July 04, 2012

Cuenca Ecuador Weather Humidity and Mold Experiment: In Search of Mold in Cuenca! (8 of 8)

For those of you who have been following along with our Cuenca Weather Humidity/Mold experiment you should have a much better understanding of the climate conditions here in Cuenca.  

The Cuenca futbol stadium weather report online says that in the month of June and July Cuenca's average humidity is 73%.  We confirm this as we have been recording humidity readings inside and outside our home in our experiment in the first part of June. This last video is of moldy buildings in Cuenca Ecuador.

          


Most people do not realize that Cuenca has this high of humidity and that is because it is not hot here; therefore you do not sweat like you would if you lived in Florida or Texas with 73% humidity. But if you walk around in Cuenca, even with 70 degree weather you will sweat. 

Health Affects to Mold

We started experiencing mild cold like symptoms before we knew that our home had hidden mold.  Fortunately, we now have control of the mold growth through opening of the windows every day, even on chiller days. The mold still comes back but not as fast. Below we offer more solutions to the growth of mold in Cuenca.
 
Is there a health risk to moving to Cuenca?  Perhaps for those people who are sensitive to mold and have allergies or respiratory health issues. This assessment comes from not just our personal experience but also the experience of other expat friends and other information gathered from other sources.

It's not something that's talked about much, but after living here for a period of time it becomes evident. Well, one thing you notice is that the construction of the homes and apartments of friends, although, it is to a high standard in other respects, is faulty in one thing. The homes and building do not have proper ventilation. 

Mold Quickly Comes Back Without Proper Ventilation

You clean it, and you clean it, but it keeps coming back after a few weeks. Why is this happening? After several conversations with landlords, the solution that keeps cropping up is "open the windows". 

And that’s exactly what we do now! Even with the windows open the mold grows back, just not as fast, so having the windows open does help to keep the mold at bay a bit longer. In the winter our home is a constant 62 to maybe 64 degrees and we still open the windows.

Why is There Mold in Cuenca Ecuador?

Two major reasons for mold are:
1) moist / chilly conditions
2) no ventilation system built into the homes

After a bit of reflection it is apparent that the issue is in the construction plan.  And here is where it is faulty. There is no allowance for a natural ventilation of the homes.  If you don't open the windows, you're stuck in a vacuum.  No airflow, at least, not enough to curtail the spread of mold.  And this is the source, we believe, of the beginning of health issues.

Here in Cuenca, weather conditions being more rainy and over cast days than sunny and dry days is a perfect breeding ground for mold. Cuenca is moist and chilly inside the homes without a source of heat.

Again, if it was just us we wouldn't write about it.  But it's our friends too.  They also notice the constant nasal irritation, and the throaty irritation that just won't go away. None of this ever happened on a chronic basis before moving to Cuenca. Actually it didn't occur at all with us as we're very careful about our health.  It's a Cuenca thing at this point, since we've lived here. 

However, we have read that respiratory ailments are also an issue at some southern coastal points of Ecuador where apparently it rains all the time.

We're guessing that under very wet conditions and no proper ventilation, the  mold issue is too strong to conquer and that's how it causes chronic irritation. This is potentially a very big health risk, especially for older folks and very young children.  If you're healthy and strong it's just a chronic small "cold symptom" type of irritation.  But for the above mentioned groups it could spread to other parts of the body such as your lungs and become pneumonia. This can potentially become fatal.

It's an important issue that people need to be aware of when considering moving to Cuenca or other parts of Ecuador. See it for yourself, when you come even just to visit, take a look at the construction.  See any vents in the ceilings, or any attic areas with vents in the walls?  Nope and nope. 

We understand every one's situation is different, and we think that simple solutions would be very effective, such as:

1. having a wood stove
2. having a fireplace
3. having lots of gas heat
4. having an industrial sized de-humidifier
5. open the windows even though you're cold

This would have the effect of drying out conditions so as to prevent mold coming back again, so soon, it's our experience, not an opinion or a guess. Thank you for following along with us on our Cuenca Ecuador Weather Humidity and Mold Experiment. Feed back and questions are welcome.

We have had some very helpful feedback and comments from our readers since talking about the mold issue and weather in Cuenca; here's one of them. 

Hi Frank, Angie, and Sons,
 
Your post about mold caught my attention, as I had pondered this about a month ago (before your post) as I was reading your posts about the weather and the home being a tad chilly. I work in construction (27yrs), with an emphasis on water and moisture issues - run into it all the time, albeit in Canada.

One concern I have with EC (highlands) construction technology is the use of the concrete pad on ground. I don't know how they separate the concrete from the earth - do they use gravel? I have not seen any decent gravel aggregates in EC in all the reading I have done yet. Concrete is extremely porous, and will tend to wick up moisture from very wet ground very easily. 
During your rainy season it is quite cool also, and the concrete pads may be wicking up moisture and expelling some of that into living space above the pad. You won't be able to see it happening. Further I have noticed countless homes where the roof runoff splashes down on the ground at the base of the concrete pad and sometimes even splashes back at the base of the exterior wall soaking up to 24 inches of the wall (evident in countless home photos I have seen). Prolonged and/or frequent rain exposures will result in large amounts of moisture migrating thru the concrete wall and into the home.

The more likely source of moisture for you may be related to showers and cooking without proper ventilation to outside. On the coolest of mornings it is less likely that one would open the window for ventilation while showering, when it is most needed. (our note:We leave our bathroom windows open 24/7)  One may tend to open the door to the bathroom instead, resulting in the moisture entering living space and finding the coolest locations on which to congregate. It doesn't always have to condense there, though it may. This is the perfect environment for mold to grow.

The moisture in the home will tend to build up on the (relatively) cooler surfaces of the inside, especially inside cupboards or closets or in corners of walls to ceilings etc. (Our note: yep!)

The idea of a woodstove makes a lot of sense. Or some other source of heat, albeit at a cost. Air circulation may help some too; eg. keep cupboard doors open during lengthy rainy and cool times, run a fan once in a while. Best may be to see about getting a fan installed in the bathroom(s). 




2 comments:

  1. Very good to be forewarned about this! thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great Post, I live in Germany and have similar issues with mold here too. The solution is in Germany is to open windows,heat and of course the right construction technology.

    ReplyDelete

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