Ghastly: The Spectre of Toxic Mold

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ghostly hands

Researchers think there might be links between sensing ghostly happenings and toxic mold. If this scares you into action, here’s where to start.


A recent news story caught my eye. I’ll let the National Post explain.

Think your house is haunted? You may just have a mold problem.

That’s what one group of researchers believe could be the cause of many spectral sightings.

Shane Rogers, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., is a big fan of ghost stories, and wanted to apply some of his research to the field.

“Hauntings are very widely reported phenomena that are not well-researched,” he said. “They are often reported in older-built structures that may also suffer poor air quality.”

The idea is that certain toxic molds or fungi, like the rye ergot fungus, are able to cause severe psychosis in people who breathe in the hard-to-detect fumes they project. When the air is contaminated, the brain can play subtle tricks on you — a sudden chill, a movement in the corner of your eye, or potentially other ghastly and hallucinatory illusions.

What if these guys are right and some accounts of “haunted houses” can be explained away by mold? That’d really be a downer in the movies, right? When the Ghostbusters show up with a tub of Javex and rubber gloves? Not sure the CGI special-effects editors could handle that excitement.

mold in the corner

But if toxic mold can make you nuts enough to think Aunt Martha’s making noise in the attic from the great beyond, what else might mold be doing, and what can you do to deal with it?

No laughing matter

If you have an aggressive form of mold happening in your home, you’d better know what it is you’re dealing with. But chill, Winston. Fact is, many, if not most, molds are a natural occurrence and not something to freak out about. Do you want it to continue unabated? No. But often it’s not toxic.

What it often is, though, is a sign that things are going south with your structure. If you’ve got mold on wood, you’re getting rot. If you’ve got mold in the bathroom, you’ve got poor ventilation and prime conditions for moisture damage. If you think it’s burdensome now, just wait until down the line when it amps up.

Cleaning up the mold is a way of fighting its progression, but it won’t stop a recurrence. If clean-up won’t end the problem, then it’ll mean caulking, replacing materials, correcting ventilation, and so forth, to stop it coming back.

Research and react

You’ll need to do your research to ensure your mold is, in fact, a relatively safe form to deal with. This doesn’t mean you should forego protection if you attack it, though. A respiratory mask, gloves, and eye protection are needed because infections and allergic reactions and illnesses can happen even if not “toxic”.

Bleach and water are common for killing mold on non-porous surfaces, but then it gets more complicated. This is a great, informative article to get you started. Beyond that, you’ll need to Google for mold images to get an idea of the strain you’re facing.

If you’ve already been suffering increased respiratory issues and bad allergies, it might be wise to hire the pros to check your air quality and tell you if it’s something the experts should be mitigating for you.

Choices That Won’t Haunt You

Dealing with mold in window tracks, bathrooms, under kitchen sinks, and anywhere else it grows, that’s the kind of homeownership work that gives us the heebie-jeebies when we’re confronting it, but once we’re through, really helps us sleep at night.

If your mold problem is a real horror show, I promise you, waiting to confront it will just make the whole situation that much spookier.


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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.