Mould in a window corner. Photo: iStock/FotoDuets.

Many of us try very hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating well, exercising daily, taking vitamins, and staying mindful of our overall well-being.

Guest post by the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center

While focusing on these lifestyle choices, it is easy to overlook the direct link between the health of the home and the health of our bodies.

When we think of our apartment, we often think of safety and comfort. Many of us have invested a lot of time and effort in turning a bleak space into a reprieve where we spend a great deal of our day. Australians spend roughly 90 per cent of their time indoors – at work, school, or in the home.

However, the apartment where we find solace may not be as safe as we think. While living in a small space and near other people, there are higher risks for health hazards. Considering the amount of time spent inside our apartments, it is in our best interest to ensure the home’s health. Common hidden dangers that might be lurking in your apartment include the following.

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Mould, part of the fungi family, can be found both indoors and outdoors. If you notice that your apartment contains moist or wet areas with poor ventilation (such as bathroom tiles or certain walls/wallpaper), mould could be present or in the process of forming.

There are many different types of mould, all of which can cause health problems. When mould grows, tiny mould spores are carried into the air. You may experience a runny or stuffy nose, wheezing, or eye and skin irritation if inhaled. If you have asthma and allergies, you may be more sensitive to mould. Furthermore, if you have a weakened immune system, such as people undergoing chemotherapy, you may be at risk of contracting a mould infection in the lungs.

To prevent mould growth, reduce the moisture and dampness in your apartment. While showering, cooking, doing laundry, turn on fans and open windows. Limiting humidifiers and repairing all leaks as soon as possible further hinders mould growth.

If you find mould in your apartment, talk to your landlord to have it removed as soon as possible.

Dust mites

Everyone has a favourite “spot” in the home, whether that is a particular chair or just the comfort of your bed. However, our favourite areas of the house could be the dust mite’s hiding place.

Dust primarily comprises the mites favourite food – our dead skin cells. Therefore, it makes sense that the areas in the apartments in which we relax most often have higher mite populations. The most common type of dust mite in Australian homes is the Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, usually found in coastal regions.

This particular mite has been found to trigger dermatological and respiratory allergies, such as wheezing, coughing, breathlessness, chest tightening, skin rashes and more. Dust mites are less than a half millimetre in length, oval-shaped and wingless, often found in mattresses, furniture, carpets and soft toys.

Although it is impossible to destroy all dust mites in your apartment, there are measures to reduce the population, such as washing pillowcases and sheets each weak in 55 degrees Celsius or warmer. Using synthetic pillows and doonas rather than feathers has also been shown to reduce the presence of mites. Vacuuming and dusting weekly is also suggested as a preventive measure.


If your apartment building was built before 1980, it most likely contains asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral fibre. In Australia, the material was commonly used in residential and commercial buildings for its affordability and insulating properties between the mid-1940s and late 1980s. However, in December 2003, a total ban on the manufacture, use, reuse, import, transport, storage or sale of asbestos was enacted.

If asbestos is disturbed, the particles release into the air. Once inhaled, the fibres can bury themselves in the linings of the lungs, heart or abdomen, where mesothelioma cancer can later form. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease, accounting for roughly 70 to 90 per cent of all cases. Common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include chest and back pain, difficulty swallowing, persistent coughing, shortness of breath and fluid around the lungs.

Although asbestos is banned, many landlords and tenants may be unaware that the material is present in their older apartment buildings. Asbestos may be found in cement sheets, ceilings, floors, tiles, beneath wood-heaters and more. If you are concerned that there may be asbestos is in your apartment, bring this to the attention of your landlord or apartment owner to determine how to proceed.

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Healthy apartment – healthier you

Your apartment is where you most likely spend a great deal of time. Therefore, it is never too late to ensure your health and safety by considering the conditions of your home. If you are looking for a new apartment, don’t be afraid to ask the landlord, realtor, or former tenants about the condition of the space. Through asking these questions alone may not be enough, doing your research can ensure the information is accurate. Look beyond the cosmetics and pay attention to the functionality and structural health.

If you are a longtime resident of your apartment complex but have noticed issues within the space that could affect your health, bring this to your landlord’s attention. He, or she, should help ensure that the area is healthy and safe. By taking the time now to safeguard your health, you’re investing in a healthy future.

Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center

Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center provides information and resources for mesothelioma patients and their families. The center is an independent group that brings attention to the dangers of asbestos and the deadly form of cancer it causes, mesothelioma. The group works to help patients, caregivers, advocates and others looking to learn more about the disease.