Groundbreaking Research and Position Paper

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An important new research paper has been unveiled giving validation and hope to many people who have experienced negative health effects due to toxic mold and other contaminants. The paper gives a name to this illness: Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome Caused by Exposure to the Interior Environment of Water-Damaged Buildings (CIRS-WDB).

This groundbreaking paper was developed by the Action Committee on the Health Effects of Mold, Microbes, and Indoor Contaminants (ACHEMMIC), a unique group of experts working together to promote the truth about the health effects of exposure to water-damaged buildings. This is the first group of its kind.

The paper is titled "Research Committee Report on Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome Caused by Exposure to the Interior Environment of Water-Damaged Buildings." Topics include: animal health in water-damaged buildings, human health effects, re-exposure issues, treatment protocols, and much more.

The paper explains the recent rise in health issues related to water-damaged buildings.

Health problems have been associated with exposure to WDB since Biblical times (Leviticus 14:34-47: The Bible, King James version, Oxford 1888). Nonetheless there was little peer reviewed literature that implicated inhalation of bioaerosols as causative of human illness before the 1970’s in the United States. Several theories have emerged to explain the “new phenomenon” of buildings as a source of illness. Use of paper-faced gypsum board as wall coverings instead of plaster and lath saved time and reduced costs, but provided a wonderful source of food for indoor-dwelling microbes. Increasing use of flat roof construction, insulation and synthetic stucco surfaces each added to the potential for water intrusion into and through the building envelope of new construction.

A change in recommendations for air turnover may have played a role as well in reduction of exchange of indoor air for outdoor air. Demand for new housing and increasing availability of heat pumps made use of crawlspaces as sites of ductwork for forced air delivery into vents on the first floor.

Environmental conditions in crawlspaces, with a constant supply of moisture either from evaporation from the soils or condensation of warmer outside air against cool, earth temperature surfaces on interior surfaces in crawlspaces creates an ideal ecological niche for microbial growth. If the connections between segments of vent material, usually galvanized metal, fiberboard or flexible circular duct material, are not secured from air infiltration, over time the potential for distribution of microbes and their metabolites throughout the home is assured.

Changes in use of HVAC equipment, with return air ducts taking air from crawl/ceiling spaces and basements directly into heating and cooling systems may also have contributed to the circulation of organisms and fragments of organisms from these spaces to the rest of the interior of residences, schools and commercial structures. Indirect evidence suggests that genetic changes in indoor filamentous fungi may also have occurred with use of fungicides in paint beginning in the 1970’s.

Additional changes in construction methods took place as attempts to conserve energy and to promote energy efficiency. Efforts to make buildings more airtight in the 1970's led to increased use of re-circulated air in new construction. This resulted in reduced intrusion of exterior air through windows and doors. As costs of construction materials from natural sources increased, synthetic products such as oriented strand board (OSB) were cheaper to use than plywood. Unfortunately, there was often greater moisture retention if the sheets of OSB were stacked outside a job site and allowed to become wet before installation.

Moreover, even if dry when installed, these man-made materials easily wick moisture if present from leaks and floods. High rise construction techniques also contributed to the increasing incidence of WDB. For example, concrete takes months to fully cure. However, as soon as the concrete floors and columns are firm enough to support addition of the next structure, the concrete is enclosed. This process unfortunately provides a reservoir of moisture to interior structures for months that would otherwise have remained dry. Added to this potential for interior water intrusion is the absence of moisture barriers between soil and concrete/masonry used in slab, foundations and basement walls.

The paper is more than 160 pages in length and can be viewed here.