Toxic mould after floods can lead to asthma flare-ups
As recent devastating floods in Australia’s southeast start to subside, they leave a mess in their wake for residents to clean up, including dangerous mould.
Last updated 9 November 2022
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National Asthma Council Australia spokesperson and GP, Dr Joel Ten, said for people in these regions living with asthma and allergies this will be a worrying time as mould thrives in warm, damp environments and can trigger asthma and allergy symptoms.
“Unfortunately, the recent rain, high humidity and warm temperatures provide excellent conditions for the growth and spread of toxic mould that can be damaging to health, especially for residents in these areas living with asthma and allergies.
“When a mould source is disturbed, small particles called spores are released in the air, which can then trigger asthma and allergy symptoms. The symptoms can include nose, eye and skin irritation, sneezing or wheezing, and severe breathing difficulties in some people,” he said.
Dr Ten said it is critical that mould isn’t left to grow unchecked in homes or workplaces after the floods have receded.
“Reducing the amount of moisture as soon as possible is the best way to control mould growth, so do a thorough clean and open all the doors and windows to dry out the area as quickly as possible. If you can, use fans or dehumidifiers to speed up the process,” he said.
Dr Ten said it is important to eliminate the source of mould growth, as well as cleaning visible mould, to stop it from regrowing.
“Unfortunately, bleach will remove visible mould but won’t kill the spores underneath and it may also irritate sensitive noses.
“We recommend that everything that has been touched by floodwaters will need to go and this includes soft furnishings like carpets, floor underlays, mattresses, cushions and couches and if in doubt, throw it out.
“Depending on the extent of the flooding, some residents may be able to remove visible mould on hardwood furnishings by cleaning with naturally fermented white vinegar solution or other mould-reduction cleaners.
“However, even if you have thoroughly cleaned your home you can still have problems with mould. It can grow in places we don’t even think to look – walls, clothes, books and toys, so anything that has touched floodwater should ideally be removed and discarded safely,” he said.
Some key tips from the National Asthma Council Australia include:
- Dry or remove wet carpets and furnishings as soon as you can
- Be ruthless with the clean out, if possible – hidden damp can cause ongoing problems
- Consider using a dehumidifier to help dry out the space
- Remove any visible mould by cleaning with naturally fermented white vinegar solution
- Keep an eye out for mould in the unflooded areas of the house
- Cleaning can be a challenge for people with asthma and allergies, so look out for sensitive household cleaning products with fewer harsh chemicals and no fragrances
- If you have concerns about asthma for yourself or a family member, see your health professional.
For more information on asthma and allergies, visit the National Asthma Council Australia website: nationalasthma.org.au
For further information or an interview with a National Asthma Council Australia Sensitive Choice spokesperson, please contact: Donna Le Page, Le Page PR
Mobile: 0429 825 703 Email: [email protected]