Opinion: The health risks associated with mould | News

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Opinion: The health risks associated with mould

By Alex Brodholt, Marketing Lead, Switchee

What are the health risks that social housing residents face when their homes start getting mould? Is it only physical or are there other side effects?

Mould produces allergens, irritants, and toxins. As such, the inhalation or exposure to mould spores can lead to mild or severe reactions, especially among those with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma or weakened immune systems.

The presence of mould within a property can increase the likelihood of respiratory infections and allergies among residents, posing a real threat to their overall health and wellbeing.

Evidence shows that mould can even be linked to an increase in mental health issues, with a study from Shelter showing that 8 out of 10 social housing residents reported that their housing contributes to their mental wellbeing.

These impacts are something housing providers need to consider when looking to treat mould – the fact is, mould can have serious effects on a residents’ health, which in turn can cause irreparable damage to a housing provider’s reputation.

When looking into the health effects of mould, these can be broken into three separate categories: respiratory illnesses, skin irritation, and mental health problems.

Respiratory illnesses are among the most common complaint when it comes to mould associated health risks – this can cause anything from a persistent cough to difficulties breathing. In the short term, with limited exposure to spores, symptoms are likely to be mild and easily overlooked.

However, with long-term exposure, especially in instances where the mould issue is not properly addressed, these symptoms can become a chronic health concern.

According to ECOS Environmental & Disaster Restoration, Inc, sustained interaction with toxic mould can even be linked to memory loss and confusion.

While no study can definitively link mould to the onset of asthma in residents, there is evidence that shows exposure to mould can worsen the symptoms of asthma.

The intensified respiratory distress in those already suffering from asthma is likely to increase the frequency and severity of their asthma attacks if the problem is not addressed.

Another common health issue that occurs after exposure to mould is skin irritation. Our skin is already sensitive to pollutants and irritants, so when exposed to mould spores this can result in a number of nasty reactions.

For example, residents who have experienced long-term exposure often report dry or cracked skin, rashes and hives, and conjunctivitis. While these symptoms may seem low risk, they can greatly impact on people’s day-to-day lives.

and may require time off work, which is going to negatively affect tenants who are already living on the poverty line. Sustained exposure to mould can worsen these conditions, especially in residents who have pre-existing conditions such as eczema, causing severe and long-lasting symptoms, which may affect their quality of life.

The mental health effects of mould exposure are often overlooked. Residents who are living with mould are put under considerable stress and may feel that they have no control over their situation.

According to research carried out by epidemiologist Edmond Shenassa, 40% of residents lived in visibly damp, mouldy households, and, overall, their risk for depression averaged 34–44% higher than that for residents of mould-free dwellings, with moderate exposure associated with the highest increase in risk.

This can have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of residents, causing serious disruption to their daily routines. Anxiety levels can skyrocket, too, when exposed to mould in the home. Symptoms include changes in appetite, insomnia, and memory loss, along with many others that could lead to chronic health concerns.

Housing providers need to consider both the mental and the physical side effects of mould exposure and do what they can to combat mould within their properties.

New technology, like Switchee, gives providers the ability to track household data such as the average temperature, absolute humidity, and air quality of a property, allowing landlords to assess the data at their convenience.

Data patterns can then help predict future problems, giving providers the opportunity to identify the properties that are most at-risk for mould and implement solutions before the problem takes root.

This limits the possibility of long-lasting health effects for residents and reduces the potential for costly disrepair lawsuits.