Call to Action

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As our family continues to put our heart and soul into a long and extensive recovery from mold poisoning, I remain adamant that education is the key to awakening our country to the dangers of toxic mold.

The following paper was released more than 2 years ago by the University of Pittsburgh. Clearly a call to action, the authors offer stunning evidence that toxic mold is truly the lead and radon issue of our day.

For millennia, doctors and public health workers have understood the role of indoor environments in causing or exacerbating human diseases. For example, Hippocrates was aware of the adverse effects of polluted indoor air in crowded cities and mines, and Biblical Israelites understood the dangers of living in damp housing (Leviticus 14:34−57).

Indoor hazards include biological, chemical, and physical contaminants that cause or exacerbate a variety of adverse health effects in humans. In modern societies, people spend about 90% of their time indoors, and most of that time is spent in private homes (people in the United States, Canada, and Germany spend on average 15.6−15.8 h per day in their homes). Hence, indoor environmental quality (IEQ) may significantly affect public health and well-being.

Mold and moisture in indoor environments have been recognized as important public health concerns. Extensive water damage to buildings increases the likelihood of severe mold contamination. Mold can cause human illness through several mechanisms, including allergy, infection, and toxicity.

Longitudinal studies have shown that children exposed to high levels of indoor mold in their early years and adults who have lived in damp homes for a number of years have an increased probability of developing asthma. Infants with or without asthmatic mothers experience increased wheezing and coughing associated with mold exposure. There is sufficient evidence of association between indoor mold exposure and asthma symptoms in sensitized asthmatic persons, upper respiratory tract symptoms, hypersensitivity pneumonitis in susceptible persons, wheeze, and cough.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, mold was listed as one of the top nine health hazards in the Gulf Coast region.

Molds have been associated with superficial infections in humans, and with aggressive infections in immunocompromised or immunodeficient individuals. In addition, some molds can produce specific mycotoxins (secondary metabolites) under defined circumstances. These low-molecular-weight chemicals may cause toxic effects (mycotoxicosis) in humans. Toxicity of ingested mycotoxins has been reported in occupational settings. In non-occupational settings, considerable controversy exists regarding both the dose and route of exposure required for mycotoxicosis.

Extensive research is underway to understand the risk to human health from particular mycotoxins in indoor air. Importantly, recent findings may prove useful in developing a biomarker for exposure to the fungus Stachybotrys chartarum, which produces trichothecene mycotoxins.

Major barriers exist to developing policies to improve IEQ in general, and particularly in home environments in situations such as mold remediation. Due to privacy concerns, governments are reluctant to make regulations that affect individual homes. Second, indoor environmental quality (including moisture and mold prevalence), with its many contributing factors and complex interactions, is difficult to regulate. Third, little attention has been given to the health costs of living in mold-damaged homes and the health benefits of remediating such homes.

Nonetheless, there exist examples of successful policies that have resulted in reduced burdens of two indoor contaminants, radon and lead. (Although asbestos is another important case, it is more relevant to workplaces than to homes, and thus is not included in this analysis.) For lead, federal regulations have led to reduced lead exposure in U.S. homes, and to significant health benefits for children and adults. For radon, economic incentives are used; in many states, sellers are required to disclose home radon levels, although they are not required to reduce the levels. Rather, the incentive to remediate comes both from marketing the home to potential buyers, and from health concerns on the part of the home owners. Policy-driven campaigns to reduce home-based exposures to both radon and lead have included a significant public education component.

We suggest that these two cases provide valuable guidance for controlling mold in home environments. By identifying similarities and differences between the situation regarding indoor moisture and mold (e.g., health effects, socioeconomic considerations, interventions and their costs, and public concern) and those of radon and lead, we suggest policy approaches for control of moisture and mold in homes.
I have omitted the numerous references for readability. The entire article may be viewed here.