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Molds, fungal contaminants


What is mold?

The mushroom kingdom is composed of diverse organisms and is divided into two major forms: macroscopic (visible to the naked eye), and microscopic (invisible to the naked eye). Molds become visible to the naked eye when they form colonies. We can conclude that when they are visible to the naked eye, it is that their number is important. A mold test can then reveal the presence of mold invisible to the naked eye. The appearance of a colony is very diverse; it may be cottony, granular or velvety; white, black, green, blue, etc. Colonies are ubiquitous in all environments and participate actively in the recycling of organic matter by degrading plant.

All fungal particles are likely to cause various adverse health effects, depending on their nature and quantity, depending on the degree of exposure and sensitivity of the exposed individuals. The term mold is a common name for microscopic fungi that form on food and building materials. They multiply by producing spores in the air. These have a diameter of about five (5) micrometers. They are particularly harmful because, when they are present in the ambient air, they can be inhaled and subsequently deposited in the pulmonary alveoli; this can cause respiratory problems. Fungi can cause diseases in many ways: by the mycotoxins and allergens they produce, and by biologically active components of their cell wall that can cause severe signs of discomfort to the occupants. These effects are mainly respiratory (irritation and allergies) and immunological. A report from Health Canada's House Mushroom Working Group and two recent Canadian studies clearly showed that high humidity and the presence of fungi (molds) and their toxins can lead to the following health problems: in humans: Respiratory tract symptoms: cough, sputum, nose and throat irritation, runny nose, sneezing, noisy breathing difficulty breathing, chest pain;

Respiratory allergies: rhinitis, alveolitis, bronchitis, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonias; Non-respiratory symptoms: eye irritation, tissue lesions and infections, skin allergies (skin irritation, dermatitis);

General toxic effects: fever, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, deficiencies of the immune system, fatigue, hair loss.

It is possible to make an initial check on whether the house is a problem when an occupant seems to have discomfort. He must leave the house for a few days. If his symptoms improve while he is outside and they come back when the individual finds his home. It can be concluded that the air quality is not adequate. It is strongly recommended to conduct a test of air quality as evidenced by this article in the Journal de Montreal which tells the story of a couple whose their new house is overgrown with molds.

Why is there mold in houses and buildings?

The term mold refers to fungi, yeast, mildew and all types of mold. These and fungi are natural elements of the environment and play an essential role in the decomposition of leaves, trees and plant debris. These microorganisms can enter a building directly or enter by suspended spores in the air. In a house or building, molds and fungi will generally be lodged on walls, drywall such as gypsum board and plasterboard and Sheetrock® panels, furniture, fabrics, wallpaper, draperies, tiles in a ceiling covering as well as carpets and rugs. Nevertheless, no fungal contamination or water accumulation favoring it should be tolerated in the interior. Refer to this article for more details on causes of mold.

Mold and moisture

Moisture is one of the most common causes of poor air quality in offices, homes, classrooms and public indoor spaces as it promotes the growth of mold and mildew. mites. Mold can grow in damp or wet places in a building due to water leakage, flooding, seepage, or high humidity from activities human. Molds can appear on wood, paper, fabrics, drywall and insulation. They can be found on the fabrics, the contours of windows, the carpets, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the laundry room, in the basement. They can be hidden inside the walls and above the ceiling tiles. If mold is growing in a humid place, it can lead to deterioration of air quality and health problems. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, a mold test is required because you are likely to fall victim to Unhealthy Building Syndrome.

Exposure to moisture and mold in homes is a significant risk factor that can cause respiratory illness. In particular, it is estimated that 40% of Canadian residences could show signs of moisture and mold. Mold are microscopic fungi whose growth is favored by high humidity, the presence of stagnant water and inadequate ventilation. When they develop significantly, molds disperse respirable particles that can cause, especially children, health problem (irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, discharge and nasal congestion, and increased frequency and severity of asthma attacks). It should be noted that it is difficult to directly associate the symptoms experienced by the occupants of a building with a fungal profile revealed by laboratory analysis results. For this reason, it is better to have the advice of a doctor, having your results of your mold test.

