Mold blamed for breathing problems
Insufficient evidence for other ills, study finds
Tuesday, May 25, 2004 Posted: 1:02 PM EDT (1702 GMT)
(AP) -- Respiratory problems, including some asthma, can be caused by
mold, but an extensive study released Tuesday failed to indict the
fungus for a host of other, often major illnesses that some have sought
to associate with it.
"Even though the available evidence
does not link mold or other factors associated with building moisture
to all the serious health problems that some attribute to them,
excessive indoor dampness is a widespread problem that warrants action
at the local, state and national levels," said Noreen Clark, dean of
the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan.
headed an Institute of Medicine panel that studied the health effects
of mold, which has drawn increased attention in recent years with the
shutdown of a major hotel, delayed openings of schools in several
states and a raft of lawsuits.
The Institute, an arm of the
National Academy of Sciences, said mold and building dampness do
constitute a problem and urged it be corrected through a range of
steps, including changes in how buildings are designed, constructed and
"An exhaustive review of the scientific literature
made it clear to us that it can be very hard to tease apart the health
effects of exposure to mold from all the other factors that may be
influencing health in the typical indoor environment," said Clark.
said, we were able to find sufficient evidence that certain respiratory
problems, including symptoms in asthmatics who are sensitive to mold,
are associated with exposure to mold and damp conditions," she
Excessive dampness influences whether mold, as well as
bacteria, dust mites and other such agents, are present and thrive
indoors, the committee noted. In addition, the wetness may cause
chemicals and particles to be released from building materials.
A rare ailment known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis also was associated with indoor mold exposure in susceptible people.
Preventing indoor dampness
the committee said it was unable to find evidence that mold is
associated with fatigue, neuropsychiatric disorders or other health
problems that some people have attributed to fungal infestations of
The little evidence that is available does not support
an association, the committee said, but it added that because there are
so few studies it cannot rule out a connection.
Molds that are
capable of producing toxins do grow indoors, and toxic and inflammatory
effects also can be caused by bacteria that flourish in damp
conditions, the report noted.
The committee said information
exists on how to control dampness but architects, engineers, building
contractors, facility managers and maintenance staff do not always
apply this knowledge.
The members called for development of
guidelines for preventing indoor dampness and said they should be
promoted nationally. In addition, building codes and regulations should
be reviewed and modified as necessary to reduce moisture problems, the
Lawsuits claiming illnesses from mold in buildings that were not properly built or cleaned up have multiplied in recent years.
in building codes in the 1970s to make homes more energy efficient and
airtight had the effect of allowing less ventilation through a house
that would dry out a wet wall or floor, which in turn may have led to
more mold damage claims, according to attorneys involved in some cases.
National Academy of Sciences is a private institution chartered by
Congress to advise the government on scientific matters. The study was
funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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