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Household mold – that fuzzy little fungus that lurks in the most mysterious places in your home has been attributed to the cause of everything from headaches to asthma. For years, mold has been at the center of many a heated debate between allergists and scientists alike. But is there actual scientific evidence to back up claims that indoor mold causes undisputable physical symptoms? Take a look at what the latest research says and decide for yourself:
In 2004, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found sufficient evidence linking indoor mold exposure and dampness to upper respiratory symptoms, cough and wheeze in otherwise healthy people, and with asthma symptoms in people with asthma. In addition, they reported a link between indoor mold exposure and hypersensitivity pneumonitis (redness and swelling of the lungs from breathing in foreign substances such as dust, mold, and chemicals) in people who were susceptible to this condition.
Equally, IOM found little evidence linking indoor mold exposure to respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children, and limited evidence to support the claim that exposure to damp, indoor environments causes shortness of breath, respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children, or the development of asthma.
In 2008, allergists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland issued a report entitled “9 Common Mold Myths” that set out to prove what health conditions could, and could not be, associated with mold exposure. Some of their most important findings are included below:
Poor indoor air quality has long been believed to be a contributing factor to ill health. From pollen and spores of plants (mainly from outdoor sources) to microbes, allergens, bacteria, mold, and algae, it’s a wonder that we make it out of our homes alive!
In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a review of the existing evidence related to indoor mold, dampness and illness. Although WHO identified a number of indoor substances for which specific air quality guidelines was recommended, they found no clear evidence establishing that indoor mold and dampness causes any of the health conditions reviewed in their study (asthma, bronchitis, respiratory infections, upper respiratory symptoms, etc.). However, WHO did find an association between indoor mold and dampness and:
On the other hand, WHO found little evidence to support that exposure to indoor mold and dampness was associated with bronchitis and allergic rhinitis, more commonly referred to as hay fever. There was also insufficient evidence to support an association between indoor exposure to mold and dampness and altered lung function, allergic asthma, or atopic dermatitis.
As the debate over indoor mold exposure lives on, there’s one thing that’s likely to be well understood: when it comes to your lungs, you don’t want to take any chances. The purpose of the WHO report was to establish air quality guidelines that people could use as a way to protect their health.
Because excessive moisture is at the root of all problems related to indoor dampness and mold, the following guidelines emphasize three main actions: detecting and locating sources of moisture in your home, removing mold, and defending your home against excessive moisture and condensation. The following summarizes what steps you should take:
“Facts about Mold and Dampness.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated June 17, 2014.
 Bush, Robert K. et. al. “The medical effects of mold exposure.” J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006 Feb;117(2):326-33.
 “WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mould.”World Health Organization. 2009.
 “Damp and Mould: Health Risks, Prevention, and Remedial Actions. World Health Organization. 2009.