Mould Sensitivities: You Are Not Alone

by Tim Law

Mould sensitivities are more common than most people realise. 

If you're a regular here at Eco Health Solutions, it is highly likely that you have mould sensitivities or other environmental sensitivities, know someone who does, or know enough about them to want to prevent them… If you're new, then feel free to peruse this and other posts on environmental sensitivities.

I wanted to bring you a different, and more technical, perspective on mould and health – so invited my friend Tim Law, an architectural scientist with a strong interest in this topic to share his insights with you.

Grab a cuppa and pen and paper and settle in for this great read.

I am an architectural scientist, one who uses the principles of physics, biology and chemistry to understand buildings.

On the positive side I try to make buildings perform optimally, and on the flip side I explain why they fail.

If you are reading Lucinda's website, you are most likely aware that conventional medicine has a very limited understanding around the health implications of mould in water-damaged buildings.

This article is written to help you understand that even though your physician may not be familiar with mould sensitivities you should not feel alone. There are many others like you.

Tim Law, PhD (Architecture), Archsciences

Tim Law

Mould Sensitivities: You Are Not Alone

Fungi, the fifth kingdom. Ubiquitous, prolific, little understood. They are the great recyclers, decomposing trees, recovering its nutrients, nourishing the soil. They are selectively symbiotic, and at times territorial. 

But once they sporulate in water-damaged buildings, they become unequivocally unhealthy to humans. 

You are not alone in your home.

There is an entire ecosystem of microorganisms waging biological warfare. Quite different from human warfare, there is no morality in this war, no good vs evil, no heroes or villains, it is simply what fungi do. 

It turns out that mould does not live a solitary existence. They form colonies. The word ‘colony’ has been well chosen. 

Mould can team up with other organisms such as bacteria to form biofilms — a kind of fortified city wall to protect the organisms within its confines. 

More significantly, mould colonises. It is opportunistic, dormant until the conditions are right, then invades and proliferates. Like any colonist, mould does not like to share. It is hypothesised that mould sends out mycotoxins (mould toxins) to eliminate its competition. 

The strategies largely fall in two methods: arrive early and multiply quickly, or arrive late and carry some big guns. 

Microbiologists divide the continuum as primary, secondary and tertiary colonisers. 

They also follow the same neat order of water activity (or wetness of a porous material): primary colonisers germinate when the material is moderately damp for a few days, and tertiary colonisers when it is very damp for a long period of months.

The Might of Mould

Human ingenuity has turned these mould metabolites into medicines — a vast range of fungal antibiotics are derived from mould. 

Humans also figured that we could isolate and weaponise mycotoxins. In the stuff of nightmares, trichothecenes can be derived from the common tertiary coloniser found in water-damaged buildings, Stachybotrys chartarum, that gram for gram, exceeds mustard gas in toxicity. 

Stachybotrys chartarum has received superstar status in the media and is commonly referred to as “toxic black mould”. This turns out to be a rather unhelpful description since mould has different colours depending on the substrate it feeds on, and changes colours across its life cycle, just like trees do across seasons.

koji - mould sensitivities - eco health solutions
Koji growing on white rice

Yet not all moulds are hazardous. Some moulds are brilliantly delicious. Koji (Aspergillus oryzae) creates umami-charged cuisine.

Impressively, one could marinate raw meat with shio-koji and let the process continue for days unrefrigerated without bacterial overgrowth, according to Jeremy Umansky, author of Koji Alchemy

One wonders if this can be applied to buildings. And indeed this idea is not far-fetched. Japanese Koji houses are dedicated fermenteries — no other ferments are permitted in the facility so as to minimise cross contamination.

Before fermenting is commenced, the Koji master goes through the ritual of scattering Koji spores all around the timber building structure to essentially stave off any other moulds from colonising.

Mould in Buildings

We should attend to our buildings with a similar care, seeing how most of Australian domestic construction is dominated by cellulose material. 

