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Mold: which dangers it carries for St. Petersburg?

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During this week St. Petersburg’s mycologists barely left the building of the Naval museum. Several scientist crews worked side by side inside the renovated Kryukovy barracks building. They were looking for mold.

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At first we were simply looking at the room. Then we sniffed. And probed. And, finally, we found it. 

Museum’s staff said it was a home fungus. One of its species – meryulius destruens. The director, though, wasn’t willing to jump onto conclusions.

Ruslan Nekhai, director of the Naval museum: “We don’t know the results of the probe yet. In about a week we will know which rooms have mold or any other parasites”.

Olga Skripkina, correspondent: “In Ancient Russia, it was believed that if mold appeared in a house – especially if it was black – then the building was cursed. And it had to be burned. But today is not the 9th century, otherwise we would have had to burn down not only the Kryukovy barracks – renovation of which cost 3 billion rubles – but at least a quarter of St. Petersburg as well. 

Radical methods won’t help, say specialists. Because mold can be found everywhere. The main thing is to keep it within a set norm. The mycology institute has been researching mold for many years. They’ve even managed to gather an entire collection – 700 pieces. You can look, but lifting the lid is forbidden.

Only few types of mold feel comfortable in St. Petersburg – trychoderma, rizopus and the most wide-spread Penicillin. People usually call it “the black mold”. This fungus with a pretty name is in fact a dangerous fellow. First it affects walls, and then strikes at weakly protected residents. The young and the old suffer asthma as a result. The body gets covered with hives. The mold is powerful and regenerative – in just one day one cell breeds 60 million new cells. 

Tatyana Bogomolova, head of laboratory, The P.N. Kashkin mycology research institute: “Humidity in our city is high, even 100 percent, all year round, that’s why our buildings get damp. And dampness is the perfect environment for fungi reproduction”

It’s a fungus season all year round at 18, Efimova street. Renovated end of 19th century facade conceals the presence of mold. But inside its even worse than a communal calamity – it’s a genuine biological threat. 

Its residents do renovations every year. But in a month mold appears again. Rustam Alekperov took his year-old child to his grandma’s place – just to be on the safe side. His neighbors in the communal flat have no choice. 

The fungi disease is not only applied to old buildings. Mold is also comfortable at newly built residential buildings. Low-quality construction materials and irresponsible residents – there you have vegetation on the ceiling

Provoking the mold’s appearance is easy. A leaking pipe – either your own or your neighbor’s – or a broken kitchen air extraction system. The fungi can even appear at a house of those who like to take a bath too often or love flowers. There are no leakages in this furniture warehouse, but microorganisms already own the ceiling. 

Roman Kolesnikov, specialist in removing mold: “It can eat anything. It starts with corroding the wood – which is the easiest target – and if there’s dampness, then it can literally eat through concrete structures, no matter how thick they are”.

Specialists in removing mold, or as they call themselves – “the fungi men” – go to different parts of the city several times a day.

A little touch of solution – and the ceiling looks anew. That’s until neighbor’s pipe leaks. The majority of calls come from the downtown area. The mold has almost completely taken over the Vasileostrovskiy, the Admiralteyskiy, the Kronshtadskiy and the Central districts. These top the list. The second spot of the fungi pedestal is occupied by the Petrogradksiy, the Nevskiy and the Petrodvortsoviy district. These are followed by the Vyborgskiy and the Kalininskiy districts.

10 years ago things were looking very bad for the city. Practically every building in the downtown area was corroded by fungi. The atlantes sculptures, Museum of ethnography and theatrical art were infected with mold. These buildings had been partially washed and cleaned. But that only slowed down the spread of the virus. Complete recuperation may possibly happen only after a shock therapy – the center’s renovation. From then on it rests on the actions of residents and company managers. The health of St. Petersburg depends on them.

Correspondent: Olga Skripkina

 

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