Moulds are the most common forms of fungi found on the Earth. There are many of different types of mould that can grow anywhere moisture is present. Water during and after natural disasters — including floods, cyclones and storms — can lead to growth of mould and contamination of building materials. 

What are the health hazards of mould? 

Exposure to mould can occur through inhalation, ingestion and skin contact. It may lead to: 

  • Itchy, runny, or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Itchy or sore throat
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Severe allergic responses (e.g., rhinitis, asthma, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis).

Most people experience no health effects from exposure to the moulds ordinarily present in normal indoor or outdoor air. However, some individuals with allergies may be more sensitive to moulds.

Why does mould grow within buildings?

Mould growth in buildings is a global problem. It increases with high moisture and increased humidity. This could be due to natural high humidity ambient conditions or extreme weather events such as heavy rain and floods. It could also be due to water leakage in buildings, condensation or moisture generated inside the space.

Moulds can grow on just about any material, as long as moisture and a food source are available. For example, excessive mould growth may occur on building materials, including carpet, ceiling tiles, insulation,  paper,  wallboard, wood, surfaces behind wallpaper, under windowsills, or in heating, ventilation duct work, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

How can I assist in reducing mould growth in my building?

To reduce mould growth, you can:

  • In airconditioned spaces, unless authorised otherwise, keep closed all doors and windows that open to outside ambient air, to prevent hot ambient air from entering the space.
  • Don’t run the space on lower temperature (20⁰C) unless it is a necessity for the operation and the space is designed for this temperature. Normal design condition for comfort is (23⁰C - 24⁰C).
  • Report any building leakages to be repaired as soon as it is noticed.
  • Close fume cupboard sash if it is not in use.
  • Keep surfaces dry.
  • Report any vegetation growth near outside air intake.
  • Ensure natural ventilation is provided for non-conditioned spaces via openable windows.
  • In the event of water leakage, rain or flood damage repairs, ensure building fabrics are dry before repair takes place.

What if the indoor areas of my workspace feel damp and/or the area smells musty or mouldy?

You should report this via the ARCHIBUS system.  An indoor work area that is damp, with or without a musty or mouldy odour creates an increased risk of some people experiencing health problems such as that described above. Therefore, you should make arrangements to work in another area until a proper assessment and remediation of the area is completed.

What if I am experiencing symptoms of mould exposure and the indoor areas of my workspace feel damp, smell musty or smell mouldy?

If you are experiencing symptoms similar to that described above, you should report this via an incident notification using the UQSafe system.

How long will it take for UQ to action my report about a damp, and/or musty/mouldy smelling indoor work area?

The more people potentially exposed to this type of work environment, the greater the likelihood of someone experiencing a related health issue. Therefore, the Properties and Facilities staff of UQ prioritise their response using the following criteria:

  • Number of people working in the area
  • Number of people who normally move through the area, for example a busy corridor
  • The amount of mould.

Can I clean away a small amount of mould, similar in look and amount to usual bathroom mould?

You can either:

  • Clean it away yourself (see below) and then report the presence of the mould using the ARCHIBUS system. It is important to still report the mould even if you have cleaned it away so that an assessment can be made as to whether water and nutrients are still present that may cause the mould to return, or
  • Elect to not clean away the mould but report the presence of the mould using the ARCHIBUS system. 

To clean small amounts of mould away yourself, do the following:

  • Moisten a paper hand towel with water and soap/detergent or vinegar and water, and wipe the mould away.  Place the used paper towel into a plastic bag and then into the general waste bin. 
  • Do not use other cleaning chemicals such as bleach and similar as these chemicals can be hazardous to your health.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water afterward.

Further Information

For further information, contact your local Work Health and Safety Manager/Coordinator or the HSW Division, phone: +61 7 336 52365 or email hsw@uq.edu.au.

Information can also be found at Workplace Health and Safety Queensland -  Managing mould.