The Sunday Times: Clearing the Air on Mould Woes

Tuesday December 6th, 2011 In the News

“If people are not falling sick, if the office doesn’t smell funny, they don’t call you”

— Mr Jeffrey Tang, Managing Director of IEQ Global Pte Ltd

Mould thrives in tropical Singapore— and doing well too are companies that combat the indoor fungal pest.

Of a handful of indoor air quality (IAQ) specialist firms here, three have expanded locally and regionally over the last five years. The number of staff at two companies has tripled.

Experts said mould is the most prevalent IAQ problem here. Other air contaminants include bacteria, viruses and high concentrations of carbon dioxide.

Experts who specialise in lung diseases said that about one in four allergy-related conditions, such as asthma, is provoked by exposure to airborne mould spores.

Over time, this can lead to chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a severe lung disease, though such cases remain rare in Singapore.

IAQ firms said most of the local demand comes from commercial clients— two recent guidelines set limits on airborne pollutants in buildings.

Air-quality specialists said that up to 90 per cent of consultations are with commercial clients who want to meet these standards. Many have had office workers who fell ill or products damaged by mould.

Expatriates are more aware than Singaporeans of the health risks of poor indoor air, said the companies.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) had said it would soon focus more on ways to promote clean indoor air and not just energy efficiency in its Green Mark Scheme— introduced in 2005 to promote construction of more environment-friendly buildings— and guidelines published by Spring Singapore in 2009.

Most people just do not pay enough attention to their indoor environment, said Mr Jeffrey Tang, founder of IEQ Global, which advises clients on indoor air quality.

‘If people are not falling sick, if the office doesn’t smell funny, they don’t call you,’ he said.

Calls from homes typically come from North American and European expatriate families, the consultants said.

Worldwide, there is increasing recognition of the importance of indoor air quality, said Dr Philip Eng, a lung specialist.

Since 2007, IEQ Global has had projects in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. It has operational centres in Malaysia and Indonesia.

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