What causes mould and fungal growth at home and in my office?

Ever wondered what that odd, disgusting black stuff that seems to stain your bathroom and office walls is?

That’s mould/mold. While mould is a natural part of the environment that plays an important part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, you sure don’t want it in your home.

Mould is ubiquitous, and is a common component of household and workplace dust. In general, it doesn’t pose a health hazard or create unsightly blemishes on your walls, until there is a large enough amount of it. If you’re able to see blackish or greenish “stains” on your walls, this means that your mould has gotten out of control and is both damaging your walls and your health.

To reduce mould gaining a foothold in your home or work, you have to understand why it even grows in the first place. Find out if your home or office will be attacked by mould.

How does mould reproduce?

Extremely resilient, mould can grow in just about any place that receives a consistent source of moisture. That means that Singapore is a perfect breeding ground for it, due to the consistently high levels of humidity that plague us. They reproduce via fungal spores, which are carried around by air currents. When the fungal spores land in a moist and humid area, they then begin to sprout and grow.

Most common infrastructural fixtures in Singapore such as drywall and items like bathroom mats and around office plants are hot breeding grounds for mould, due to their ability to absorb and retain moisture. Alternatively, leaky roofs, building maintenance or indoor plumbing issues can also aggravate mould problems.

There are many conditions that assist in mold growth, but the three most prominent conditions mould needs to really flourish and grow are moisture (as mentioned previously), a lack of airflow, and poor lighting. Like many other fungi such as the mushrooms we consume, poor lighting actually helps mould grow.

As mould grows, considerable damage is caused. The room infected with mould gains a musty odour, fabrics are discoloured, and occupants of the room may have trouble breathing or feel like they are constantly about to sneeze. If left unchecked, mould can eventually lead to severe respiratory issues and even death. Hence, mould is considered a severe threat to human health.

What about mould in the office?

In the office, it may be a little harder to tell what the cause of mould and fungal growth is, as you may be as familiar with all the spots mould can hide out in and grow compared to your home. Not to mention, offices are often larger, and there are simply more opportunities for mould to succeed, especially in a closed office building like most are in Singapore.

If you come to work and leave with a stuffy nose and watery eyes, that may not be just your allergies at work. In fact, mouldy office buildings are so common that they comprise of up to 80% of “Sick Building Syndrome”cases.

It’s so bad that some people are even calling mould the new, dangerous asbestos. If your fellow co-workers are also complaining that they feel nausea or throat irritation in a particular part of the room or building, that’s a very good sign that your company has a mould issue severe enough to be noticed by many people.

Hence, it’s important to immediately notify HR or your boss of your symptoms, and advise them to keep an eye out on a potential mould issue.

On the other end, if many of your employees come to you complaining of moldy smells or physical symptoms, it may be time to hire a professional and have a mould investigation and removal done. While it might be much easier to dismiss their complaints as trying to skip out on work, mould is a serious issue that can wipe out employee productivity and cause permanent respiratory health issues, so it’s best to take it as seriously as possible.

Where’s mould most likely to grow in my office?

Some of the more common culprits of mould hotspots are obvious – the communal water dispenser that also serves hot water, for one.

Another common one is overwatering the plants. When plants are overwatered, additional moisture tends to drip downwards, onto the floor and stay there, providing ample moisture for mould to land and grow.

Refrigerators, especially communal office refrigerators are breeding grounds for germs, bacteria and often mould. There’s almost always someone who sticks their food in the fridge, and forgets to remove it until about a month later. That gives their food ample time to grow mould, and infect the rest of your food. Yuck!

Combat this by starting up a policy among your fellow coworkers of clearing away unwanted food at least once a week or more to prevent mould growth.

However, if you’ve already checked those and they don’t seem to be the problem, you may also want to consider checking rarely used, darkly lit storerooms for leaky pipes and having regular building maintenance done.

If the building has ever experienced a flood, no matter how major or minor (flash floods are common in Singapore) or water leak, this can also promote mould growth, even if it may have occurred a long time ago.

What should I do to prevent all these mould issues?

As a matter of good practice (not just when it comes to mould prevention), the HVAC System filters, which is made up of venilators and air conditioners should be changed at least every three months, especially if you have a densely packed office area. This may seem like a hassle now, but it will save your health and prevent property damage down the road. Check out these tips on how to get rid of mould.

To summarize, mould is often caused by water, moisture and poor ventilation both in the office and at home. Conduct frequent checks of areas frequently in contact with moisture, and be on guard for leaks and rain coming in through the windows and making things damp.

Contact Zenith Lab for any enquiry on mould removal in Singapore!

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