Urgent health warning ahead of storms

 

Australians are being warned about a hidden killer lurking in their homes that could be unleashed by the deluge of rain forecast to drench the east coast.

Home health expert Nicole Bijlsma is urging residents to take action and prevent a build up of dangerous mould which, in some cases, can be deadly.

Speaking to NCA NewsWire Ms Bijlsma said the wet weather could provide the perfect conditions for mould to grow and she's concerned about the health issues it may bring.

Those affected by mould can suffer debilitating symptons such as brain fog and chronic fatigue.

"It can kill people. Absolutely," she said. "It devastates families."

She said the wet weather is a concern because mould occurs when there's either high levels of water vapour or where's there's liquid water sitting on surfaces.

Mould build up in a housing unit.
Mould build up in a housing unit.

But the risk of an outbreak increases dramatically when people don't maintain their homes properly, particularly their gutters, she said.

"Houses cost a lot to maintain and like the human body, they need servicing," Ms Bijlsma explained.

"People don't clean their gutters for years and then wonder why there's mould in the roof.

"The problem with rain is, it can get into the house if they (residents) haven't maintained the roof."

Mould becomes a health issue not because it's sitting there but because there's "food" in people's homes and that food is moisture, according to Ms Bijlsma.

"As soon as you have high levels of water vapour, and there's 70 per cent relative humidity for two days, mould spores are going to utilise that liquid source and start growing (and) infiltrating the surface area ... then releasing chemicals that cause serious adverse health effects," she said.

People who have asthma or allergies, particularly to mould itself, are more likely to suffer health issues, Ms Bijlsma said.

"But we're all at risk, it's just a matter of timing,"she said.

Wet weather is lashing the east coast. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper
Wet weather is lashing the east coast. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

Huge parts of the east coast have already been drenched with rain and parts of central Queensland are sodden after flash flooding.

Forecasters are warning a second band of heavy rain is on the way for the east coast and could bring more than 100mm of rain to Sydney over the next three days alone.

Other locations, particularly the NSW coast and southern Queensland, could see three times the average rainfall for March descend in just a few days.

Ms Bijlsma said one in four people have a gene profile where the body doesn't recognise mould as a fungi or foreign object, which then causes inflammation in their body.

"If we suspect 40 per cent of the housing stock is water damaged to some degree and one in four people can't create antigens to mould, that is enormous. That's why there was a parliamentary inquiry in 2018 into biotoxin illness," she said.

Damage caused by dampness on a wall in modern house.
Damage caused by dampness on a wall in modern house.

There are a number of things people can do prevent mould from growing in their homes, including cleaning the gutters regularly and allowing adequate ventilation in the bathroom.

"As soon as there's water on a surface it must dry within 48 hours so it doesn't become a mould problem," she said.

"The key to mould is moisture. So you've got to address the moisture, because that's what's contributing to the growth."

For instance, if your plasterboard is wet for more than two days, Ms Bijlsma recommends cutting it out to dry it.

If mould has grown on soft furnishings like cushions or clothes people are urged to throw them away. If the fungi appears on glass like windows or plastic, the "rule of thumb" is to vacuum it before wiping it down with a microfibre cloth.

 

Originally published as Urgent health warning ahead of storms