Experts can’t agree 100% on why asthma and allergies are on the rise, but many health professionals believe that our increasingly sanitised and controlled living conditions hold the key. Modern cleaning methods result in reduced exposure to many allergens and this could inhibit the development of our immune response to dust and other micro-particles. Moreover, during winter our dependence on central heating often reduces air quality as we close windows and seal up draughts to keep warm and save energy.
Black mould – the persistent invader
Whatever the primary reasons for the increase in allergies and respiratory conditions, there is no doubt that the problem is exacerbated by the explosion of black mould outbreaks in our homes. Black mould may only be a primitive fungus, but like all fungi its ongoing survival depends on spreading its spores to colonise new areas. It is these invisible spores, packed with allergens, which released into the air can trigger asthmatic wheezing and other allergic reactions.
But shouldn’t mouldy walls be a thing of the past, confined to dank, cheaply constructed housing projects???….. Well sadly not, because if conditions are right, black mould will thrive anywhere from an inner city tower block to the most palatial penthouse in Mayfair.
All it needs is too much moisture and too little ventilation. And this is where the current problem with air quality really lies.
“Win-win” energy saving vs. the “sealed box” house
To a greater or lesser extent we are all being driven by government, environmental lobbyists, not to mention tightening domestic budgets, to insulate and upgrade our homes for improved energy efficiency. This highly persuasive “win-win” argument is perfectly sensible in and of itself. After all why would you not want to make a modest investment, in triple glazing or “double deep” loft insulation to save money and perhaps the planet?
However, in this dash for environmental “Brownie points”, we are creating “sealed box” living spaces with little or no thought to air quality. Before the advent of double glazing and loft insulation, houses were naturally draughty and it was those annoying draughts which actually maintained the air quality. Modern air-tight window frames, cavity wall insulation, storm door sets, and loft insulation all conspire to stop air movement.
At the same time, we have never generated more moisture vapour in our homes; power showers, baths, cooking, fast boil kettles, washing or drying clothes and even breathing. All these elements increase the moisture content of the air we breathe in our homes every day. And where does all this steam and moisture vapour go? Some escapes to atmosphere but much condenses back to water on cold surfaces like windows, tiles, and cold outside walls, where it frequently results in an outbreak of black mould growth.
Mould will grow anywhere it can get a regular supply of moisture and a nutrient source – which can be plaster, emulsion paint, dust, wood or fabric etc…And black mould positively thrives on a third element – warmth.
Fighting back – strategies to eradicate black mould
Killing off an infestation of black mould is relatively easy and quick to do, using the correct fungicidal cleaning formula, such as Kingfisher Mould Cure. However if you only treat the symptoms it will eventually return, if you fail to address the underlying cause. Try the following measures:
1. In bathrooms, check that the extractor fan is working efficiently, as they are prone to becoming blocked with fluff etc. It may be worth investing in a more powerful extractor as these are not especially expensive and can shift a lot more moisture-laden air than the basic units.
2. In kitchens, ensure that the cooker hood extractor fan is working properly and change the filter regularly. Open a window when cooking.
3. In all rooms fitted with traditional brick vents, ensure that these are not covered up either deliberately against draughts or by the accidental positioning of furniture. Note: If you really can’t put up with the draught from a standard brick vent, these can easily be replaced by modern “passive” brick vents which can be installed with minimal disruption/cost, are draught free (one way airflow principle) and don’t need any power supply.
4. In laundry areas where clothes are drying, try to have a “through” draught. This can be achieved by having a couple of windows opened on the first catch or by installing an extractor fan.
5. Where double glazed windows are fitted, ensure that the “trickle vents” are open whenever airborne moisture levels are likely to be elevated. When buying or specifying double glazing never be tempted to skimp on trickle vents, they are absolutely essential.
6. A common problem is mould growth behind wardrobes or other furniture placed tight against external walls of your home. Try to leave an air gap so that air can flow freely behind furniture.
7. Wherever you treat mould on painted surfaces, you should re-paint with an “anti-mould paint”. You can mix Kingfisher “anti-mould paint additive” into a standard emulsion paint OR our “Thermapaint Anti-mould” range is both an “anti-condensation” paint and “anti-mould” in one. “Thermapaint Anti-mould” is available in a full range of attractive Lakeland colours.
Having resolved the causes of your mould outbreak, improved the air quality in your home and treated the residual symptoms, you and your family can now breathe easy.