Asthma and Mold
Do you, a family member, or a friend have asthma? Have you been to doctor after doctor looking for relief? Perhaps where you live and work could be a major source of the problem. Did you know that living and working in a moldy building could affect your health?
Mold can and does cause health problems for asthmatics, people with allergies, and even otherwise healthy people! Molds produce chemicals (mycotoxins) that can make you sick even if you don’t have allergies to it!
How do you know if you have mold? How do you deal with it if you do? Could the mold in your home be causing asthma symptoms in you, friends, or family? How can you prevent mold from growing? Come learn more about how mold can affect the people you love and how to stop it from causing problems in your life!
What is asthma? How does mold affect people with asthma?
Asthma is a “respiratory condition marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing. It usually results from an allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity.” So people that experience asthma usually (but not always) have allergies as well. Allergies are caused by a hypersensitive immune system that reacts to the presence of an allergen as though it were a disease. People with asthma experience difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing when they come in contact with a substance that causes this hypersensitive immune response. Their body’s immune system attacks the foreign particles, and that in turn causes wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing. People can be allergic to many, many different things including molds, and can experience asthma symptoms due to exposure to these allergens.
Can mold cause asthma symptoms?
In one word, YES.
There have been many scientific studies that show how moldy buildings can worsen asthma symptoms. Most recently, here in Athens Georgia, a study was published in the Journal of the Georgia Public Health Association describing how improving housing quality can reduce asthma rates (Harris, S.J. et. al., 2019). The results of the study show “mold in the home, more so than other factors, is strongly associated with asthma prevalence in ACC.” (Harris, S.J. et. al., 2019). So if you live in a home with mold, you are more likely to also have asthma.
In 2006, a group of doctors and scientists studied the effects of home remediation in homes that had children suffering with asthma (Kercsmar, CM, et. al. (2006). For the study, homes of patients with asthma were evaluated for water damage and mold. The homes of some patients were repaired by removing mold and moisture damage. Control homes were not repaired. In the homes that had moisture damage repaired and mold removed, parents reported significantly less asthma daily symptoms, and had fewer trips to urgent care facilities due to asthma. There was a significant change in these patient’s lives because the mold was removed from their homes!
WHO (World Health Organization) Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality – Dampness and Mould Report (2009)
According to this report, people that live and work in damp or moldy buildings are more likely to develop respiratory symptoms and infections and also worsening of asthma.
All of the studies reviewed in the WHO report (2009), found that there was significant evidence of an association between excess moisture and mold growth in buildings and all of the following health conditions: asthma worsening, upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughing and wheezing.
Of the few dampness and mold intervention studies that were included in the report (WHO 2009), repairing dampness problems and removing mold reduced the incidence of negative health consequences. So patients experienced symptoms of upper respiratory infections, difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing less frequently after the repairs.
The WHO report (2009) recommends that buildings be well maintained and moisture damage prevented. If moisture and mold are present in a building they should be removed and the building repaired. In other words, if you have mold growing in your building, and have asthma or allergies, you have a problem! You may need a professional inspection and even home remediation (mold and water damage removed and repaired) to improve your health!
How and why do molds grow?
Molds need four things to grow: oxygen, moisture, a food source, and warmth. Molds are fungi which are unique organisms. Fungi grow from microscopic spores that are everywhere in the air. Molds are found everywhere in nature, and are important for recycling organic matter (such as leaves). The recycling process they perform returns nutrients to the soil, and is important for plants to grow.
However, when molds grow in your home, they can cause significant damage to the structure and can make you sick. Regardless of whether or not you are allergic to molds, molds can make you sick because of the chemical compounds they produce. Fungi are unique in that they digest their food outside their bodies before ingesting the nutrients. Partially because of the exterior digestion, molds can cause significant health problems from both mycotoxins (toxins produced by mold) and MVOC’s (microbial volatile organic compounds).
Preventing Mold Growth
Basic home maintenance and inspection are key to preventing mold growth. Remember, fungi need four things to grow: oxygen, moisture, a food source, and warmth. It is difficult to significantly change the temperature or remove oxygen from a room. Not to mention, that fungi can digest almost any organic material (anything made of carbon). The best way to stop mold growth is to prevent moisture buildup.
Home owners can prevent moisture buildup by ventilating areas in the home that have high moisture content including bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and crawl spaces.
- Bathroom ventilation fans should be used for every shower or bath. If possible, keep the door of the bathroom open when bathing to further ventilate the room. Check your bathroom fan’s CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating to be sure it is the right size for the space. For more information see our post: ‘How to Prevent Bathroom Mold.’
- In the kitchen, it is best to have a ventilation hood over the stove that vents to the outside. Use the ventilation fan every time you cook.
- Laundry rooms are almost always moist because of the nature of washing clothes. If possible, leave laundry room doors open to ventilate the room. Keep washer and dryer doors open to help them stay dry.
- Follow a cleaning routine to keep your home free from mold. Check out our ‘Winter Guide to Spring Cleaning’ for more details on how to keep your home truly clean and well maintained. Our post titled ‘Disinfecting, Sterilizing, And Sanitizing: Is There A Difference?’ gives more information on these three cleaning techniques, as well as how, where, and when you should use them in your home.
- Crawl spaces and basements can be full of moisture. Inspect your crawl space at least every 6 months for moisture buildup and mold. If you can smell a musty smell, or see mold growth, it may be time for a professional inspection and repairs.
When To Clean. When To Call.
Indoor mold growth can be prevented by controlling moisture and controlling humidity indoors.
You may be able to clean surface mold on the walls, ceilings or floors of your home that are less than ten square feet by using gentle detergents, vinegar, and water. For more information about cleaning mold yourself go to: A Simple Guide to Cleaning Mold.
If you see areas larger than ten square feet, or there is a musty smell you can’t identify, it may be time to call a professional.
We’re Here When You Need Us.
Call Branch Environmental. We’re experts not only at mold removal, but at determining and remediating the underlying causes. From hidden mold sources to major contaminants. We can identify exactly what is going on in your home and rid it of environmental toxins, often for good.
Branch Environmental – Because nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick.
For more information go to:
For more information go to:
Harris, Samantha J.; Johnston, John M.; Bowie, Maria; and Adams, Grace Bagwell (2019) “Improving Housing Quality to Reduce Asthma Rates and Healthcare Costs in Athens-Clarke County, GA,” Journal of the Georgia Public Health Association: Vol. 7 : No. 2 , Article 1.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/jgpha/vol7/iss2/1
WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality – Dampness and Mould (2009) https://www.who.int/airpollution/guidelines/dampness-mould/en/
Kercsmar, CM, et al. (2006). Reduction in asthma morbidity in children as a result of home remediation aimed at moisture sources. Environmental Health Perspectives, 114:1574–1580. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17035145
4 Types of Hypersensitivity Reactions https://www.thoughtco.com/types-of-hypersensitivity-reactions-4172957
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