A study from Australia suggests that Mold exposure in the home may increase the risk of asthma later in life. Participants in the study reported that the more mold they saw in their homes, the greater their asthma symptoms. Men were especially vulnerable with a four-fold increase in non-allergic asthma after exposure to visible mold. "The mold exposure that we were talking about is the typical mold that we all see in our homes from time to time, that is, mold that you see in the wet areas of the house, e.g., bathroom, kitchen and laundry,” John Burgess said. Burgess is a researcher with the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health in Australia. "We were not talking about ‘whole-house’ mold infestation that might occur under special circumstances such as following the house being flooded,” Burgess said.
25 million Americans have asthma; 7 million of them are children and the rest are adults. Asthma typically begins in childhood and often accompanies allergies. Burgess was interested in the effect of indoor air pollutants on adults’ asthma symptoms and also in any differences between responses by those with allergic asthma and those with non-allergic asthma. Burgess and the team concentrated on older adults because all asthma is not necessarily the same. Non-allergic asthma is more common – we surmised that the risk of having ‘non-allergic asthma’ related to indoor air pollutants might be increased in this older population. The team used data from a study that began in 1968, when the participants were seven years old. In 2004, 5,729 participants completed questionnaires about health topics including respiratory problems and their home. The study concentrated on asthma, asthma symptoms, the amount of visible mold in the home, the number of smokers and types of heating and cooking appliances they had.
Twelve (12) percent of the subjects had asthma at the time of the 2004 questionnaire. Seventeen (17) percent had chest tightness and twenty three (23) percent reporting wheezing during the previous 12 months. Thirty (30) percent were smokers and fifteen (15) percent of households included at least one regular smoker. Half reported ever having had mold on any home surface, and about a third said they’d seen mold at home within the last 12 months, according to the results published. Recent household mold exposure was associated with 26 percent greater odds of having asthma, 34 percent greater odds of wheezing and 30 percent greater odds of chest tightness. The authors noted that the more rooms with mold, the worse the asthma symptoms. For men, mold exposure was linked to almost four times greater odds of having non-allergic asthma, but not for women.
Burgess said that to find mold, homeowners should "have a look and have a sniff!.” Most household mold is black, green or yellow and is visible, he said, adding that mold smells. "We all know the dank smell from mold, so if your nose says mold, you probably have a mold problem,” he reported. Getting rid of mold involves two steps, Burgess said. "First is cleaning it off household surfaces – don’t use a dry scrubbing brush – that just spreads the mold around,” he said. "And second is ensuring that the room in question is well ventilated and dry. Mold won’t grow in dry, well ventilated areas.” Burgess said that methods to actually kill mold spores are debated, with some mold removal experts advising that bleaches will kill mold, while other experts assert that bleaches merely discolor the mold and doesn’t kill it.