at Melbourne University have found a common household substance that can increase the risk of asthma by 26 per cent.

Dr John Burgess, research fellow at the Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Melbourne University, says mould is a key trigger.

Writing in The Conversation, he says: “It’s hard to escape indoor mould. It’s unsightly, but the bigger problem is that it can harm your lungs.”

Detailing his findings, published in the journal Respirology, Dr Burgess says indoor mould can increase the risk of active asthma, even in those who don’t have an allergy to mould.

His research involved participants in the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study, the world’s largest and longest-running population-based study of lung health. The study started in 1968 when 8583 seven-year-old Tasmanian schoolchildren were enrolled by their parents. They’re now in their middle age.

Follow-up tests of this study group over the past 12 months found the overall risk of active asthma was increased by 26 per cent in those who had visible mould in the home.

“We also found that the more rooms in the house affected by mould, the greater the risk of active asthma,” he says. “In other words, there was evidence that the ‘dose’ of mould influenced the risk of active asthma.

“In our study, 35 per cent of participants reported mould in the home in the last 12 months and 13 per cent of those skin tested had mould allergy. Other studies have found mould allergy in up to 24 per cent of the general population and up to 80 per cent among asthmatics.

“One of the problems in trying to decide if mould has a causal role in asthma is that mould allergy often occurs in common with allergies to other asthma-related agents, particularly house dust mites. This co-existence makes it difficult to tease out the role of any single agent.

“In addition, mould and dampness go hand in hand, and excessive indoor dampness in its own right is a known risk factor for asthma. Given the potential for climate change to lead to more extreme weather and increase the risk of flooding, indoor dampness may well become more of a problem in the future.”

The good news, according to health authorities, is that getting rid of mould can reduce the incidence of asthma.

They suggest such treatments as Tea Tree Oil and fermented vinegar solutions, saying it’s best to avoid dry brushes, which can spread mould further, and bleach, which doesn’t kill mould but merely bleaches the colour.

But more importantly, authorities say households need to address the causes of mould. Aim to lessen indoor humidity and dampness by improving home ventilation and heating. Address ongoing problems with dampness caused by broken roof tiles, poor cavity wall ventilation and rising damp.

Do you have asthma? Could mould be a trigger?



    To make a comment, please register or login

    7th May 2019
    Open the windows after those long steamy showers?

    Always have some ventilation anyhow.

    We had friends who complained about the mould that formed in Winter in their second bedroom. The room was unoccupied and the window was always closed. In winter the extra moisture from hot showers, a kerosene heater, cooking and shut windows against the cold, provided the ideal conditions for mould.

    But as we also told them, they were lucky not to have suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning from the gas stove and fuel heater. Their reaction was that the owner should instal CO monitors! No thought of providing any ventilation.

    With the very high cost of power, one wonders if more and more retired people will be turning their homes into airtight cells to preserve heat and thereby be putting themselves at risk. Mould might be the obvious but smaller problem.
    7th May 2019
    Look at the outside of your house as well. Blocks are getting smaller and smaller and privacy hedges and trees are getting taller stopping the sun from windows and gardens. No access to sunshine often creates mould in houses.
    7th May 2019
    I have a shocking mould problem, but my issue is the opposite. My home has mould growing in WELL VENTILATED, DRY, OPEN areas, including in sunlight, yet my bathroom, toilet & two mostly unused rooms are virtually mould free. I've tried everything short of a flame thrower to kill it, but so far it's grown through chlorine, commercial mould killer, tea tree, clove oil - everything, including Concrobium, which is lauded as the best product in the known universe for KILLING the damned stuff, but it's actually growing through it. It's even growing, thriving in fact, on my sunny, west-facing windows. There's no excess moisture, termites, or anything we can find to account for it.
    7th May 2019
    It must be coming from somewhere. And whatever it is clearly has the perfect growing environment for that particular type of mould. I assume you have had the experts in? Try the local council health department, they may have some ideas.
    7th May 2019
    Mould grows where it is moist and dark, preferably soiled surfaces.

    Where the usual contributing factors can be ruled out, check the other side of the suspect wall/floors for poor/damaged waterproofing or leaks, eg landscaping build-up above weep holes, failed damp proof course (sometimes excess mortar and scrap has been left behind in a brick veneer wall cavity, or even a dripping pipe in a wall.

    Mould does not grow otherwise. That is the science.
    8th May 2019
    Hi Lorraine, I live in the wet tropics also, Mould loves the wet tropics, the easiest and cheapest way to deal with mould is by painting it with common Borax, - if you add borax to water it will disolve, up to a point, where some will not mix in, that water saturated substance can be painted or sprayed on to almost any surface without doing harm as it simply changes the ph to strongly Alkaline, Mould flourishes in Acidic envrironment, fails in Alkaline envrionment. you can wash yor mouldy clothes, sheets etc in borax, it kills it all, - it may not remove that mould but put it in a dryer and that shakes out the dead mould and doesnt spread spores around because they are all dead. - You can wash your hair with it as many dandruffs are a variety of mould, dip your feet in it for tinia etc, rub some solution under armpits etc as the world's cheapest personal de-odourant.
    Also for Timber, you can paint it on the green timber to kill any mould, but as it is water soluble you need to seal it in with Tung oil or whatever. For wet carpet, simply sprinkle the dry borax powder on the carpet until it is no longer absorbed, dry out the carpet with a fan, - even leave it in situ. (available for $10/kg at most supermarkets or agricultural supplies (Borax is essential for plant growth and as it is soluble it is removed by the rain, - not an uncommon event in the wet tropics, so you need to add it to your biochar or compost, app. a match per half acre. In the human diet, it is required at app. 5mg/day, if you buy food grown with artificial fertilisers there is hardly any borax in it so need to add it as a supplement or the blood gets unbalanced re calcium carrying ability, so too little calcium, Osteo, too much, Arthtitis, - so much pain and suffering can be avoided or even cured by just enough of that trace element, Borax.
    7th May 2019
    Having lived in every state(except Tasmania) I can say that the only place I encountered mould was in Queensland, specifically Toowoomba. Ii even grew on the glass window panes. My wife tried every local remedy to no avail. Following Toowoomba we went to Perth and had no problem with mould. Question: is the likelihood of mould more prevalent in some locations than others?
    7th May 2019
    Qld has high humidity which mould loves.
    7th May 2019
    Clove oil also kills mold.
    Try clearing out your house of all the chemicals, use natural cleaning products.
    Also cutting out dairy has been known to help too.
    7th May 2019
    This stuff grew through straight clove oil, industrial chlorine, and straight alkaline salts & thrives in sunlit, well ventilated interior spaces.

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