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April 3, 2004 

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Mould FAQs

Mould inspector Frank Haverkate tested the apartment of Nediera Singh's for Marketplace. Here are the full inspection results and mould report, both in pdf format.

Haverkate answered some questions regarding indoor mold growth.

How does mould grow?  
Mould occurs naturally in the environment. It is an integral part of the eco-system, along with plants, soil and the process of natural decay. Mould requires both “food” and “water” to thrive. The “food” can be any cellulose material like soil, wood, paper, fabric, drywall, or carpeting. As for the “water”, this can be moisture in the form of condensation, humidity, even a minor, but persistent water leak.
When indoor relative humidity is too high, or if condensation levels aren’t controlled, the potential for mould growth is increased. As for indoor flooding - a water leak, a roof leak, or an appliance overflow - these should be properly cleaned up within 24 hours to avoid the potential for mould growth.

Why is mould growth a concern?  
The big difference between indoor and outdoor mould, is the surrounding environment. In the outdoors, we have an inter-connected eco-system, with a wide variety of mould species, and with everything balanced by nature. Indoor mould growth can involve one, or several species. Concentration and coverage is usually related to some moisture problem, which may be caused by a hidden water leak, high levels of humidity, or uncontrolled condensation. If unattended, mould growth will continue to spread, and in time, the problem can become severe and difficult to clean up. When mould is identified as toxic (usually through testing and analysis), various health issues can arise - from simple headaches; to sinus and respiratory symptoms; to severe nosebleeds; to serious skin rashes.

Why don't I just kill the mould with a biocide or bleach?  
There are many products on the market that claim to remove mould. The fact is, dead mould spores are as toxic as live spores. The only difference is that dead mould does not have the ability to grow. But you still have a mould problem! In any case, mould requires proper cleanup by experts with the tools and the know-how. As for using biocides (including household bleach), you can create additional forms of toxicity while you’re trying to deal with the mould.

If I find mould, why not just remove it without testing?  
In some cases, this would be adequate. However, the mould you see is not always the full extent of the growth. Mould can grow inside the wall cavity, or above the ceiling, without any evidence – you can’t see it, and you can’t smell it. We have actually found mould in one 
room of a building, only to find the original source in another room, and not always in an accessible area.

I found mould and reduced the humidity to 30%, in order to dry it out.  
Although high levels of humidity can cause mould growth, reducing the levels to dry out the mould is not always the answer. Indeed, drying out mould increases the chance of aerosolizing (spores spreading through the air). Mould has a natural defense mechanism when disturbed, and can release spores into the air so they can grow anew elsewhere. One should avoid high relative humidity, but also avoid drying things out.

I found mould in a corner of my bedroom – can I just replace the drywall.  
Wherever you suspect mould growth, you need to know how much is growing and why. The source of the mould must be identified, and the moisture problem needs to be sourced. Ideally, mould growth should be tested, in order to determine the extent of the mould, the severity of the problem, and the species of mould. With this kind of accurate data, a proper cleanup procedure can take place. In some cases, drywall can be replaced after the mould is removed. In other cases, special precautions must be taken in unaffected areas of the building, and with the occupants or residents.

We just bought a house and will be renovating. How can mold testing help?  
When you don't know the history of a particular building, it is advisable to test for mold. Testing is best done before removing walls, or doing any structural work. Remember - disturbing mold can make a bad situation even worse. Unfortunately, building related illnesses have often been exacerbated by careless building maintenance; cavalier renovating practices; or unsafe removal of building materials. All of these practices contribute to toxic mould exposure because of aerosolized mold spores during the renovation or demolition.

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