The level of moisture (usually referred to as water activity) in building material determines not only whether mould will grow or not but also the types that colonize the material. Damp materials with a water activity value equal to or greater than 0.90 are usually colonized by strains of Aspergillus fumigatus, Trichoderma spp., Exophiala spp., Stachybotrys spp., Phialophora spp., Fusarium spp., Ulocladium spp., and yeasts such as Rhodotorula spp. Materials with a water activity value ranging from 0.90 – 0.85 are colonized by Aspergillus versicolor while those with water activity values of 0.85 or slightly less are colonized by Aspergillus versicolor, Eurotium spp., Wallemia spp., and Penicillium spp., such as Penicillium chrysogenum and Penicillium aurantiogriseum.
Water leakage through roofs, defective plumbing installations and condensation are the main sources for water damage with subsequent mould growth. The building materials most susceptible to mould attacks are water damaged, aged organic cellulose containing materials such as wood, jute, wallpaper, and cardboard. Moulds that are most frequently encountered in buildings are Penicillium (68%), Aspergillus (56%), Chaetomium (22%), Ulocladium (21%), Stachybotrys (19%), Cladosporium (15%), Acremonium (14%), Mucor (14%), Paecilomyces (10%), Alternaria (8%), Verticillium (8%), and Trichoderma (7%). These moulds are all known to cause different types of inhalation allergy.
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