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April showers bring hidden mould dangers: What to watch for

Joanne Richard
Special to The Weather Network

Wednesday, April 25, 2018, 8:11 AM - April showers are heading to southern Ontario. That's great for plants, but concentrated bursts of rain also set the perfect conditions for the mould monster to flourish. 

What does that mean?

For some, it could result in a runny nose and more. When a person comes into contact with even the slightest amount of mould, certain antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) are triggered and they initiate an allergy response that could lead to water eyes, runny noses, coughing, and of course respiratory problems, says microbiologist Jason Tetro, of jasontetro.com.

Who are you gonna call? Panicked homeowners are reaching out to mould remediation experts, many who are seeing an increase in calls this summer, including Luis Anacleto, of cleanfirst.ca. Mould loves to grow in places where there are water leaks, flooding, or high humidity. "There’s has been more flooding and water getting in through small cracks in the foundation, as well as water penetration from faulty windows, doors, roof leaks, downspouts, poor grading, cold cellars and more."

It’s the small invisible leaks that lead to large amounts of mould growth – and allergic responses. In addition, when it stops raining and temperatures increase this also increases the activity of fungals, says Anacleto. “Rain will wash pollen away but in doing so it will spread it in tiny amounts and in much larger areas."

We track pollen and other allergens into the house on our clothing and hair without realizing it. So it’s important for allergy sufferers to diminish dust and allergens inside homes as much as possible by closing all windows, removing all dust, using HEPA filtration and washing frequently, suggests Anacleto, who’s been doing mould, toxin and pollution recovery services in the GTA for over two decades.

As for mould, it’s everywhere around us and in every breath we take, so don’t freak out – just yet. 

"Moulds produce a variety of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds. Some are harmless, like geosmin, which gives off that earthy odour we associate with mould. Others may have potential to cause harm," says Tetro, adding that normally, however, the main problem is the development of allergies.

Listen to your nose, it doesn’t lie, stresses Anacleto. A musty, earthy odour is generally a sign that something is amiss. Look for leaks, stains or discolouration on floors, walls, window panes, fabrics and carpets. "Much of what has a negative impact on our health is invisible to us and often takes a prolonged health symptom for people to suspect that something is wrong inside of their homes."

Stachybotrys – that’s the blackish mould that grows on places like drywall – is what to watch out for; Problem is you don’t always see it. When in doubt, have it checked out.

But be aware that there is a lot of “fake news” out there that makes it hard to distinguish between what is factual information and what are scare tactics often leading homeowners to buy an unnecessary product or service, adds Anacleto. A good company will offer advice and guidelines on treating the infected area yourself if size and severity is minor.

Breathe easier with tips from mould remediation expert Luis Anacleto, of cleanfirst.ca:

  • Inattention makes a small mould problem into a bigger one. Deal with any moisture issue fast to minimize damage.
  • Areas of visible mould larger than 10 sq. feet need professional attention. Doing it yourself without specialized equipment and procedures can compromise your health and others in the household.
  • Don’t waste time trying to clean it from porous surfaces like drywall - mould creates a root (hyphae) into the materials and it will come back. Drywall needs to be removed.
  • Don’t get taken when taking away mould:
  • In the era of fake news there are also many fake reviews! Beware online companies that offer to link homeowners to the perfect contractor for free, says Luis Anacleto. Contractors pay to be listed on these sites - whoever pays more usually gets preferred position. “Referrals and word of mouth from colleagues, family, friends and neighbours are still the best way of finding a good contractor.”
  • Beware any company using statements like “you must move” or “`it’s really bad, you got to do it right away!” Run for the hills, says Anacleto. “Most situations can be easily dealt with proper containment, tools and specialized equipment - there is really never a need to panic.”
  • Speaking with previous customers with a similar situation will provide you with crucial information needed to make a wise and calm decision.

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