Mould poses health problem

Mould does not just spoil walls and personal items, fungi can also seriously affect people’s health.

Dr. Ines Hurtado addressed this issue at the five-day government-sponsored Mould Prevention and Remediation in Buildings seminar, which opened Tuesday, 5 July at the Courtyard Marriott.

The seminar, sponsored by the departments of tourism and environmental health, covered the legal, health, prevention and clean-up issues associated with mould contamination in buildings and homes.

Ms Hurtado, director of research at the RAMS Environmental Laboratory in Miami, is an expert on allergies and allergens as well as fungi.

Conditions in the Cayman Islands, especially post-Ivan, are particularly suited to the growth of mould.

‘They (moulds) love humidity,’ Ms Hurtado said.

Accumulation indoors of the microscopic moulds, which propagate through the spread of spores in the air, can lead to certain diseases.

‘One of the most important pollutants indoors is mould and it causes diseases. It is now very well determined that indoor pollution and moulds exacerbate asthma,’ she added.

The development of pulmonary haemorrhage, which can be fatal, may be another danger from mould, though research continues on the possible correlation between the two, Ms Hurtado explained.

This disease is especially common in children, particularly newborns and those born prematurely. Symptoms include bleeding in the alveoli, where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged in the lungs; fever; and difficulty breathing.

The third related disease is known as toxic mould syndrome, or sick building syndrome, Ms Hurtado said.

Symptoms associated with this syndrome include complications such as runny nose and itchy eyes; fatigue, headaches, memory loss, weakness and gastro-intestinal complaints.

This syndrome was first described in 1989. The symptoms increase with time spent in the building, but people improve when they leave the premises, Ms Hurtado explained.

Other speakers at the seminar discussed how to prevent as well as identify and remove mould in buildings. Originally scheduled to run until Saturday, 9 July, the seminar was cancelled after the 6 July session due to Hurricane Dennis.

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