2019 Hazblock Safety Consulting

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  • Chad Shew

Is there Mould in your Air?

We all know that mould can be harmful. Stories about mould in buildings are frequently in the news. But what is the real risk from mould? Should we really be worried about it?

When we use the word "mould", we are really talking about fungi. Go into any grocery store and you will find plenty of fungi for sale. Mushrooms belong to the fungi kingdom, and so do the moulds found in many types of cheese. So why is it that some moulds are perfectly safe, and others are hazardous?

Mould in Cheese, Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons

One of the most important factors in mould risk is the type of mould. As you might expect, not all moulds are the same. There are certain types of mould that are purposefully added to cheese. When eaten, these moulds typically do not cause a harmful reaction. On the other hand, the mould that likes to grow in buildings is not carefully selected like the mould in cheese. Mould growth in your home or building can be any number of species, many of which are known to be a health risk.

Another reason why indoor mould poses a risk is the route of entry. When we eat something, the path through our body is through the digestive tract. During digestion, there are many defense mechanisms that help remove harmful items. On the other hand, when we inhale something, it enters into our lungs. The lungs also have a defense mechanism. Unfortunately there are millions of people with respiratory allergies or sensitivities. For these people, the lungs' defense mechanism becomes overwhelmed, and they get sick. Even worse, for people who are immune-compromised, mould can cause infections with severe outcomes.

So how do I know if there is mould in my air?

Fortunately, there are many scientific techniques that can be used to detect the presence of mould spores in the air. However, not all mould testing techniques are alike. Many department and home improvement stores sell do-it-yourself mould testing kits, but these offer virtually no practical information to the user.

To accurately identify the amount and types of mould in the air, it takes the eyes of a trained analyst, and the interpretation of an experienced investigator. Obviously no human can simply look into the air and see mould spores - they are microscopic. So the typical process is to capture the spores in a sample. The investigator then has the sample analyzed by a specialized lab, and they interpret the lab results for the mould risk. This is a process that requires experience and specialized knowledge to accomplish.

This might sound like it would cost a hefty price. Many people are surprised to find out that mould testing is actually less expensive than they thought. For many people, the peace of mind of knowing whether mould is in their building, is well worth the cost.

Mould Air Sampling and Analysis

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