Indoor mould growth is a common problem in homes and workplaces which is usually easy to treat, and generally does not impact on human health. In some cases, human contact with mould can cause health issues, such as worsening asthma symptoms, an allergic response, and (in rare cases) an infection.
In addition to these health effects, the Committee received evidence that buildings that have been exposed to water damage (and subsequently experienced high levels of mould and dampness) may contribute to ill health in susceptible individuals. Health effects described by inquiry participants were varied, often debilitating, and included cognitive and physical symptoms.
The link between water damaged buildings and a range of health effects has been termed Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). There is consensus that there are people who suffer from a range of complex symptoms that are debilitating, difficult to diagnose and treat effectively. For these people, being unable to obtain a definitive diagnosis and consequently recover from conditions often ascribed to CIRS can have a significant and ongoing impact on their quality of life.
The Committee has put forward recommendations aimed at supporting medical professionals to identify, diagnose, treat, and/or support patients with complex and/or unexplained conditions such as CIRS. Clinical guidelines, outlining a clear path for medical practitioners to follow, could assist in this regard. Guidelines may also ensure patients receive adequate support from the first medical professional they encounter, and reduce the incidence of ‘doctor shopping’ and the potential for possible exploitation of vulnerable individuals.
In addition to investigating the medical process of identifying and treating CIRS-like syndromes, the Committee received information about the mould testing and remediation industries. In particular, the Committee found that greater oversight of these industries and the methods used for testing and remediation is needed to ensure consistency of standard and advice.
The Committee also considered that tenants of rental properties should be provided with information regarding any history of mould or water damage to a property before signing a tenancy agreement. This would serve to ensure potential renters can make an informed decision about where they choose to live.