While mold is considered an asthma trigger and risk factor for exacerbating asthma, new research links three mold species to childhood development of asthma, according to a study by University of Cincinnati researchers.
Infants in homes that had higher values on an index screening for 36 molds were found to have an increased asthma risk.
Researchers evaluated nearly 300 children at the ages of 1 and 7, and 24% were diagnosed with the chronic lung disease at the age of 7. About 12% of the children with asthma were allergic to mold and 58% were allergic to airborne substances at age 7.
Dust samples were collected when the children were 8 months old. They were all born between 2001 and 2003 in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. At least one parent had allergies. There were no significant differences between the distributions of parental asthma, gender, race and income between the 289 children, according to researchers.
Tiina Reponen, co-author of the study, said that while it is known that mold is a risk factor for asthma, this is the first study that quantitatively measured mold and, after adjusting for commonly known risk factors, found an association with asthma. Previously, other studies had shown qualitative or anecdotal associations, she said.
“If you have visible mold or water damage – that is associated with the risk of asthma symptoms and all sorts of other respiratory (issues) like rhinitis (runny nose) and wheezing.”
Monica Vasudev, an allergist at Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin who was not part of the study, said the research was unique in that it identified water-damaged homes, which should be addressed if expectant mothers and infants live in such residences.
“We know that mold is ubiquitous; it’s present in the outdoor environment, especially in the indoor environment – and it may not be obvious in the indoor environment,” Vasudev said.
The three mold species – Aspergillus ochraceus, Aspergillus unguis and Penicillium variabile – are common to water-damaged homes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new evidence links damp buildings and new onset of asthma.