Dry powdery mould

Robbo123

New Member
Hi all,

Any advice would be appreciated here. I've googled the internet for hours and cannot find anyone with this problem!

We live in a relatively newly built house (about 4 years old). We noticed a black powdery soot type residue building up in the kitchen cupboards. It appears to be particularly drawn to plastic surfaces. As time went on this got no better so we spoke to the house builders. They had it tested and it's been confirmed to be 'Aspergillus fumigatus'. After googling this and doing some more research it appears to be a type of mould usually found in soils, leaves and compost! How on earth it's building up in our kitchen cupboards is beyond me.

There is no dampness evident in the kitchen and the walls have been tested with a damp-meter to confirm this. We obviously don't leave the cupboard doors open either so it's strange how it seems to build up inside these rather than anywhere else.

Does anyone have any ideas of why we could be getting this problem or have had/heard of anything else remotely similar?

To be fair, the house builders are being very good with their support as they've never seen/heard of it either. My main concern is the health implications - I've two young children who suffer from asthma and after more google searches it doesn't appear to be a very good thing to say the least.

Any help/advice/ideas/speculation would be much appreciated as myself, as well as the housebuilders, are at a bit of a loss to where this is originating from and I'm determined to get to the bottom of it.

Thanks,

James
 

Tony

Administrator
Hello Robbo,

Welcome to the forum - have you you tried contacting environmental health at your local council?

Best wishes,

Tony
 

Dez

New Member
What was the quality of the kitchen installed I found a similar issue that was down to cheaper budget compressed wood fibre fill of the boards and doors seeping black mould into the cupboards. Some of the cheaper units do not have fully sealed ends and joins and any ingress of moisture in unventilated areas during early installs in damp conditions draws the start of the problem into the wood fill like a sponge especially if the door and cab protection foil is removed to early and left open. Again depending upon location and use of ventilation around cooking areas during occupation could add to the continuing developing situation. Wood frame builds that go all out for max heat rentention are not big on ventilation. Do you have any humidity devices available eg weather stations internal/external that can show any air moisture in the room. Do other houses on the same estate have the same issue or is it isolated to your situation? Long shot but there has been some recent outing of low grade plaster board being used in the industry that is being suggested after proper EU testing that this low grade Chinese material actually contains potentially dangerous toxic materials.....surprisingly the Chinese suppliers quality control were wearing blinkers and our asleep at the wheel retailers and builders could not be bothered to test the inbound material preferring to save QC costs and take the word of the Chinese suppliers. One of the side effects of this material,apart from future health issues, in new builds , was the corrosion of metal fittings. Is the black dust surrounding or coming from the chrome hinge fittings? This was one of the early discoveries in the US from toxic wall boards causing metal corrosion and copper failings. Which is why I was surprised when I found that the UK had learned nothing from the US chinese QC failures and we may now have the same issue like a poison pill in our new builds with suppliers/builders now finding out about the issue. I hope this is not the case as the costs for testing and safely removing contaminated material and disposed will be very high which is probably why this issue seems to have a very low profile in the public domain.
 

Fenman48

New Member
Mould

My son has had a similar problem with a ground floor flat built in 2014 by David Wilson Homes. Here the builder has been totally uncooperative and we have had to drag them kicking and screaming to get the problem investigated and work carried out. The problem was reported in January 2015 and work commenced in January 2016. They finally returned to their flat in August 2016. Dispute is still running.

I am currently investigating the short and long term effects of mould which according to Rainbow International website is class 1 the same as asbestos.

The first thing your builder needs to do is employ a specialist and you need to go into writing to tell them this. They will use an endoscope to check behind your units.
The problem sounds like ventilation so all systems have to be checked.
If your kitchen is to the outside It may also be worth checking dpc to ground level. Should be a minimum of two bricks.

In my sons case the building sub-contractor had apparently not fitted the below floor ventilation bricks so that area could not breathe except up the walls. This was found by endoscope (camera). Makes you wonder who inspects these buildings.

If you want to read more then an article in the Telegraph (30 August page 2). This talks of a conference in London early September European Respiratory Society International Conference. The conference is now over and the papers can be downloaded via Google.
However good your builder it is their responsibility and they need to employ the specialist to solve the problem.
 

indyjukebox

New Member
My son has had a similar problem with a ground floor flat built in 2014 by David Wilson Homes. Here the builder has been totally uncooperative and we have had to drag them kicking and screaming to get the problem investigated and work carried out. The problem was reported in January 2015 and work commenced in January 2016. They finally returned to their flat in August 2016. Dispute is still running.

I am currently investigating the short and long term effects of mould which according to Rainbow International website is class 1 the same as asbestos.

The first thing your builder needs to do is employ a specialist and you need to go into writing to tell them this. They will use an endoscope to check behind your units.
The problem sounds like ventilation so all systems have to be checked.
If your kitchen is to the outside It may also be worth checking dpc to ground level. Should be a minimum of two bricks.

In my sons case the building sub-contractor had apparently not fitted the below floor ventilation bricks so that area could not breathe except up the walls. This was found by endoscope (camera). Makes you wonder who inspects these buildings.

