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Housing corporation trying new roofs, walls to prevent mould

Mould in Priscilla Curley's Hall Beach home makes her break out in hives, forcing her to take allergy medication.

It's become a way of life over her 16 years there.

Mould is visible under a window sill in Priscilla Curley's Hall Beach home. She's lived there for close to 16 years and suffers from hives because of the mould, she said.
photo courtesy of Priscilla Curley

Spores fester under window sills and in the bathroom, where there's no exhaust fan in the five-plex unit.

Curley has brought the issue to the attention of the local housing organization on multiple occasions, once again as recently as a month ago, she said.

Nothing has been done.

For some Nunavummiut, the effects of mould are even worse. Aggravated asthma and increased respiratory symptoms are of greatest concern for those living in mouldy residences, said David Miller, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Miller, who specializes in toxins and allergens in built structures, and an academic colleague studied housing and health in Nunavut years ago.

“We worked hard to demonstrate that properly installed and maintained HRVs (heat recovery ventilators) were essential to reduce respiratory health in children up north,” Miller stated.

The Nunavut Housing Corporation, which oversees more than 5,000 housing units, spent $5.1 million on mould remediation in 2018, according to Ji Liu, acting president of the Nunavut Housing Corporation (NHC).

This graphic, created by university students in Sioux Lookout, Ont., in partnership with Carleton University and Digital North, provides information on how to prevent mould.
image courtesy of Carleton University and Digital North

Potentially good news for Curley is that the NHC is in the midst of a pilot project in Hall Beach that has local housing organization (LHO) employees performing mould remediation under the guidance of a mould remediation expert, Liu noted.

If this proves successful, this model will be expanded to other LHOs, depending on their capacity,” he said.

Beyond that, the housing corporation has provided mould remediation training to a total of 196 people in all Nunavut communities over the past few years.

To reduce the risk of mould in the future, NHC is testing innovative roof and wall designs in Arviat and Iqaluit. A new roof design assessed in Iglulik and Kugaaruk has shown promise so it's being used in Baker Lake, Liu added.

Improved air flow and reduced frost and condensation are part of what the NHC is aiming for to limit mould growth. One of the complications is that Nunavut homes must be well insulated to protect occupants from the cold, but that same insulation and weather sealing can trap moisture, Liu noted.

Tenants are encouraged to use heat recovery ventilators and exhaust fans regularly, particularly in crowded homes, When the fans and ventilators break down, residents are asked to let their local housing organization know as soon as possible because timely repairs can thwart mould growth.

Asked about the NHC's advice to tenants, Miller replied, “The statement from the Nunavut housing corporation is accurate. I am impressed.”

Fact file
Nunavut Housing Corporation mould remediation 2019-20
Iqaluit – 6 units
Rankin Inlet – 4 units
Coral Harbour – 4 units

Mould remediation 2018-19
Arviat – 8 units
Iqaluit – 8 units
Cape Dorset – 6 units
Hall Beach – 5 units
Kimmirut – 4 units

Mould remediation 2017-18
Taloyoak – 12 units
Sanikiluaq – 9 units
Baker Lake – 7 units
Iglulik – 7 units
Gjoa Haven – 5 units
Kugaaruk – 4 units
Cambridge Bay – 3 units
Source: Nunavut Housing Corporation