Almost nine out of 10 Australians (88 per cent) believe that paranormal phenomenon exists, and almost 70 per cent of us claim we've had an "extraordinary" personal experience, with around a fifth of us believing we've had a brush with a ghost or spiritual entity.
But a growing number of scientists believe toxic mould – which grows on the walls of damp homes – could be to blame.
Cleaning expert Paul Mangold from leading domestic services firm, Fantastic Services, claims by simply scrubbing it off, and fixing any issues with damp, you can banish the evil spirits without having to summon the Ghostbusters.
“For eye-witnesses who experience supernatural encounters, the events can be extremely traumatic,” says Melbourne-based Paul. “And when the paranormal activity is centred on your own home it can prove even more frightening.
“But it’s important to remember that there could well be a rational, domestic explanation for all manner of spirits, poltergeists and demons. Several studies have suggested the toxic black mould that grows on damp walls could be a factor.
“These living, organic moulds can send spores - clumps of microscopic seeds - into the air, spreading like a virus. One of the worst-offending types – Stachybotrys chartarum – is present in many homes in the Australia, and the mycotoxins it produces can cause respiratory problems, inflammation of the skin, tiredness and nausea.
“Meanwhile some types of fungus – particularly the rye ergot fungus – have a psychedelic effect when ingested, causing hallucinations and delusions. These moulds could well be behind many ghost sightings. And it’s important homeowners are aware of the dangers.”
The phenomenon was first examined in 2007 by experts in Maryland, USA, who christened it ‘Sick Building Syndrome’, or ‘SBS’, and documented the effects in the journal ‘Neurotoxicology and Teratology’.
Lead author Ritchie Shoemaker analysed the inhabitants of water damaged, and mould-ridden buildings, and found patients had compromised ‘neurological function’, as well as a host of other toxicity-related ailments.
In 2015, a team of scientists from Clarkson University, New York, studied the links between hauntings and toxic mould. Associate Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering Shane Rogers sampled the air quality in buildings associated with alleged ghost activity.
He said: "Hauntings are very widely reported phenomena that are not well-researched. They are often reported in older-built structures that may also suffer poor air quality.
“Similarly, some people have reported depression, anxiety and other effects from exposure to biological pollutants in indoor air. We are trying to determine whether some reported hauntings may be linked to specific pollutants found in indoor air.
“Although allergy and asthma symptoms and other physiological effects are well established, there has long been controversy over the effects of indoor mould exposure on cognitive and other functioning of the brain.”
American physicist and paranormal sceptic Dr Harry Kloor is convinced mould is to blame for many supernatural events, explaining, “A common airborne fungus will actually grow on latex paint and produces these ergot alkaloids which cause people to hallucinate. This could explain the bizarre things that people are seeing.”
Health NSW warns that people with asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mould, stating: “People with weakened immune systems (such as people with HIV infection, cancer patients taking chemotherapy or people who have received an organ transplant) and with chronic lung diseases (such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and emphysema) are more at risk of mould infection particularly in their lungs.”
Some are worse affected than others, too, with babies and children, the elderly and those with existing problems, such as eczema or asthma, particularly susceptible.
Thankfully there are methods to combat toxic black mould.
“If you’re attempting to clean black mould yourself, always wear a protective mask, rubber gloves and safety glasses,” adds Fantastic Services’ Paul. “The most effective method of combating mould is to pour bleach into a spraying bottle, before covering mouldy areas and letting the bleach get to work for 30 minutes.
“Open all windows to allow any toxic fumes to escape. Then wipe and rinse the area and leave it to dry, before disposing of the cloth used. Bear in mind that bleach is a strong chemical product, which makes it dangerous for people with allergies, sensitive skin, as well as kids.”
Excess moisture in buildings typically comes from leaking pipes, rising damp in basements or ground floors, or rain seeping in because of damage to the roof or around window frames.
In a newly-built home, damp can occur if the water used when the house was built is still drying out.
A common place for mould to grow in your home is the bathroom.
For more information or to call in the experts, visit fantasticservicesgroup.com.au
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