From timber frames to engineered timber products like LVLs (laminated veneer lumbers) and plywood, to particle board flooring, MDF (medium density fibre) boards, to paper-faced plasterboard wall and ceiling linings — virtually everything we build with in a typical Australian house is mould food, you just have to add water.

mould food - mould sensitivities - eco health solutions
Adam Holmes (16 Oct 2019)


It should be pointed out that mould is not the only problem with dampness

Water supports life of a host of micro-organisms besides mould, it is just mould that is the most visible due to its mycelial structure. 

To keep mould and other microorganisms away from houses, it is as simple as keeping moisture out. 

Simple, but not easy. 

If it were easy moisture-related defects would not be repeatedly the highest reported source of problems for apartments by the NSW Office of the Building Commissioner occurring in 53% of reviewed apartment buildings. 

In Victoria, surveys conducted by the Australian Apartment Advocacy show water-related defects as a group of defects are well ahead of any other classification.

defects - mould sensitivities - eco health solutions
Australian Apartment Advocacy (2021)

In 2016, I was with a group of researchers at the University of Tasmania which analysed an industry-wide survey around condensation in new houses and apartment buildings

Regardless of state/territory and climate zone, there was a fairly consistent average that a third of these new buildings were estimated to have condensation problems. 

If we add to this the water-related defects such as failures in plumbing, roofing, cladding, water-proofing and damp-proofing, then a building free from water damage is in the minority.

violin plots - mould sensitivities - eco health solutions
ABCB (2016)

Condensation provisions were only introduced into the National Construction Code in 2019, meaning to say that houses and apartments built prior to this could be deemed to be code-compliant, and yet have unmitigated condensation, together with the mould and bacteria that invariably follows prolonged dampness of building materials.

Mould Sensitivities

When the micro-organisms proliferate, not only do they produce toxins to gain a competitive advantage, even their cell walls become a source of toxins.

These toxins are collectively referred to as biotoxins and create a range of maladies, broadly categorised as allergenic, pathogenic, toxicological and inflammatory. 

In essence, it can be very broad, systemic, affecting multiple organs and expressed through multiple symptoms.

Early symptoms often include brain fog and chronic fatigue. 

On prolonged exposure to water-damaged buildings, mould-sensitive patients eventually also develop chemical, light and electromagnetic hypersensitivities.

Lucinda has convened two high quality Environmental Sensitivity Symposia which I unreservedly recommend.

2015 ess - eco health solutions
Book Cover

New Research into Mould Sensitivities and Biotoxin Illnesses

On top of that, in an Australian first, the NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) is funding research into biotoxin illness. I am one of the investigators and am optimistic that recent advancements in data mining, next-generation sequencing, transcriptomics and metagenomics will enable us to tackle this complex problem which has hitherto been too complex to analyse.

There is almost a poetic irony that interconnected disciplines are required to unravel the interconnected symptoms of a patient suffering from interconnecting micro-organisms.

Thus, if you find yourself in a water-damaged building, remember you are not alone. There are many Australians in a similar predicament that you will be able to connect with. 

Keep seeking for answers and keep applying pressure on the government (local, state and federal) to improve the quality of buildings we live, work and school in. 

Keep connecting with like-minded people and build your support network.

You are not alone.

Post by Tim Law, PhD

How Working From Outside is Beneficial to Your Health

This post was written by Griffin Parrish, an intern at Siege Media. He's drawn on reputable sources to back up his work and what he's written for us is so inspiring.

Of course, I would also add cautions around wireless technology, and encourage everyone to connect to the internet via ethernet (cables).



Health Benefits of Working From Outside

With an increasing number of people working from home, some are taking it to the next level by working from outside. With a variety of mental and physical health benefits, taking your work outside is a great way to improve your daily life. Whether you take your laptop to a park or work from your backyard or balcony, there are many ways to transform your work life for the better.

