My partner and I moved into our current flat in May and, in almost every area, we’ve been incredibly pleased with the move. This is why it was a little disappointing to find that traces of damp began to develop in our bedroom and kitchen during the early onset of winter. As we began to work on correcting this problem, I remembered a previous flat I’d lived in that also suffered from damp. This previous room had be sleeping below ground in a half-cellar and damp developed quickly into mould. It’s been several years since I moved out of that previous home but this recent encounter with damp has finally made me look into the actual health problems that can be caused by it, as well as what causes damp in the first place.
So, What Causes Damp?
Damp is caused by poor ventilation in homes, primarily through the creation of water vapour. Whenever you boil a kettle, take a shower or even breath, you are releasing warm water vapour, which will seek to get out of your house. If there isn’t adequate ventilation then the moisture remains inside the house, damaging the walls (often in the high corners).
What’s So Bad About Damp?
When I was in my early 20’s, I cheerfully lived in a flat that was riddled with damp (as previously mentioned) and I was healthy enough to just live with it. A wall affected with damp will develop mould, which spreads via spores. It’s these spores which can cause problems, especially respiratory conditions. Conditions aggravated by mould spores includes:
- Respitory infections
But it’s not just issues with the lungs that these spores can get involved with. I was incredibly surprised to see that NHS Choices lists skin problems as conditions that can be adversely effected by living with damp. They specify eczema as an example but it gave me pause for thought. This leads me to remember that my rosacea, a condition I have been struggling with a great deal lately, first occurred when I was living in that flat. This may be a coincidence, as there is a family history of this condition, but perhaps living in those conditions was the straw that broke the camel’s back, causing the condition to present. I have no idea but it’s very frustrating when you find out (after the fact) that you may have put yourself in a position where you encouraged your condition to get worse. It really does reinforce the need to properly research conditions and what can affect them.
It is also troubling that my flat mate at the time had a compromised immune system. She had lived in the flat for longer than myself and, in the end, we only stayed there together for three months before the owner of the house decided to sell. We had not created the issue of damp in the building but, when leaving, the land lord attempted to keep our deposits due to damage we had caused. Because she had a compromised immune system, we were able to challenge the landlords sentiment that we had allowed the damp to grow unabated. We had attempted to clear it up a few times but with no joy. As with this example, it’s worth remembering that those most at risk from health complications due to damp are:
- Babies and children
- The elderly
- Those with a weakened immune system
- Those with conditions mentioned previously.
From what I’ve found through my research, I most certainly would not “live with” damp today. So that’s certainly what I won’t be doing in my new flat.
What’s the Solution?
My partner and I have purchased some mould proof paint, which we will be liberally spreading around the corners of our house. We’ve caught the damp before it started growing mould so the situation is quite easily remedied. I checked our pillows and found that one smelt very clearly of damp so I convinced my partner to let me get it replaced. It was a very old pillow anyway so I had no desire to open it up and check the insides. Ventilation is a clear factor in the production of damp, which is why it’s so important to open curtains and windows to release the water vapour trapped inside a home. Your doors and windows can have a huge effect, which is why my partner and I are encouraging our landlord to let us install some new bifold doors. Currently our patio doors are incredibly difficult to open and we’re concerned that this lack of aeration is making the damp worse. Only time will tell if we need to move onto more serious alterations.
The World Health Organisation also has some great advice on how to work with damp that you may find in your home. It’s a great PDF that does into a lot of detail, very helpful for those who may be worried about the onset of damp in their home. If at all possible, don’t live with damp, the health effects can be a real problem, especially when living with a family.