Common moulds as manifest in mouldy and flaking damp walls may be responsible for a surprising range of allergies. Mould is a fungus. Under a microscope a typical mould specimen resembles a plant with a tangle of threads called mycelium growing off the branches. The moulds grow and are propagated by freeing their spores into the air where they become air borne and from where they can be inhaled.

The immune system of humans releases histamines to counter the moulds ingested to the lungs and these in some persons histamines can result in breathing difficulties, stuffy noses, sneezing, coughing and even irritation of the eyes or skin. More severe reactions to moulds may include nausea, weight loss, fatigue, asthma, lack of concentration and even respiratory failure.

There are many species of mould, but the more common are ASPERGILLIUM, CLADOSPORUIUM and PENICILLIN and under ideal conditions, these moulds can proliferate, germinate and disperse in just a few days.

In a moist building, these moulds can be easily removed and their propagation stunted... Wet the walls to prevent the mould from becoming airborne. Use non ammoniated cleaners to scrub and clear the stains off ceilings and walls. A 25% solution of common household bleach (JIK) will restrict the growth and propagation of mould. Protective safety gear of gloves and eye protection should be used when cleaning with chemicals. The area should be well ventilated while working with bleach.

House Dust Mites

Not all allergic reactions are caused by mould. House Dust Mites cause many allergies and are the major cause of Perennial Rhinitis in South Africa. The highest concentrations of the mites in a home are found in bedding and mattresses of our homes The staple diet is of House Dust Mites is the microscopic pieces of skin that are discarded naturally. Clothing, lounge furniture and carpets are further ideal homes for House Dust Mites.

Both moulds and Mites have one common ally- - Damp moist areas in our homes. Humidity is the most important factor in the growth and development of Moulds and Mites, especially here on the East Coast of South Africa.

Regular airing and direct sunlight ensure a reduction of the formation of Mould and therefore make a big positive difference to health of effected persons. Mattresses and bedding should be aired regally; suits and stored clothing should be dry-cleaned if possible. The average human sweats up to one litre a day into garments. This moisture is where the moulds can start to grow. Ironing of clothing and mattresses will slow the proliferation of mould.

The source of water in damp walls has to be corrected. One common mistake home owners make when confronted with damp walls is to try to mask the symptoms of the damp in their homes and often resort to the indiscriminate use of sealants to cover walls damaged by damp. DAMP TECH often comes across people placing their faith in a road marking paint to solve their problems of damp ingress.

How toxicity enters the home

As the water molecule (H2O) moves through a porous substance like soil, cement or brick, minerals, mineral salts and nutrients are absorbed. These minerals move through the substrate carried in the water via a process called osmosis. The chlorines and sulphates and nutrients migrate with the water and stop on the surface of the wall when the water molecule evaporates. These minerals remain on the surface and are easily recognised as a furry beard of white crystals on the wall. It is the Toxicity of these salts that causes the damage to painted surfaces and plaster - not the water. Moulds proliferates in the minerals and mites feed off the nutrients.

The covering of the wet wall with a sealant without cutting off the source of water will prevent evaporation for a while but will increase the toxicity level of the trapped water. Over time, the sealant and plaster will delaminate from each other causing the paint to bubble. During this process the moisture level increases and spreads to previously unaffected areas of the wall resulting in additional damage.

Some causes of damp are from incomplete or deteriorated grouting in the showers, plumbing leaks, cracks on external plaster, unsealed window frames, broken or missing roof tiles, exterior soil above the DPC (Damp Proof Course) and rising damp. Split level houses are often affected by a damaged DPC.

There are solutions to most damp problems - Many effective DIY remedies are available, unfortunately the advice offered at Hardware service stores is often incomplete and not fully understood.

The very best advice to customers who have damp in their homes , customers in industry or prospective home purchasers is to get a professional independent survey the premises. These reports are available from DAMP TECH. A damp report should be part of the transfer documentation during the purchase of new homes. These Damp reports should be requested alongside the electrical clearance and entomology reports.

A damp survey can highlight damp, allow the repair of the source of damp and therefore both improve health of residents and ensure the prolonged structural integrity of the building.

Houses, commercial property and businesses both old and newly built, can develop damp problems. Invariably damp ingress can be corrected. Only a survey performed with the correct equipment can identify hidden and covered damp. See Services Offered.

The removal of the source of damp will contribute to the reduction of human infection from moulds, the securing of structural integrity of buildings and improved aesthetics of our buildings.