In the last 50 years buildings have become sealed, relying on mechanical air rather than natural ventilation.
As a result mould is common even in buildings without water damage, according to submissions made to the parliamentary inquiry into Biotoxin-related illnesses in Australia.
HVAC hygiene company, Ducted Air Solutions, told the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport, that mould contamination had become a serious issue that needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
In its submission, the company said the rapid increase of synthetic products in all aspects of life has created a soup of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Biotoxins.
“Mould spores within HVAC systems can be ultimately dispersed with the conditioned air and becomes a major contaminant of indoor air,” the submission said.
In fact a senior member of staff at Ducted Air Solutions has been diagnosed with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS).
Unfortunately, there is a lack of knowledge about CIRS.
“We believe HVAC hygiene is at a crisis point in Australia, with no legislation to regulate Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) leaving many exposed to mould contamination,” the submission said.
“The absence of legislation has allowed self regulation by property owners and managers when considering HVAC hygience with the impact of poor IAQ on occupiers of facilities often not considered.
“Implementation of current yardsticks such as AIRAH's Best Practice Guidelines and AS/NZ 3666 and 1668 is discretionary and in many instances, ignored.
“In the fight against CIRS within Australia we feel legislation drafted in accordance with current industry guidelines and Australian Standards is essential and should be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
As a result of the Inquiry a number of recommendations have been made to the Department of Health including the development of standards for mould testing and remediation, further research into the adequacy of current building codes to prevent mould in buildings and CIRS education for doctors and health professionals.
The Committee has recommended clinical guidelines for general practioners for the diagnosis, treatment and management of CIRS-like symptoms.
There are also plans being considered to commission the National Health and Medical Research Council to conduct research into CIRS as well as links between mould and biotoxins.
Federal Member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks, said the inquiry was an opportunity to examine the links between CIRS and mould in buildings and to improve building standards around moisture control.
“From this report we have seen an important outcome for people struggling with mould-related illness or living in water-damaged buildings,” Wicks said.
"With the adoption of some of these recommendations, we could see a more a widespread knowledge of Biotoxin-related illness, standards of practice around mould in building codes and better health outcomes, both in diagnosis and treatment for people with CIRS-like symptoms.”