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May 26, 2004 - Mold Associated with Coughing, Wheezing

Episodes of sniffles, coughing, and wheezing in people who are otherwise healthy correspond with damp and moldy buildings. Such unkept buildings also potentially threaten asthmatics, a National Academies scientific panel concluded Tuesday in a 281 page report.  However, the independent panel found insufficient evidence to blame other ailments that range from fatigue to cancer on damp and moldy buildings.

"Damp Indoor Spaces and Health" was commissioned by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention responding to concerns about mold. The panel based its conclusions solely on existing research and did not conduct new studies.

But the panel concluded there was not enough evidence to determine whether there was any relationship at all between that mold and the deadly lung condition known as acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage. Other factors, including secondhand tobacco smoke, might have caused the illnesses, and more research on the topic was needed, the panel said.

Panel member William Fisk, head of the Indoor Environment Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said there is not enough research available to determine if the toxins produced by some molds at certain times in their life cycle are dangerous in indoor environments.

The scientists did conclude, however, that there was enough evidence of mold-related illness to label "excessive indoor dampness" as a public health problem. Where mold is found, it ought to be cleaned up to avoid the potential health problems, the panel said. But scientists also cited the need to research the best ways of getting rid of mold while protecting the workers who do the job.

In January 2002, a new law in California took effect, indicative of national trends requiring the state Department of Health Services to develop standards for acceptable levels of mold in dwellings.  Such laws also require homeowners and landlords to disclose mold problems to buyers and renters.

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