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Dampness Causes Health Problems, But Mold Pathways Remain Unknown

 

By Evan Dick

Mold is afflicting this post-Katrina New Orleans building. However, it doesn’t take a hurricane to cause mold; the range of estimates for U.S. buildings with mold or dampness problems is 18% to 50%.

Moisture and mold in buildings are often implicated in health problems, but scientists do not yet understand which microbes affect us, and in what quantities (see “Mold in Buildings: What It Is and How to Keep It Out,” EBN June 2001). A comprehensive review of epidemiologic evidence recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives looks at associations and causal links between measured conditions of indoor dampness, mold, and microbiological factors and respiratory and allergic health problems.

The review found strong evidence of an association between indoor dampness and 12 respiratory ailments, but the authors were unable to find any specific causal links. Further, they report that the presence or history of moisture, historic water damage, and related mold are better indicators of mold-related health risks than any microbiological agents that are currently quantifiable.

The authors suggest that practical prevention and remediation of indoor moisture and mold will have a benefit for respiratory and allergic health of occupants. They go on to write that these efforts should be undertaken immediately, without waiting for conclusive causal links.

August 1, 2011

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