UAE: Mould growing in homes after floods? Experts offer tips to tackle fungi spread

As authorities sprang into action to drain waterlogging, tenants and homeowners had to navigate the aftermath of nature's unpredictability


Ajanta Paul

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Woman with a respirator mask removes mould-covered wallpaper.
Woman with a respirator mask removes mould-covered wallpaper.

Published: Mon 29 Apr 2024, 9:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 30 Apr 2024, 8:27 AM

As temperatures continued to rise during the pre-summer season, April 16 brought an unexpected twist for residents as the skies poured on the UAE with unprecedented rains. While a welcomed respite from the usual arid climate, this downpour brought along its own set of challenges.

Mould crept into homes, mosquitoes swarmed, and damp furnitures swelled, leaving residents sweating over health concerns and property losses. As authorities sprang into action to open roadblocks, drain waterlogging and mitigate other hurdles, tenants and homeowners had to navigate the aftermath of nature's unpredictability.

"Mould growth due to dampness will be a major challenge residents face," said Dinesh Ramachandran, Technical and SHE Manager at pest control company, Rentokil Boecker.

Wall with mould
Wall with mould

Hisham Jaber, Co-Founder of The Healthy Home, said, "Rainstorms can introduce moisture into the environment, triggering mould growth. If that moisture isn't adequately managed or dried out, it can create conditions favourable for mould growth. Areas prone to leaks or poor ventilation are particularly susceptible. Mould spores, which are present in the air both indoors and outdoors, can settle and grow on surfaces when moisture levels are high."

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Dinesh highlighted that mould and fungus growth poses a significant yet frequently unnoticed health risk until they become apparent. Mould can potentially cause asthma and allergies, among other health concerns.

Then there are the pesky, unwelcomed mosquitoes that thrive in water bodies, creating suitable breeding conditions for them.

Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

According to experts from Rentokil Boecker and The Healthy Home, the period between mid-March and mid-April marks the peak of mosquito activity, as temperate weather creates ideal breeding conditions for these insects.

"A small garden toy, an unused fountain or a plant pot collecting small amounts of rainwater or irrigation water becomes a breeding source for mosquitoes. One of the reasons for the surge is the recent downpour that had led to water stagnation," said Dinesh.

Jordanian expat Laith, who has been in the UAE for 15 years, said, "The mosquito problem this time is a lot bigger than before, and the reason is the water body behind our community. It is the best place for mosquitoes to multiply in millions; I am really considering selling the house and moving to another area."

Navroop K, who grew up in UAE, said, "I have 23-month-old twins, and my daughter has had to take the worst hit of the mosquito issues. Every day, she has new bites." The Indian expat added that she has never encountered mosquitoes living in Al Ghadeer to such an extent.

The peak for mosquito activity could be from March to May. However, stagnant water is an invitation for mosquito breeding and can be a year-long issue if the breeding sources are not targeted, Dinesh added.

"Tall grass and mulch offer cosy hiding spots for these unwelcome guests. And yes, they're attracted to the scent of blood, making you their prime target," said Hisham.

Recently, Rentokil Boecker identified mosquito breeding sources and recommended source removal. They recommended to stock lakes and ponds with larvivorous fish. They also treated stagnant water using mosquito IGRs (Insect Growth Regulator) approved by MOCCAE.

Other techniques used by the team were space treatments, such as external thermal fogging during dawn and dusk, adulticide applications to resting areas, and the installation of smart mosquito traps.

The wet conditions not only brought pests but also caused damage to many household properties.

Kylie Anne said, "Things are now almost back to normal. But we lost a lot of furniture — our couch, shelves and many items in the bottom drawers of our kitchen etc. Our washing machine and dishwasher needed repair as they sat in knee-deep water.

"The kitchen cupboards, front door, bathroom door and cupboards under the stairs, the wood is all swollen and warping from the water. It’s difficult to open and close the front door. We are concerned about mould growing."

Nimra Luqman said, "Our sofa, table, dressing table, cupboards, and bed all got wet."

Interior designer and founder of Style Me Interiors Dubai community, Gabby Garvey, said, "This last rainfall has been the worst UAE has faced in a decade. To protect ourselves in the future, I advise residents to check all windows and doors and make sure the sealants haven't worn off and there are no gaps you can feel or see. If it's a wooden door well worn at the bottom, look into repairing or replacing it; if you are renting, bring this to the owner's attention."

Gabby added, "If you live in a villa and have recently built an extension or your building is very old, check that the waterproofing on the roof isn't worn or incorrectly done."

The long-time resident, who also runs popular Facebook pages, has a few more tips to offer:

  • Have your ACs checked post-rainfall, and install filtered water systems from your water supplies.
  • Invest in a strong semi-industrial pump, one that's strong enough to pump out water
  • Buy a medium portable power station like an operated generator
  • Store some sandbags in the garage or shed
  • Join the community group in your community on social platforms like Facebook or WhatsApp; community members can be instrumental in helping each other pre-, during and after the rainfall.

Health authorities urged the public to clean areas where water accumulates, secure entrances, and install window screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering the house. Wear long-sleeved clothes and use mosquito repellents. Regularly clean the house and furniture using gloves, long clothes, and masks to prevent moisture and mould.

Tips to keep mosquitoes at bay:

  • Seal windows and cracks in your walls to keep them out, and install fly screens on doors and windows.
  • Regularly check your garden or home for any stagnant water sources and eliminate them promptly.
  • Stay one step ahead with routine pest control measures.
  • Consider mosquito trapping solutions for homes to tackle the issue.
  • Change the water in pet drinking bowls, bird baths, and vases at least once a week.
  • Ensure water tanks are in good condition and covered properly to avoid mosquitoes from breeding.
  • Check that manhole covers are not damaged and are well sealed.
  • Keep garden plants and trees properly trimmed.

Mould significantly impacts health, contributing to respiratory diseases, skin problems, allergies, and toxic environments that can affect immune systems. So, it's important to:

  • Promptly address any leaks
  • Ensure proper ventilation, open windows
  • Promptly dry any wet areas
  • Use dehumidifiers or fans
  • Ensure drainage is clear of debris for water to flow in
  • Dry out any damp rugs or carpets, if unable to salvage them, it is better to throw

Here are a few tips to tackle any pest issues that may arise after the rains:

  • Check pest entry points
  • Seal cracks and holes
  • Keep your house clean
  • Throw away the garbage
  • Clean spills and crumbs
  • Eliminate sources of standing water


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