Excerpted from a communication from R. Vincent Miller,
Laboratories, Inc. (800-651-4802/602-780-4800)
have always had a love/hate relationship with humankind. Our early
ancestors found out that molds and yeast could turn milk in to cheese
and fruit juice into wine. But other molds have been the plague
Mold infected rye with ergot toxins destroyed over 30,000 men in a single
night in Alexander's army. And a mold destroyed the potato crop
in Ireland resulting in one of the world's worst famines. Now it
appears, if you believe all the newspaper articles that we are yet again
under siege by a mold, this time in the walls, ceilings, and carpets of
our homes, schools and workplaces.
Public attention to molds in indoor environments really started from an
incident that occurred in Cleveland, beginning in 1994. In this
incident, cases of pulmonary disease in infants were associated with the
presence of the mold, Stachybotrys, in the homes of the children... From
the interest stimulated from this incident a number of case histories
have been studied, many from the Nordic regions of Europe.
These studies indicate that exposure to a number of molds can cause symptoms
in exposed people ranging from mild allergic reactions to pulmonary reactions
to acute neurological, pulmonary, and immunological effects.
The current evidence, though not complete, certainly indicates that acute
massive exposures to toxic molds can affect health. What remains
a question though is, what are the effects of the long-term less concentrated
chronic exposures that are probably more commonly experienced by people?
This question cannot be fully answered at this time because such studies
have simply not been done.
We can also use knowledge that we've gained on other toxins from
the same chemical class. At lower concentrations the trichothecenes
suppress the immune system, making animals more susceptible to infection.
This immune suppression would support the observation that people in mold-infested
buildings often complain of increased numbers of colds, flu, and nasal
There is a school of thought that people have always been exposed to low
levels of molds, particularly in humid environments, without any perceivable
health problems. So the question is; are these low chronic exposures
of people to molds and/or their toxins of real concern? Or, are
we simply overreacting to the situation? But even though many people
are probably exposed to molds and their toxins and live apparently normal
life spans does not mean that the molds do not have adverse effect on
A good analogy is with second-hand smoke. After years of denial,
we now know that second-hand smoke can and indeed does affect the health
of non-smokers. Thus, indoor air professionals have taken the conservative
approach that the presence of molds may affect health and should be remediated
no matter what. This then leads to a third school of thought which
is, that we don't need to test or identify the organism since we have
to remediate if mold is present in any circumstance in an indoor environment...
Although there is some merit to this argument, there are some very good
reasons for identifying the invading mold including legal protection for
the building manager, homeowner, and insurance company. It also
helps inform the physician of victims so that he or she can provide the
best medical care..
So, now back to the initial theme of this discussion: Are molds
really a health problem in indoor environments or is this simply a fad
that will disappear over time. Clearly, a massive exposure can
have potentially dramatic effects on human health. So yes, they
are a health concern that must be dealt with, if for no other reason than
to prevent an injurious exposure. Should we always call a qualified
professional? The reality is that with tight budgets, many homeowners,
building managers, and government agencies do not feel that they can afford
such services in may instances.
So the industry must respond by increased education to increase public
awareness, enhance safety, and help determine when a professional is really