Halloween Special: Werewolves & Witches

Halloween Special: Werewolves & Witches - Aztec Group - Mould Testing Experts Calgary

Most Canadians know about the Salem Witch Trials. These infamous hearings and prosecutions took place in Salem Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. They resulted in the execution of twenty people. Numerous more were imprisoned and all in all it was not a good time to be a woman or an outcast.

What the average Canadian may not know is that witch and werewolf trials didn’t start in Salem. There’s a long history of werewolf and witch trials in Europe. Thousands of people in Europe were tried as witches or werewolves between 1520 to 1630 and more than a few were executed.

So what was happening? Today, people understand that magic, witches, and werewolves aren’t real. But something was convincing the people of Massachusetts and across Europe that these things were a real threat.

One of the big differences is, that during the time, magic, witchery, and the power of satan was believed in literally. In fact, many religious people argued that not believing in demons, spirits, and witches meant not believing in God. Which at the time, was a pretty dangerous declaration to make. On top of that, people may not have been thinking straight in general. A variety of fungus that attacks rye — which was a fundamental part of the diet of poor European peasants and the residents of Salem — may have been a contributing factor.

Ergot fungi, like some varieties of mould, produce mycotoxins. These toxins can cause a variety of interesting effects in humans (as well as other mammals). First of all, the mycotoxins in ergot are hallucinogenic. In fact, the drug LSD was first synthesized from chemicals found in ergot. Hallucinogenic bread could explain why people were seeing things they couldn’t understand or thought were magical in nature. Between have a literal belief in monsters and suffering hallucinations from the food they were eating, it’s logical to assume fingers would start getting pointed as scared peasants tried to find the cause.

It’s also worth noting that the symptoms described by those cursed by witches in Salem and the symptoms caused by ergot poisoning are very similar. The victims of the witches described symptoms such as creepy crawling sensations in the skin, tingling fingertips, vertigo, tinnitus, headaches, disturbances in sensation, hallucinations, painful muscular contractions, vomiting, and diarrhea. All of these symptoms are also caused by ergot poisoning. Other psychological symptoms of ergot include mania, melancholia, psychosis, and delirium. This could explain the general histeria and craziness that was affecting those taking part in witch and werewolf hunts.

Historians and anthropologists are still arguing over the likelihood of ergot’s role in the trials at Salem and throughout Europe. Perhaps ergot played a large role, but perhaps it was only a small part of the insanity. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter, and it’ll be hard to ever really know.

What does matter is that over the centuries a lot of people have died from coming in contact and consuming mycotoxins like the ones found in ergot and mould.

So while we spend Halloween handing out candy or taking our kids door-to-door, let’s spare a little thought for the origin of Halloween as All Hallows’ Eve and remember the tried witches, werewolves, and all people who weren’t (and aren’t) fortunate enough to live in a time and area where mass ergot outbreaks don’t happen.

Mould: Not Just in Homes… is Your Business Affected?

Mould: Not Just in Homes... is Your Business Affected? - Aztec Group - Mould Removal Experts Calgary

Nobody wants to imagine their home quietly rotting from the inside out, but houses aren’t the only building susceptible to mould. Public buildings, like libraries and schools, and corporate buildings can also be affected. Any building with enough humidity and a food source like drywall or carpet can develop mould, so it’s important to know how to recognize the early signs of infestation.

Moisture and Condensation are necessary ingredients for mould growth. High humidity levels in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms often leave a thin layer of water on the walls. Laundromats, restaurants, and other businesses with these rooms should keep a careful eye on the humidity level. In basements and storage rooms, the cold cement and walls may allow condensation even if humidity levels are relatively low. Where you find wet rooms, you find a mould problem waiting to happen. Adding ventilation, insulating cold walls, and installing a dehumidifier can all help.

Rotten or Mildew Smell is one of the first signs that something may be lurking behind the walls or under the floorboards. People may not outcompete dogs in a smelling competition any time soon, but we humans are still pretty great at detecting rot in our food or dwellings. If you catch a mould infestation when it’s just beginning to smell, there’s a good chance that the mould can be dealt with quickly and easily.

Small Flies and Visible Rot is a sign that things have gotten a little out of hand. When you don’t notice the moisture and ignore the smell, a large scale mould infestation is nearly inevitable. If you’re business has heavily discoloured ceiling panels, mould splotches on the walls or carpet, or small flies that are seemingly coming out of nowhere, it’s past time to call in the experts at Aztec Group. If your business is contaminated with mould, you, your employees, and your clients will be at risk for becoming ill.

When your home is affected by mould, your family and pets can become sick from the toxic mycotoxins. When your business is infested, you’re putting your employees and your clients at risk as well. Mould in a public or corporate building is a public health hazard that needs to be dealt with. If your business is experiencing any signs of mould call Aztec Group today!

Choosing your Mould Specialist

Choosing your Mould Specialist - Aztec Group - Calgary Mould Experts

Discovering mould in your home is stressful. Nobody wants to deal with that, but if it happens to you there isn’t much of a choice: the mould has to go. But how do you select which Calgary mould removal team is best for you? Well, it’s going to depend on your specific situation, but here are a couple things nearly any Calgary homeowner should ask or do. It’s up to you as a homeowner to decide what answers you want, what you can live with, and which things are the most important to you, but it’s still a good idea to gather as much information as you can.

What’s their process? Each company is going to work a little differently; before hiring your mould specialist, it’s a good idea to know what services they provide and how they go about things. You’ll want to ask how they do testing. Are they just going to check the air quality inside the home? Just do a visual inspection for mould? Will they check the humidity level? Are they going to look for water damage? Will they take samples back to their lab for testing? A responsible mould specialist will do a little bit of everything.