In addition, the results of your mold test can not be used alone to report poor indoor air quality. They must be combined with in situ observations, and their interpretation depends on the accuracy of the analyzes and the air quality test performed.Nevertheless, no fungal contamination or water accumulation favoring it should be tolerated in the interior.

In an indoor environment, the main determinant of fungal growth is water and its corollary, moisture (infiltration, condensation, humid climate of an inner plantation, etc.). Without them, there is no possible growth of mold. The activity that results from the presence of water (and moisture) is therefore the most important element to monitor to avoid contamination.

Tests available to detect the presence of mold

Mold on a wall

Sampling and analysis of biological contaminants (molds)

Laboratory mold tests are accredited by the ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MDDELCC) du Québec. All mold samples collected are analyzed in the laboratory and approved by microbiologists specialized in microbiology. All laboratory operations are carried out according to the international standard ISO / IEC 17025. All sampling methods are in compliance with the standards and regulations of the Institut de recherche en santé et sécurité au travail du Québec (IRSST) and the règlement sur la santé et sur la sécurité au travail de Santé Canada. AIRTESTS sampling technicians are continuously trained according to the protocols prescribed by the laboratory.

Depending on the nature of the specific needs of each situation and the time available to obtain the results of the molds test provided by the laboratory, here are the different sampling methods used by AIRTESTS in the search for indoor environmental contaminants: Method 1 Mold sampling in air by Spores Trap.

Microbiological records of total spores of mold in air are made using Spore Trap. The parameters obtained by these samples are the enumeration of total mold in the air and identification of the types of molds. In order to establish such a type of microbiological air survey, total mold spores (both viable and non-viable) must be sampled in order to obtain an accurate count of total fungal particles in the air. To do this, the air samples are taken using a pump and an Air-O-Cell type cassette. This spore trap sampler pumps 75 liters of surrounding air through the cassette for 5 minutes (or 150 liters for 10 minutes). This cassette is equipped with a microscope slide with an adhesive film on which the particles present in the air taken are impacted. Sampling techniques apply to viable and non-viable mold spores (total spore count). It is possible to perform intramural sampling to inspect the air behind the walls or under a floor. It will be possible to perform this analysis using a probe that passes through an opening. The sampling time will be decreased to 2 minutes for a total of 30 liters of air. The sampling time is reduced since the environment behind the walls is generally dustier. Dust can limit and compromise the reading of the results.

Method 2 Air mold sampling by Bio Impaction Andersen

Microbiological records of fungal-yeast molds in the air made by bio-impaction Andersen. The parameters obtained by these samples are enumeration, identification with genera and species. Only viable molds in the air are identified by this method, it does not detect dead molds that can still remain allergenic.

Microbiological air samples are taken using an Andersen impactor. Through the impaction process, air enters from above the unit, and the microorganisms are separated and stored in a culture medium by centrifugal force. The culture medium used for molds and yeasts is YM (Rose Bengal Agar). The samples are kept at 4 ° C until they are returned to the laboratory where they will be incubated for several days. The results of the laboratory analyzes are given in CFU/m3 (colony forming unit/cubic meter of air). Data interpretation is performed comparing volumetric results between indoor and outdoor air. On the other hand, in both types of air, a similar distribution of mold types should be found or a lower concentration of mold in the indoor air. These techniques apply to viable molds only. Bio-impaction research is very useful when it comes to in-depth investigations; because this technique requires a waiting period in the laboratory that corresponds to the incubation, transplanting and re-incubation time of the living material (agar cultures). In-depth environmental research is the subject of elaborate and custom-built submissions on a case-by-case basis.

Method 3 Mold sampling from surfaces by smear

A sample of surface contaminants for microbiological analyzes is collected using a swab specifically designed for the sampling and transport of micro-organisms. This mold sampling method is defined as "Smear-contact". For example, a surface of 100 cm2 (10cmx10cm) is sampled with a swab to obtain the results in CFU/100 cm2. Sampling applies to viable molds only, however, it should be noted that these results do not reflect indoor air quality. These samples are taken generally inside the ducts or on the ventilation grills and on any other surfaces with a suspect appearance. The parameters obtained are the enumeration of surface molds, the identification of the genus from surface molds and the identification of the surface mold species.