If you want to read more then an article in the Telegraph (30 August page 2). This talks of a conference in London early September European Respiratory Society International Conference. The conference is now over and the papers can be downloaded via Google.
However good your builder it is their responsibility and they need to employ the specialist to solve the problem.

Rainbow international are a commercial cleaning company. It is in their best interest to scare and in return get work done "professionally" to make a profit. Classifying a fungus in the same league as a fibre silicate is idiotic and scaremongering. Also what exactly are you pointing to at the ERS conference? I can post a link if you tell me what the relevant topic/paper was.

I do agree that this is most likely related to an excess of humidity/lack of ventilation issue. Fungi are naturally occurring. They proliferate when it is damp and warm. If someone has Asthma, then it makes sense to keep the environment as dry as possible and minimise an excess of fungal growth within the home. It needs sorting out. But I am not a building expert so cannot help you in that regard. However at 4 years old, the initial wetness should have all dried out. So like the above poster said, there must be something wrong with the ventilation system causing damp air to be retained within your home.
 

Fenman48

New Member
Hi James

To put your mind at ease you are certainly not alone with this problem.

I have found three sources of information on the problem:-

1. Commercial information from companies such as Rainbow International. They do have commercial interests but they are American and this is the source of their statements. I cannot agree with indyjukebox until I have looked at in more depth as this is a category of risk not chemical type.
2. Local councils and other landlord groups. The landlord has a duty of care to their tenants. Most councils have a policy on this and there are several court cases involving damp and mould. Councils also have to be aware of the long term legal problems that could accumulate. Try google on damp and mould councils or court cases damp and mould. Letting landlords could also face the same problem.
3. Research papers. These are not always easy to interpret but worth having a go. I am not an expert in this field but I do have a technical background and will be looking in depth at this in the next two weeks. Try googling the information in the previous post.

I do however have over fifteen years experience of troubleshooting in the building industry and the key here is to find and solve the problem not analyse the mould.

indyjukebox is correct in saying that initial build should have dried out. I would try the following:-

1. Check all the plumbing and waste pipes for any leaks. The leak could be very small indeed. Try wrapping toilet paper round the joints. Run the system and check for dampness.
2. As stated earlier check all external dpc levels.
3. Remove the internal shelving and place toilet paper on the floor wall join to see if it gets damp.

Wish you luck

As I stated earlier you need expertise and this should be provided by the builder.
 

Robbo123

New Member
Hi all,

Thanks very much for your replies, they're greatly appreciated. The building company are in the process of sending someone round to check the mould levels in the air. I'll speak to them about the other points in here and get these checked too.

I've also sent an e-mail to environmental health, as suggest by Tony. I'll await their reply and see what they say.

I'll keep this thread updated on all progress that's made.

James
 

Robbo123

New Member
Hi Steven,

Not really, that picture to me looks more like damp mould whereas ours is very dry and more like a soot type residue. I've attached a picture.

IMG_7872.jpg

As you can see, there's perfect circles around where plastic cups/juice bottles have been and I've moved them to take the photo. If you look closely you can also see it on Mickey's face, as well as down the bottom left of the photo which is where the plastic chopping boards sit against the side of the fridge (the same surface/material used inside the cupboards). It is very odd how it seems to be attracted to plastic.

Thanks,

James
 

Robbo123

New Member
Sorry, the picture has uploaded sideways - it should be rotated to the right as if you were looking in the cupboard for my above post to make sense :)
 

indyjukebox

New Member
Hi Steven,

Not really, that picture to me looks more like damp mould whereas ours is very dry and more like a soot type residue. I've attached a picture.

View attachment 319

As you can see, there's perfect circles around where plastic cups/juice bottles have been and I've moved them to take the photo. If you look closely you can also see it on Mickey's face, as well as down the bottom left of the photo which is where the plastic chopping boards sit against the side of the fridge (the same surface/material used inside the cupboards). It is very odd how it seems to be attracted to plastic.

Thanks,

James

That is mould, especially as it is growing on the surface of the Mickey container. Damp either due to a leak or poor ventilation. Is your thermostat set high, ie is the house always very warm? Are your window vents all open? Do you ventilate your rooms often? Some basic things to rule out. But if you run the thermostat cool and ventilate often; then it seems likely there is an issue with your build, like the previous poster said. Good to know that the builder is being supportive.
 

Robbo123

New Member
That is mould, especially as it is growing on the surface of the Mickey container. Damp either due to a leak or poor ventilation. Is your thermostat set high, ie is the house always very warm? Are your window vents all open? Do you ventilate your rooms often? Some basic things to rule out. But if you run the thermostat cool and ventilate often; then it seems likely there is an issue with your build, like the previous poster said. Good to know that the builder is being supportive.

Yes, it is mould, we had it confirmed to be 'Aspergillus fumigatus'. I was meaning the look of the mould is different. I've experienced mould before and it looks completely different when it's damp mould. This is completely dry, there is no dampness and when you rub it it comes off like soot would.

