What is mould?

The term “mould” applies to a large group of microorganisms, which, together with mushrooms and yeast, form the Fungi Kingdom of living matter. Over 100,000 individual species of mould have been identified and biologists estimate there may be over 1.5 million species worldwide.

Where is mould found?

Moulds are found in virtually every environment and can be detected, both indoors and outdoors, year round. Mould growth is encouraged by warm and humid conditions. Outdoors they can be found in shady, damp areas or places where leaves or other vegetation is decomposing. Indoors they can be found where humidity levels are high. Most moulds reproduce by forming large numbers of spores.  Mould spores are always present outdoors and in buildings, and are distributed by wind, insects, floods, animal and human activity.

Where is mould found indoors?

All buildings have a background concentration of settled spores. However, these spores do not pose a hazard until the three essential conditions for mould growth are present, namely, a suitable temperature, appropriate substrate and adequate moisture.

Mould organisms grow by degrading nutrients from organic substrates.  Moulds will colonize on a wide variety of construction materials and building contents, the most common being drywall, wood and wood products, ceiling tiles, wallpaper, and carpets.

How does mould affect me?

There are several ways in which mould can affect the health of building occupants. The primary route of exposure to mould is the inhalation of the mould spores suspended in air.

What are the symptoms associated with mould exposure?

A wide range of symptoms have been reported to be associated with mould growth in buildings.

Common symptoms listed by Health Canada include:

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Coughing and phlegm build-up
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Symptoms of asthma
  • Allergic reactions

How can mould growth be prevented?

Since mould requires water to grow, it is important to prevent moisture problems in buildings.  As an occupant in the building it is important that any signs of water ingress are reported in a timely manner, such as:

  • plumbing leaks
  • leaks in the building envelope e.g. windows, foundation, roof, etc.
  • condensation on building materials
  • wet spots
  • musty odours

How do I report a concern?

All health and safety concerns should first be reported to your supervisor.

To report a water leak a Facilities Services request can be made online www.sfu.ca/fs

To report health concerns please fill out an incident report form online www.sfu.ca/incidentreporting

An investigation for potential mould contamination will be conducted if:

  • Occupant(s) report the presence of potential mould growth
  • Occupants report symptoms associated with mould exposure
  • Water damage is noted
  • Musty odours are present

What regulations and standards are in place to address exposure to mould?

Currently there are no regulated limits for airborne mould spores or bacteria; however, Section 4.79 of the British Columbia, Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (BC OHSR) requires the investigation of indoor air quality complaints when they arise in the workplace. This investigation may include an assessment for the presence of mould contamination.

How is mould contamination investigated?

The extent of mould contamination can be determined in two ways. The primary method is through a visual assessment to establish the presence of mould and the extent (area) of growth.  The secondary method is via air sampling to establish the presence and types of mould spores in the air.

How will mould be removed from my office?

WorkSafe BC provides guidance on methods of mould remediation and the recommended personal protective equipment that should be worn by employees performing this work. The guidelines are based on methods developed by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and the "EPA Protocol”.

A primary objective in all mould remediation is to identify the sources or causes of moisture and eliminate or control them.  Once moisture is brought under control, remediation activities can begin.  The level of remediation required will depend on the size of the area impacted by mould growth.

SFU Mould Control Program

SFU has developed a comprehensive Mould Control Program.  The purpose of the program is to ensure the University has protocols in place to prevent mould damage, respond safely to any mould damage identified and promote health and safety of staff, students and visitors.  The Program draws on best practices from a range of programs developed by both public and private sectors