Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 May 2019

Abu Dhabi residents fight losing battle against mould

Household mould is a major problem in the country and the region, creating unhealthy living environments that can affect the wellbeing of families.
Ray Cerbantes, a Kimi Clean Air technician, cleans air-conditioning filters a Khalidiya villa in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
Ray Cerbantes, a Kimi Clean Air technician, cleans air-conditioning filters a Khalidiya villa in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // The scourge of mould is like a plague across the country, affecting an untold amount of households and creating unhealthy living environments.

“Its very widespread,” said Ben Crompton, an Abu Dhabi-based estate agent.

He said that poorly ventilated flats that remained vacant for months while awaiting their next tenants, and occupied residences with stagnant air and damp environments, were all prime breeding grounds for the dangerous fungus.

Tenants often fight losing battles against it, which is not helped by maintenance staff who employ ineffective solutions and fail to eliminate it.

Since moving to Al Ain in 2012, Shon Rand, a 36-year-old Abu Dhabi Education Council teacher from the United States, has experienced first hand the menace posed by mould.

Along with his wife Jenia and their two-year-old son, he has seen infestation in two of the three apartments the family has lived in.

Both times, he was diligent and called in maintenance workers to have it removed. Each time, the mould returned.

His first battle occurred in Al Muwaiji Village, where he noticed paint bubbling along the baseboard of his bedroom.

Over time, the bubbling began showing up on different walls in the hallway and near the bathroom.

“Then the paint started falling off, revealing white growth underneath,” he said.

“We called maintenance, and they scraped the walls and repainted. In a matter of two to three days, the paint was peeling and falling off again.”

Maintenance was called again at least eight times and the same process was repeated, he said.

After some convincing, they persuaded Adec to allow the family to move to another apartment, also in Muwaiji and only 100 metres away, which was free of mould during their tenancy.

The family later moved to a three-bedroom flat at the Hili housing complex on the other side of town.

But once again, mould is showing up as it did in Muwaiji, Mr Rand said, except this time it was worsening with time. And the same, ineffective solutions were being employed in an attempt to get rid of it.

“This time the mould is even showing up a little bit grey coloured here and there, which I think maybe more concerning from a health standpoint,” he said.

“The wife and I have both had continuing issues with congestion and such, but I don’t know how much of that is due to the apartment and how much is the usual bout of winter illness,” he said.

“There’s also a white growth springing up in the grout between the tiles, which really seems weird, and especially worries me since we have the little one playing on the floors.”

Mr Rand’s concerns about mould should not be taken lightly, said Dr Mansour Al Zarouni, a consultant, molecular biologist, and director of Sharjah’s EML Diagnostics,

“When mould spores are present in abnormally high quantities, they can present especially hazardous health risks to humans,” he said.

Dr Al Zarouni said mould was a common component of dust that thrived in a wet and humid environment.

When out-of-control, it can cause allergies, fungal infection, respiratory infections, exacerbate asthma symptoms, and lead to sinus problems.

It is particularly dangerous for those with compromised immune systems, but can also create health problems in healthy individuals, he said.

Although severe reactions were rare, he warned that high levels of certain types of mould could lead to neurological problems and in some cases death.

“Symptoms caused by mould allergy are watery, itchy eyes, chronic cough, headaches or migraines, difficulty breathing, rashes, tiredness, sinus problems, nasal blockage and frequent sneezing,” said Dr Al Zarouni.

Indicative of Mr Rand’s experiences, he said mould thrived in damp household areas, such as the bathroom, kitchen, and plumbing areas.

Regular cleaning, vacuuming and equipping homes with toxin-absorbing plants such as sansevieria all contributed to the prevention of the growth of mould, Dr Al Zarouni said.

esamoglou@thenational.ae

Updated: March 8, 2015 04:00 AM

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