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I remember being really sad when I read about the death of Hollywood actress, Brittany Murphy, towards the end of last year. Then the report into what happened came out and I thought, oh no, not another celeb accidentally overdosing on prescription medicines – apart from it being such a cliché, it’s so disappointing for her fans.

Then yesterday the news hit that her death could actually have been caused by mould. Yes, mould. Her husband apparently died the same way she did just five months later, which is a bit of a coincidence to say the least. So the powers that be in LA are looking into it, and lo and behold, they’ve come up with the mould theory.

I don’t know why, but that makes me even more sad. It’s so, well, unglamorous. But it does offer an opportunity to publicise the health dangers of mould, so I thought ‘d look into the subject a little.

A quick tour of Google throws up any number of resources about so-called black toxic mould. But before you start fretting about the little specks of mould growing around your bath – you know, the stuff that’s almost impossible to shift – let’s look at the subject more closely.

Here’s the good news. Most types of mould are harmless – which is just as well, because apparently we’re surrounded by the stuff. Some, however, are not harmless, hence the term ‘toxic’. These all have names that are quite unpronounceable (so I won’t even bother mentioning them, because it won’t make them any easier to identify). The moulds themselves aren’t toxic, but they produce spores called mycotoxins. These get into our living environment and cause havoc in terms of health – rashes, respiratory problems, abdominal pain, nosebleeds, headaches, mood swings, coughing, sore throat, sinus problems, several types of cancer and neurological problems including brain damage are a few of the nasty illnesses they’re linked with.

So am I doing a good job of scaring you to death? Sorry, I don’t mean to. It’s all perfectly manageable – even if you have a touch of black mould in your home or workplace, there are things you can do to get rid of it (and therefore your constant exposure to it). Mould likes damp or humid conditions at room temperature, so check places like bathrooms (so yes, it’s worth persevering with those specks around your bath), damp basements, anywhere there’s been a water leak, windows with no ventilation and lots of condensation, fridge drip trays, wall coverings that might be trapping moisture, air conditioning units… well you get the picture.

I’ve been looking at ways to get rid of mould, and there are mould removers on the market you could try – but be careful, these are themselves quite toxic and you need to use them in well-ventilated rooms (so small bathrooms may be a problem). If you have a patch that’s small (and by small I mean less than three square feet), grab a bottle of bleach, dilute in water and apply to the mould (the bleach should kill it), making sure you rinse well and dry all surfaces when you’re done (or else you’ll just get mould growing there again).

Now if you’re anything like me, you’ll hate the smell of bleach (it makes me feel nauseous and gives me an instant headache). So my tip, apart from wearing protective gloves, is also to wear a face mask – that way, you won’t breathe in any mould spores either.Yes you will look ridiculous, but who’s going to see you anyway?

If, however, you find a bigger patch of mould, hire a professional to get rid of it. If Brittany and her husband had done just that, it’s quite possible they’d both be alive today – if the mould theory is correct, that is.

If anyone has any further tips for getting rid of mould, they would be most welcome (just add your comments).