Mold Allergy: A Bigger Health Concern than Toxic Mold

Mold is present in most homes, but it's usually only harmful to allergic or sensitive individuals in large concentrations. This is according to a report published in this month's issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

"Although toxic mold has received much media attention lately, toxic reactions caused by fungal exposure have not been found to cause significant health problem," say's lead author of the report, Jay M. Portnoy, MD, of the Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. "The more common household molds [there exist] in the presence of moisture," says Dr. Portnoy, "[the more] that proliferate and more allergy and irritation occur."

Fungi, including molds, are spore-producing organisms that comprise some 25-percent of the earth's biomass and function as decomposers of organic material. The most common types of fungi found in homes - include cladosporium, aspergillus, penicillium, alternaria, basidiospores, chaetomium, periconia and stachybotrys.

According to the report, fungal allergy is best identified by testing for the presence of mold-specific IgE antibodies, combined with a history of symptoms following exposure. Once the specific IgE has formed, subsequent exposure to the fungus can result in an allergic reaction.

Indoor levels of airborne fungi are generally below outdoor levels of similar species in a well-constructed home without water damage. However, contribution exists in indoor sources - such as plants, pets and mold contaminates brought in on footwear and clothing.

Regular inspection for sources of moisture and following up with their elimination is the most important strategy to control indoor fungal growth. Although the presence of damp conditions and carpets increase spore counts, forced air-heating systems, dehumidifiers, air filters and air conditioners help to reduce them.

Don't panic at the first sight of mold growing in your home. Small areas of visible mold growth should be cleaned with a diluted bleach/detergent solution. This will kill viable colonies and remove fungal allergens. There are many commercial products available for this purpose.

News Release, March 18, 2005
Source: American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (ACAAI)

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