What Does It Mean to Work From Outside?

Working from outside (WFO) is a new trend in working from home – where you can complete your daily work outside in a natural environment. WFO is especially easy for those who already work from home. Without being tied down to a specific office building, you can easily find a place to work without being trapped indoors.

Examples of WFO locations include:

    • Coffee shops with outdoor seating
    • Parks
    • Backyards
    • Balconies
    • Pergolas, porches, patios

By working outside in nature, you can reap the benefits of being outdoors without falling behind in your job.

What Are the Benefits of Working From Outside?

In a traditional office setting, many workers spend all day stuck indoors. It is estimated that the average person spends 90% of their time inside

Spending all day sitting inside without any exposure to sunlight or fresh air can be detrimental to your mental and physical health. 

Read along to learn how swapping your indoor office for an outdoor workspace can positively impact your health and wellbeing.

Increased Energy Levels

By exposing yourself to fresh air and sunlight when WFO, you can naturally increase your energy levels. Rather than relying on stimulants like coffee or energy drinks, moving your workspace outside is a great way to naturally feel more energetic

With the natural energy you gain from working outside, you won’t have to worry about a caffeine crash later in the day.

Reduced Feelings of Anxiety

Spending time outdoors is linked to several mental health benefits. One of the major benefits of WFO is reduced feelings of stress and anxiety

Whether you take a short outdoor walk between meetings or move your computer outside for the day, being out in nature is a great way to feel calm and elevate your mood.

Decreased Exposure to Indoor Air Pollutants

In an indoor environment, air pollutants are two to five times more common than in the outdoors. 

Consistent exposure to indoor air pollution can lead to various negative health effects, including:

    • Eyes, nose, and throat irritation
    • Headaches
    • Dizziness and fatigue
    • Respiratory diseases
    • Cancer 

By WFO and limiting your time indoors, you can decrease your exposure to these harmful pollutants, therefore decreasing your risk for health issues.

plastic free

Boosted Feelings of Creativity

In addition to spending time WFO, walking outside can also lead to improved brain function. By taking short walks periodically throughout your workday, you can experience an estimated 60% increase in creativity and problem-solving skills. 

To maximise these benefits, try walking to your favorite outdoor work location instead of driving.

Increased Happiness

When trading your indoor office space for the great outdoors, you will notice an increase in your happiness levels. Even if you’re only outside for as little as 30 minutes per week, it has been proven that it can decrease your depression by 7%

With an improved mood, the workday will be more enjoyable and go by faster.

Lower Blood Pressure

In addition to increased levels of happiness, spending 30 minutes outdoors per week can also decrease your risk of high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to many adverse health effects including:

    • Headaches
    • Vision problems
    • Fatigue
    • Heart palpitations
    • Shortness of breath

By reducing your time spent indoors, you can help decrease your risk of heart disease and other high blood pressure symptoms.

Natural Pain Relief

When compared to those who spent their time indoors, people who regularly spent time outside had reduced levels of inflammation

Rather than spending your time inside and continually reaching for pain medication, WFO can provide you with natural pain relief.

Better Cognitive Function

While WFO, you may notice yourself becoming more productive. This is no coincidence, as spending as little as an hour outside has been linked to a 20% improvement in memory and attention span. 

By WFO, you are not only improving your mental and physical health, but also your performance.

Tips For Creating an Outdoor Workspace

Now that you know all of the benefits that WFO can provide, you may be wondering how you can successfully work from your outdoor space. 

Check out this helpful infographic from Angi to learn more about how you can create a comfortable and effective WFO space.

Work From the Outdoors

Infographic by


 Included directly via hyperlinks.

If you'd like more information on how to set this up safely
– avoiding hidden hazards, then book a call with Lucinda today.

The Best Building Materials for Each Climate

Today, we're joined by guest Raymond Alonzo who shares his tips about building materials for different climates.

Raymond is studying journalism in Phoenix, Arizona. He's interested in learning more about how our actions affect our environment.

