Breaking the mould

Photo: istockphoto.com/Ruddi Tapper
Toss the bleach - there's a new non-toxic mould-buster in town When I asked a guy in my local hardware store about taking care of a minor mould problem, he pointed a thumb over his shoulder and said, "Cleaning products are over there. Bleach is the usual thing." Safer solution That's not a surprising response. Household bleach has long been used to kill the mould that can grow around windows, in the bathroom or the basement. But it's an answer that will make a lot of people unhappy, not least of them Brad Elder. He's the marketing director for Siamons International, which manufactures a new, non-toxic anti-mould product called Concrobium Mold Control, available at The Home Depot. Health risks Mould is linked to a bevvy of health issues, most notably as an asthma irritant. Estimates of contamination levels vary, but as many as half of North American households may have a mould problem. One study found Chaetomium globosum, a species of mould, in 47.6 per cent of wallboard samples, and also discovered six of the 12 most common mould species produce toxins. Notable among those is Stachybotrys chartarum, found in about 11 per cent of wallboard samples and a possible cause of 16 infant deaths from pulmonary hemorrhage in Cleveland, Ohio since 1994. The health implications of mould are rarely so severe, but contaminated buildings have very high frequencies of rhinitis, eye infections, chronic cough, shortness of breath and skin ailments. Don't use bleach Unfortunately, cleaning with bleach is also toxic and likely ineffective. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) advises against it, as bleach can react with the material on which the mould is growing, neutralizing the bleach and leaving the mould behind. For small patches, the CMHC recommends using detergent, but that may not kill the spores, making reinfestation a real possibility. The most important step to ridding a house of mould is getting rid of the moisture that allows it to grow. In most scenarios, that means venting air, installing a vapour barrier or ventilating the attic. Affordable and effective The reason Concrobium is so alluring is that it's made from food-grade dyes and water. According to Elder, it not only kills the mould but forms a lasting anti-mould layer as it dries. A 946 mL spray bottle ($9.97) is more than enough to coat all the surfaces in a bathroom. If the product has been sprayed on evenly, it leaves no visible residue when it dries (after 16 to18 hours). In a kitchen or bathroom, where surfaces are cleaned frequently, Elder suggests reapplying Concrobium every two to three months. For larger problems, the product can be used to fog an entire room, although contacting a mould-removal specialist would be a good idea. The product is winning advocates because it's both effective and environmentally safe. Actress, contractor and former host of A Repair to Remember, Mag Ruffman, sings its praises on her ToolGirl.com website. "I've used it to kill both the smell and reappearance of mildew in our basement. It rocks," she writes. But how safe is it? Could you drink it? "We do," says Elder, who does just that when demonstrating the product to merchants. And the taste? He smiles. "I wouldn't recommend it, not in a glass with dinner." Craig Saunders is a Toronto based writer who know has no mould in his home.