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The dangers of sleeping in a room with mould

The dangers of sleeping in a room with mould

It lurks behind old bed frames and furniture, and harbours in the darkest corners of our rooms. Sleeping in a room with mould can be a real life nightmare, and just because you don’t immediately feel the symptoms doesn’t mean the health risks aren’t there.

You wouldn’t knowingly sleep next to a toxic chemical every night. So why take the risk when it comes to sleeping in a room with mould?

Health complications are often seen when there is prolonged exposure to mould, inhaling chemical compounds released in the air in the form of spores. The illnesses that follow often go undiagnosed, as the toxins that inhabit your body can take a varying amount of time to produce symptoms, making the root cause difficult to establish.

The first step to prepare for this is to understand why this happens, so let’s take a look at what exactly mould is…

What is mould?

Excess moisture leads to condensation and damp, which provides the perfect environment for mould growth. Much like other organisms, it requires a watering environment and organic matter to feed on, which it then breaks down and metabolises.

Certain strains of mould are believed to release mycotoxins which can cause harm to the cells in our body, and serious health problems following exposure.

We must stress, not all mycotoxins are harmful and there are some benefits to having them around. For example, Penicillin is a form mycotoxin which is used as an antibiotic to treat infections.

Mycotoxins are unavoidable as they can naturally occur in grains and other food we eat, and when in lower concentrations they are unlikely to have any effect on the body. However its important to be aware that under the right conditions, mycotoxins can reach high enough levels to cause illness if ingested, inhaled or through skin contact.

Aspergillus is a type of mould which can cause illnesses in humans, such as Aspergillosis. Stachybotrys chartarum is the species of micro fungus which is known to be the most toxic to humans. This is more commonly known as ‘black mould’.

Microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) are the gases formed in the metabolism of fungi and bacteria. This is what creates the musty smell which is often associated with mould growth.

Mould can grow most places, but those with undisturbed condensation are particularly prone, such as windowsills, dark corners and behind walls. We would advise regularly checking behind furniture to ensure you are not inadvertently sleeping in a room with mould.

Black mould in corner of room.

Symptoms that can arise from sleeping in a room with mould

Infections caused by mould are also hard to diagnose, due to their similarities to other illnesses such as seasonal allergies, fibromyalgia and other respiratory health conditions. If the below issues arise with no apparent other triggers or explanation, it’s time to get checked for exposure to mycotoxins.

  • Feeling unwell unexplainably, with no external triggers.
  • Persistent flu-like symptoms such as, a dry cough, congestion, sore throat, wheezing and shortness of breath.
    When the body detects harmful microbes within the lungs, it causes the body to cough to rid them of the spores.
  • Fatigue, drowsiness and weakness.
  • Inflammation of the muscles and joints- often causing stiffness, cramps, aches and pains.
  • Irritated skin, those with skin conditions such as eczema may experience flare-ups.
  • Irritated eyes, commonly bloodshot and itchy.
    Chemical compounds from the mould irritate the mucus membranes of the eyes, causing inflammation which if left unchecked can often lead to light sensitivity, blurry vision and further illnesses.
  • Those with a mould allergy may develop more adverse reactions such as hives or rashes on their skin.
    It is important to never break the skin by scratching or picking this, as it can lead to serious infection.
  • More serious long-term effects of sleeping in a room with mould can be cognitive dysfunction such as long term memory loss, insomnia, anxiety and general confusion.
    Some studies suggest this is linked to the inflammation of the hippocampus.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is advised to see your doctor. A urine test will reveal if mycotoxins have inhabited the body, confirm the type of mould and thus how to treat it.

Signs to spot in your property

  • Strange musty smell.

Musty smell in bedroom.

  • Spots, stains and discolouration on walls and undisturbed surfaces.
    These can be green, brown, orange or white in colour.

Different types of mould spots.

  • Untreated water damage.
    This can often happen internally behind walls, meaning mould growth can go unseen to the naked eye. Any signs of water damage may suggest you also have a mould problem.

Lady looking at mould and water damage on ceiling.

If your property is showing signs of mould growth, it’s time to organise an inspection. If left untreated, sleeping in a room with mould can pose a serious risk to your health.

Who is most at risk?

Those with pre-existing medical conditions or a weakened immune system are also more likely to experience adverse effects when sleeping in a room with mould, especially those with seasonal allergies, skin problems, asthma or the elderly.

A study from The 2011 annals of allergy asthma and immunology found mould exposure in early years to be a predictor of asthma for those age 7, who already had a genetic pre-disposition to the condition. This suggests children sleeping in a room with mould at a young age could cause them harm later in life.

Young boy sleeping in a room with mould.

There are no solid statistics on the proportion of the population suffering with adverse health effects caused by mould, however the numbers of those at risk outside of genetic factors are alarming. The governments Regulator for Social Housing (RSH) has recently announced 160,000 social homes are impacted by notable mould and damp.

Those struggling with energy costs are often forced to forgo heating, resulting in under-heated rooms with poor ventilation, trapping any moisture. As we now know, this is the ideal environment for mould to thrive, leaving tenants who are sleeping in a room with mould high at risk with no resources to prevent this.

The social housing watchdog found complaints due to damp and mould have doubled over the past two years. It’s often dismissed that mould problems can be due to daily activities such as cooking and drying habits, but the 2021 report from the Housing Ombudsman ‘it’s not life style’, contends this.

This report identifies the top four causes of damp and mould are; ventilation 30%, leaks 23%, structural issues 20% and condensation 18%. This means that more often than not, the standard of property is the direct cause of mould rather than the activities of its residents.

If you are currently sleeping in a room with mould, there are a few steps you can take no matter the cause.

Help and resources

Prevention is always easier than cure. See our advice on How To Stop Condensation Damage In Your Home.

Cleaning mould in bedroom.

If your mould problem is already at large and you are going to attempt to remove this, check out our blog on How to remove black mould. If the problem persists, we would advise contacting the professionals.

Our Trace & Access and Mould Remediation services can help identify any water leaks and source other causes of mould. For more information on what our mould service would look like, we would recommend you read our case study on mould diagnosis.

For renters, please see our guidance on Who’s Responsible For Damp and Mould in a Rented Home. The UK government have also recently announced their campaign ‘make things right’ to improve standards social housing and support those at risk.

This scheme, newly introduced as a result of ‘Awaab’s Law’, will see the introduction of mandatory deadlines for fixing mould-related issues, required qualifications for social housing managers, alongside signposting tenants to resources to help them report any issues.

There can be devastating consequences to your health and loved ones when sleeping in a room with mould. Don’t take the risk- act fast and seek help if you need it.

Published: 13 Mar 2023