Few people in Australia really understand this silent killer. Even many medical practitioners are uninformed on just how much it can affect those who are exposed to it. It can dramatically change your life, causing breathing problems, chronic fatigue and even brain damage. To somebody who is affected by it,  just making it through the day can become a major battle.

I’m talking about mould, particularly black mould. Unfortunately, the NSW government’s take on it is that it’s not really a big deal. On their website: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/, The effects are listed as: “Including a running or blocked nose, irritation of the eyes and skin and sometimes wheezing. Occasionally, people may have more severe reactions.” They conclude that “most people will not experience any health problems from coming in contact with mould.”

The US medical organisation ‘Surviving Mold’ has a very different take on it. They explain it in this way: “You are exposed to biotoxins that your body cannot process because of your genes.  This is a real illness and wreaks havoc on your body. Your body’s response to the poisons causes such inflammation throughout the major systems of your body that life as you knew it has changed forever.”

The US Courts take mould contamination seriously

The effects of mould contamination are treated very seriously by the US courts. The most famous case was the 2005 settlement of $13 million levied against the Crenshaw Lumber Co., because the company was found to have improperly stored lumber which was used in the plaintiff’s home. The wooden studs were blamed for spreading toxic mould, causing serious brain damage to the plaintiff’s child, who will need 24-hour care indefinitely.

Being exposed to mould in the structure of your house is one thing is serious enough – but imagine the magnified effect of dangerous black mould in a miner’s Compressed Air breathing Apparatus (CABA)! And because there is so little awareness around about it, many safety providers who service this equipment don’t use cleaners to kill mould spores and don’t seal equipment in an airtight bag after cleaning. It can be a ticking time bomb for mine workers!

Our approach to decontaminating CABA equipment

We’ve been concerned about the contamination of compressed air respiratory (CABA) equipment in underground mines since 2002 – by not just coal dust and minerals, but also by poisonous mould.

Our concerns included the contamination of the respiratory component of the CABA, ie the mask and demand valve, which would transport fine dust and algae spores to the operator at the time of pressurisation.

Another concern was the contamination of the CABA backpack, waist and shoulder pads – so when they were strapped on, contaminants would be disturbed and become airborne, putting the operator in danger of breathing them.

We found that due to the lack of information available on this dangerous health risk, nobody had developed a procedure to eliminate it from CABA equipment.

The process of killing dangerous mould is a difficult one – most commonly used mould killers don’t kill all types of mould and many are corrosive and will damage surfaces being treated, shortening the life of the CABA equipment. But through extensive research, Zokal found the answer in a place we never expected. A little known anti-bacterial solution used in medical procedures was found to have powerful anti-fungal properties  – something that would eliminate every known type of dangerous mould, with no detrimental effect on the surfaces being treated.

Armed with this powerful formula, we  then developed a thorough step-by-step process to bring the CABA equipment back to an almost brand-new state. This is achieved by first cleaning the equipment of visible dust and contaminants, then putting it through an extensive treatment for mould and bacteria contamination, before finally vacuum sealing it in specially made bags, to ensure it was not recontaminated before use.

This process certainly takes more time and costs us more, but we’ve found with our high level of systematisation, we can still offer competitive prices on CABA servicing and our service clients have the peace of mind, knowing this silent killer will not be transmitted through their CABA equipment .

It’s just another way we can contribute to the safety and well being of all those in the underground mining community.