You may also want to check if the business you’re thinking of hiring only does mould inspections or whether they do mould removal as well. Some teams, like Aztec Group, also specialize in constructions, repairs, and renos. We can help you get your home back to looking its best after the mould has been removed.

Do they carry Insurance? A reputable mould specialist is going to have insurance. Insurance is there to protect them and you if something goes wrong. If the company you’re talking to doesn’t have insurance — or they claim they do but refuse to provide you with a copy, it’s best to just move on.

How many years they’ve been in business? It’s important to know how much experience your mould removal specialist has. This is your home you’re talking about after all! You don’t want a bunch of amateurs having access to your house and taking your walls apart. By working with a team that’s at least a few years old, you’ll also know that they’ll still be around — and that you’ll be able to get a hold of them — if problems occur later.

Do they have some sort of guarantee? What happens if you have a team come in to remove all the mould, have them renovate to fix the problems with humidity or leaks, and then have more mould grow back? Do they have a guarantee for their work? What’s their policy on recurring problems?

Are they prepared to recommend an independent indoor environmental professional that can provide you with a post remediation verification report? A post remediation verification report is what proves that your home is in fact empirically free of a mould problem. Some Calgary homeowners feel that their mould removal team has a conflict of interest when providing this report themselves. If you agree, you may want to ask for an independent professional.

There are a lot of things to keep in mind when choosing your mould removal team. Fortunately, the internet has made it easier than ever to check for online reviews and get information on the businesses in your area. Before choosing a team, be sure to shop around. Pick out two or three specialists, ask them questions, and call their references. If you’re looking for a mould removal expert in Alberta, add Aztec Group to your maybe list and call us today!

The Dangers of Untreated Mold in Your Home

The Dangers of Untreated Mold in Your Home - Aztec Group - Mould Experts Calgary

It’s unfortunate, but a lot of times mould isn’t the first thing wrong with a home. Usually it starts with a plumbing problem or a roof leak. Homeowners who have just had to do a major fix to get rid of the water source, may feel they can’t afford to also deal with the mould. Some Calgarians are in a position where they wonder just how long they can wait, or they try to fix the problem themselves and make the situation worse.

Mould Around Us. You’ve likely heard that mould spores are all around us, and it’s true. Mould is a natural part of the air inside and outdoors, so the human body is perfectly able to handle low concentrations of it. However, when you can see mould growing or smell decay in your house, the concentration has already begun to rise higher than what your system is typically dealing with.

First you’ll begin to feel sick. 40% of people have allergies to mould spores, and even those who don’t often get sick can experience runny noses, itchy eyes, and other cold symptoms. If you have any pets, they’ll likely get ill faster than you. While you’re blowing your nose, small animals like cats may develop fungal infections and be constantly nauseous. Children and the elderly are also susceptible to the nastier symptoms, and they’ll develop faster in these demographics.

Complete Contamination. Wait too long and your entire home will be taken over by mould. The house will be worthless and any possessions made from natural materials – books, clothing, furniture, and more – can all become homes for growing mould.

It’s important to remember that, as with most household problems, it’s advisable to fix a problem before it gets out of hand. Fixing a little mould is expensive, losing your home to an infestation is much worse. If you have a mould problem in your home, the experts at Aztec Group can help. Contact us at 587-315-5001 in Calgary or 780-328-6603 for Edmonton.

Types of Mold – What’s Growing in Your Home?

We’ve discussed before that mould spores are found both inside and outside of the home. Most homes will have small amounts of spores and mould, but unless your house has a humidity problem, it shouldn’t become a larger issue. However, a lot of Calgary homeowners are still interested in just what might be growing in their home.

Here are three most common genus of mould. (The genus is the biological classification making up the first part of a species latin name. For example, domestic dogs and the wolves they are descended from are called canis lupus. Canis is the dog’s genus name, and the genus canis also includes coyotes, jackals, and more.)

Aspergillus is a common mould genus including a few hundred distinct species. About 60 of these can cause illness such as ear infections and skin lesions  in humans and other animals; the rest are mostly benign. Some species of aspergillus are used commercially to ferment sake. Like most mould genuses, certain aspergillus moulds are dangerous to humans. They can cause fever, cough, chest pain, or breathlessness, and affect children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems the most.

Cladosporium makes up some of the most common outdoor moulds, but this genus can be found indoors as well. They usually inhabit living and dead plant matter, and many cause illnesses in plants and other fungi. While cladosporium prefers plant matter, they can grow indoors as long as humidity levels are high enough. Cladosporium rarely causes health problems in humans, but some infections have been reported, and left untreated complications such as pneumonia may develop. It’s also worth noting that many people have allergies to cladosporium, and those with asthma and other respiratory weakness will likely experience severe discomfort from living in a contaminated home.

Stachybotrys is likely the best known mould by the general public. The common name for a couple types of stachybotrys, black mould, is even more infamous. Stachybotrys prefers to grow on cellulose rich materials. This includes most plant matter such as natural plant fabrics, paper, and wood. Of all the common moulds, stachybotrys moulds are probably the most dangerous. Some produce mycotoxins that cause problems when ingested or inhaled. With low exposure, they can irritate eyes and cause cold / allergy like symptoms. Longer exposures include symptoms like nausea and vomiting, bleeding in the lungs and nose, general hemorrhaging, and death.

There are thousands of different moulds. While most of the moulds you’ll find in your home will follow into one of these three genus, it’s very difficult for a lay person to tell an aspergillus from a stachybotrys. That’s why it’s so important to call in the Calgary and Edmonton mould experts at Aztec Group if you discover mould in your home. Contact us today at 587-315-5001 for Calgary or 780-328-6603 in Edmonton.