Method 4 Sampling molds from surfaces by gluing

Samples are made using a tape-lift tape applied against mold, this method is generally used to establish a partial identification of molds. The results, however, do not reflect the quality of indoor air.

Mold due to water infiltration

Mold caused by water infiltration

In indoor environments, the main element that contributes to the proliferation of molds is water. Whether it's a leaky roof, a crack in the foundation, a bursting plumbing pipe, sewer backup ... all these situations are serious. Without water, there is no possible fungal growth. It is therefore the most important element to monitor to avoid fungal contamination. In modern buildings, the presence of mold can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • A flood by torrential rain and sewer backup.
  • Leaks from the roof, basement, or piping.
  • The tightness of the building prevents the evacuation of accumulated moisture.
  • Water infiltration caused by defects in design and / or construction.
  • Sources of moisture such as shower, cooking appliances and others.
  • French drains become dysfunctional because of iron ocher
  • Excessive moisture of any kind in indoor environments...

There are three categories of water status, so the scale of the problem depends on it.

Clear water: This is a also call clean water that can come from a broken supply pipe, a bath or a sink that overflows.

Grey water: This water may contain bacteria. It comes from the return of the washer, a toilet where there is urine, a dishwasher.

Black water: it is a water contaminated by micro-organisms (viruses, bacteria and molds). It is unhealthy and can cause significant health problems. It comes, among other things, from sewer backups.

Regardless of the source of water infiltration, it must be dealt with quickly. It is important to quickly clean and dry materials after infiltration. Sometimes, it is necessary to proceed to the removal of the damaged materials. This is even more important when it comes to sewer backup since the water can contain feces and therefore bacteria. A mold test is essential in this situation. Contaminated wood and gypsum must be discarded. Other surfaces must be disinfected. It is also necessary to repair the problem to prevent the water continues to seep into the home.

An air quality analysis will provide a better understanding of the impact of the presence of water in order to assess the true extent of the problem in the indoor environment.

Mold | Rental unit context

Screenshot of a rental lease

As a tenant, you have the right to live in a healthy place free of any contaminants that could be harmful to your health. Article 1913 of the Civil Code of Québec mentions: "The lessor may not offer for rent or deliver a dwelling that is unfit for habitation. A dwelling is unfit for habitation if it is in such a condition as to be a serious danger to the health or safety of its occupants or the public, or if it has been declared so by the court or by a competent authority." The insalubrity of a dwelling is an environment in which there are situations that can deteriorate housing and render it substandard or make it unfit for habitation.

The presence of molds, fungi, vermin, rodents, excessive humidity, and stale air are all situations that can lead to unhealthy conditions. Remedies are available to the tenant when the landlord refuses to correct the situation. He may obtain a lease termination or an order that requires the lessor to perform work when the landlord refuses to proceed or when the dwelling has become unsuitable. It is also possible to obtain a remedy to reduce the rent or to obtain damages and interests. It should be noted that the landlord also has the right to obtain a remedy to terminate the lease if the insalubrity was caused by the tenant.

Article 1915 of the Civil Code of Québec states: " A lessee may abandon his dwelling if it becomes unfit for habitation, but he is bound to inform the lessor of the condition of the dwelling before abandoning it or within the following 10 days.A lessee who gives such a notice to the lessor is exempt from rent for the period during which the dwelling is unfit for habitation, unless the condition of the dwelling is the result of his own fault. ". However, it is up to the tenant to demonstrate that the dwelling is unfit for habitation. The proof must be reliable. The appearance of the premises and the presence of mold are not enough to demonstrate the insanitary premises to cancel a lease. Expertises are needed to bring the proof. It is up to the tenant to prove with evidence to support, that the mold present in the environment constitutes a serious threat for his health. An inspection report, a microbiological analysis report and/or a medical report must be provided to demonstrate a link between the current state of health or the health hazards and the conditions in which the individual lives.