The house isn't any warmer than a normal house. We haven't had the heating on all summer, the vents are open on the windows and this is in the kitchen where the back door to our garden is - the door is open daily whilst the kids are out playing.

Thanks again for your help,

James
 

Robbo123

New Member
Does anybody know much about these 'Ventapipes'? We have one in our kitchen and this is how it looks when you look down from above the kitchen units on to it. The main reason I ask is obviously it is exposed/not covered and you can see the insulation. When reading online it does say this type of mould we have could be present in insulation and building materials so I'm wondering if it could be coming from here, but I know nothing about these devices other than what I've read at the following link;

http://www.plumbcenter.co.uk/wcssto...u/re/McAlpine_AirAdmittanceValve_Brochure.pdf

From reading I didn't know if it could be broken, particularly referring to this part of the PDF I read;

"On cessation of negative pressure the Diaphragm returns to the closed position thereby preventing the escape of foul air into the building..."

As I said, I know nothing about these and this is a complete guess, so I'm probably wrong! It does also say;

"Air Admittance Valves should not be used outside buildings or in dust laden atmospheres. They should be located preferably in a non habitable space, such as a duct or roof."

Again, if someone knows anything about these I would be interested to hear their opinion.

Thanks,

James

Photo of ours in kitchen;

IMG_8639.jpg
 
Last edited:
Hi James,

That does look very different.

What you've described sounded very much like what our neighbours and ourselves have.

We took off the cupboard doors in the end which slowed it down to the point that you only notice it growing over a very long period.

It rubs off very easily. No damp and it always dry. Vents open etc.

NHBC have agreed to write to David Wilson Homes instructing them to take the cupboards off the wall in our case so that they can look behind to see if there is an issue there. They think that it could either be an issue with the exterior wall insulation or to do with the drip trays (I'm not entirely sure what they mean by this but something to do with moisture running back into the house rather than away at out).

If you leave the doors open (or even off) does it still return after being cleaned? –*we've also been told not to use bleach to clean because it puts more water back into the surfaces and can actually feed the mould. But then have also been told just to use bleach!

Best,

Steven
 

Robbo123

New Member
Hi Stephen,

That certainly sounds similar to ours then.

I haven't left the cupboard doors off and, in all honesty, I don't intend to either. I don't think it's a reasonable way to live in a newly built house. I'm reluctant to find ways to slow the growth down as I want root cause to be found. I'm a bit sceptical trying to find ways round the issue incase the builder jumps on any as an easy way out!

It will be interesting to see what response you get from David Wilson. I'll be speaking with our builders today so will keep you updated.

James
 
Hi James,

Totally agree. This is our second new build (first was Persimmon) and never seen or heard of this issue before in kitchen cupboards.

Our neighbour also used to own a Persimmon and also have never experienced this.

When they finally take off the cupboard will post what we find.

Best,

Steven
 

Robbo123

New Member
Hello Robbo,

Welcome to the forum - have you you tried contacting environmental health at your local council?

Best wishes,

Tony

Hi Tony,

Thanks again for the advice. I've got someone coming round on Wednesday to discuss further.

James
 

Robbo123

New Member
Hi all,

This is still being investigated. The latest suggestion from the house builder was about burning candles, wondering how often they're burned. I've looked online and there's a lot of issues with black soot residues due to burning candles. I don't however believe that burning a candle very occassionally in a separate room would cause black 'mould' in the kitchen cupboards. I also don't believe a candle could give off Aspergillus Fumigatus mould when burned.

If anyone knows otherwise then please let me know. I don't for one second believe this to be the cause but happy to hear peoples views which I imagine will be the same as mine.

Thanks,

James
 

indyjukebox

New Member
Hi all,

This is still being investigated. The latest suggestion from the house builder was about burning candles, wondering how often they're burned. I've looked online and there's a lot of issues with black soot residues due to burning candles. I don't however believe that burning a candle very occassionally in a separate room would cause black 'mould' in the kitchen cupboards. I also don't believe a candle could give off Aspergillus Fumigatus mould when burned.

If anyone knows otherwise then please let me know. I don't for one second believe this to be the cause but happy to hear peoples views which I imagine will be the same as mine.

Thanks,

James

Could I just reiterate that Aspergillus is a mould found in the environment naturally. Its spores are ubiquitous in the atmosphere, so if you were to swab a surface in any house, you most likely will find its spores. There will be spores on building materials as well as stuff like fruit that you buy from the supermarket. The fungus grows when it has a conducive environment, usually damp/heat. So compost heaps will have loads of Aspergillus and other fungi. Your issue is likely to be due to an excess of damp or warmth. If you do not overheat the house, then something is wrong with the ventilation/there is a slow leak causing dampness. The builder needs to investigate this. The only way I can think about candles affecting it, is if you were burning quite a few and hence the room becomes too warm. The candle cannot produce Aspergillus per se. Environmental health is the next port of call, so see what they say.

All the best with getting to the bottom of this and keep us posted.
 
Hi James,

David Wilson Homes have now agreed through NHBC's contact with them to remove our cupboards next Friday and inspect behind them and the exterior wall. Will update here when they have done so.

Best,

Steven
 
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