Based in the US, his concepts can be applied to our corresponding climates.

If you are a part of my community or have been following me for a while, you'll know how important our built environments are in terms of our health.

This post contains important points to consider. We can take all of these ideas to greater heights when we consider health hazards and risks, such as condensation, off-gassing and indoor air quality.

When you’re imagining what your new home will look like, you’re probably not putting much thought into the building materials being used. The types of materials that you choose will affect the long-term integrity of your home. Depending on the type of climate you live in, there are certain materials that will work with the environment instead of against it. Keep reading for materials that will work best with the different types of climates.

Building Materials for the Desert

The hot climate of a desert can be very damaging to homes. High evaporation rates, shifting temperatures and little precipitation all can contribute. Here are some materials to consider for your desert home:

  • Adobe exteriors – Will reduce the absorption and transfer of heat, as well as water absorption.
  • Tile/concrete floors – These floors have a high thermal mass and will reduce the buildup of dust and keep a steady, comfortable temperature.
  • Metal roofing – Metal roofs help with temperature control, keeping your home cooler during the hot summer months.
  • Vinyl windows – These windows reduce UV rays that are damaging, they also create an air-tight seal.

      In addition, xeriscaping your lawn and planting drought-tolerant plants can keep your lawn low-maintenance and environmentally friendly.

      Rainy Areas and Materials to Consider

      The storms and precipitation that a rainy climate brings doles out a number of risks. Flooding, mould and warping wood are all issues that you may face living in a rainy environment. These materials will help alleviate these issues:

      • Engineered hardwood – Engineered hardwood will keep out water and prevent any warping.
      • Metal or asphalt roofing – These roofs will reduce the buildup of mould and mildew.
      • Paperless drywall – Along with the roofing material above, paperless drywall can also reduce mould buildup in your home.
      • Vinyl siding – A vinyl siding will keep rainwater moving away from your home.

            Severe storms and water buildup can of course be damaging. Remember to make sure you aren’t building your home on a floodplain.

            Building Materials for Cold Climates

            In some parts of Australia, cold weather and snow is an inevitability. It’s no secret that snowfall and winter storms can be disastrous for homeowners, so here are some materials to help keep your home safe and secure:

            • Carpet – Carpets increase heat retention, keeping your home warm throughout the colder months.
            • Brick siding – The high winds of cold climates can be damaging, brick siding will withstand these high winds and also increase heat retention.
            • Snow guards – Snow guards will stop snow from falling off your roof, preventing possible injuries.
            • Multi-pane windows – Multi-pane windows will increase insulation and lower your utility bills. 

                  Frozen pipes and a caved in roof from snow are real concerns, and the materials listed above will keep your home secure and environmentally friendly.

                  Building Materials for Windy Areas

                  High-speed gusts of wind, storms and unpredictable weather are all problems that people living in windy climates face. In windy environments, the materials used in home construction are especially important due to the damage high winds can cause. Here are some to consider:

                  • Concrete/steel parapet – Roof uplift is a serious concern in windy environments, a concrete or steel parapet will reduce uplift.
                  • Fibre cement siding – A siding made out of fiber cement will stand up to high impacts and winds, strengthening the integrity of your home.
                  • Rebar – To help secure wall materials to your house’s frame consider installing rebar. 
                  • Steel framing – Steel framing can help your home stand up to high wind speeds.

                      In a windy environment, simply ensuring the structural integrity of your home is one of the best ways to protect the environment. If any pieces of your home go flying, they may damage plants and wildlife that are around.

                      These are the main types of environments that homes are being built in. Remember to choose your building materials, location and homeowners insurance carefully. Your home and its construction will affect more than just yourself.

                      If you're keen on learning more about this, and how you might consider these for your build (or reno), then let me know.

                      We can take these great foundational ideas and match them to suit your needs and climate, all the while planning for your building to support your health.