Régie du logement du Québec :
© Éditeur officiel du Québec - Updated to June 1, 2013 This document has official status.


The Civil Code of Québec governs, in harmony with the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (chapter C-12) and the general principles of law, the persons, the relations between persons, and property. The code consists of a set of rules which, in all matters to which the letter, the spirit or the object of its provisions relate, establishes, in express terms or implicitly, the common law. In these matters, it constitutes the foundation of other laws that may themselves add to or derogate from the code. En ces matières, il constitue le fondement des autres lois qui peuvent elles-mêmes ajouter au code ou y déroger. CHAPTER FOUR : LEASE

1851. Lease is a contract by which a person, the lessor, undertakes to provide another person, the lessee, in return for a rent, with the enjoyment of movable or immovable property for a certain time. The term of a lease is fixed or indeterminate.
1991, c. 64, a. 1909.
§ 4. — Condition of dwelling

1910. A lessor is bound to deliver a dwelling in good habitable condition; he is bound to maintain it in that condition throughout the term of the lease. A stipulation whereby a lessee acknowledges that the dwelling is in good habitable condition is without effect.
1991, c. 64, a. 1910.

1911. The lessor is bound to deliver the dwelling in clean condition and the lessee is bound to keep it so. Where the lessor carries out work in the dwelling, he shall restore it to clean condition.
1991, c. 64, a. 1911.

1912. The following give rise to the same remedies as failure to perform an obligation under the lease: 1° failure on the part of the lessor or the lessee to comply with an obligation imposed by law with respect to the safety and sanitation of dwellings; 2° failure on the part of the lessor to comply with the minimum requirements fixed by law with respect to the maintenance, habitability, safety and sanitation of immovables comprising a dwelling.
1991, c. 64, a. 1912.

1913. The lessor may not offer for rent or deliver a dwelling that is unfit for habitation. A dwelling is unfit for habitation if it is in such a condition as to be a serious danger to the health or safety of its occupants or the public, or if it has been declared so by the court or by a competent authority.
1991, c. 64, a. 1913. 16

1914. A lessee may refuse to take possession of a dwelling delivered to him if it is unfit for habitation; in such a case, the lease is resiliated by operation of law.
1991, c. 64, a. 1914.

1915. A lessee may abandon his dwelling if it becomes unfit for habitation, but he is bound to inform the lessor of the condition of the dwelling before abandoning it or within the following 10 days. A lessee who gives such a notice to the lessor is exempt from rent for the period during which the dwelling is unfit for habitation, unless the condition of the dwelling is the result of his own fault.
1991, c. 64, a. 1915.

1916. As soon as the dwelling becomes fit for habitation again, the lessor is bound to inform the lessee, if the lessee has given him his new address; the lessee is then bound to notify the lessor within the following 10 days as to whether or not he intends to return to the dwelling. Where the lessee has not given the lessor his new address or fails to notify him that he intends to return to the dwelling, the lease is resiliated by operation of law and the lessor may enter into a lease with a new lessee.
1991, c. 64, a. 1916.

1917. The court, when seized of any dispute in connection with a lease, may, even of its own motion, declare that the dwelling is unfit for habitation; it may then rule on the rent, fix the conditions necessary for the protection of the rights of the lessee and, where applicable, order that the dwelling be made fit for habitation again.
1991, c. 64, a. 1917.

1918. The lessee may apply to the court for an order enjoining the lessor to perform his obligations regarding the condition of the dwelling, where their non-performance threatens to make the dwelling unfit for habitation.
1991, c. 64, a. 1918.
1919. The lessee may not, without the consent of the lessor, use or keep in a dwelling a substance which constitutes a risk of fire or explosion and which would lead to an increase in the insurance premiums of the lessor.
1991, c. 64, a. 1919.
1920. The occupants of a dwelling shall be of such a number as to allow each of them to live in normal conditions of comfort and sanitation.