• Justin H. Joe

What You Should Know About Mold and Childhood Asthma

Updated: Jan 26

By Justin H. Joe, PhD, CIH, CSP, CPE



Recently, there has been an increase in evidence showing a correlation between indoor mold and childhood asthma. Over 6 million children in the United States suffer from this respiratory condition and it is commonly induced by an environmental trigger. As more pediatricians are becoming aware of this issue of mold, home inspections are on the rise, identifying this factor in the development of childhood asthma could greatly reduce the occurrence and severity of this illness.


Research Shows Indoor Mold Can Cause Childhood Asthma


A research study [1] was conducted on a group of almost 300 infants around 8 months old. The purpose was to determine the link between a prevalence of mold in the house and the development of asthma in the child. The researchers collected dust samples and analyzed 36 specific species of mold. Each home was given a “mold score” based on the outcome of the dust samples.


When the children reached seven years old, the researchers discovered that approximately 1 in 4 children had developed asthma. The results demonstrated a strong link between a higher mold score and an increased risk of asthma. From the 36 types of mold tested, three were more commonly associated with asthma. Those three included Aspergillus ochraceus, Aspergillus unguis and Penicillium variabile. These species are often prevalent in water damaged buildings.


Two epidemiological studies [2] in Ohio were also conducted to investigate children living in water damaged homes. This study demonstrated that there was an 80% chance that an asthmatic child was currently living in a house containing mold. In addition, the removal of the mold greatly reduced the child’s need for an emergency visit or hospitalization due to asthma.

Mold has the ability to initiate asthma attacks [3] in those who are allergic to it. Therefore, removing the environmental factor of mold can greatly improve or even cure an asthmatic condition. A correlation between the presence of mold and the manifestation of asthma does not indicate that mold by itself is the immediate cause of asthma. However, the association and contribution of mold with asthma proposes a treatment option—removing the indoor mold [4].


Symptoms of Mold Exposure in Children


Many children who are exposed to mold never develop asthma. Mold can affect kids in many ways apart from asthma, including the following 1) neurological issues - headaches, lack of concentration, behavioral issues, addictive or impulsive tendencies, and 2) allergies - runny nose, watery eyes, mild cough, sneezing, sore throat, and irritated skin.


If a child is experiencing any of these symptoms, it could indicate that there is undiscovered mold in your home. Each child’s response [5] to mold will vary depending on his or her unique immune system or sensitivity to allergens. In every situation, however, mold has the potential to cause severe and long-lasting damage. Sometimes, children with mold induced neurological disorders never improve, even with adequate treatment. The best way to ensure kids stay healthy and well is to properly remove the mold before it causes further harm.


Mold Remediation Technique is Important

The idea of cleaning up mold to prevent the development of asthma in children sounds like a simple fix. In theory, that is true. However, the majority of mold remediation attempts are unsuccessful and can even worsen the symptoms of asthma.


The reason for inadequate mold remediation work is a

lack of proper procedure. Most professional mold remediation contractors do not follow the guidelines published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency [3], or EPA. Instead of using this procedure, contractors often rely on harsh chemicals or expensive techniques that end up being more detrimental in the long run. In fact, these chemical and toxin residues can remain in dust particles and worsen respiratory issues for several years after the mold remediation work is completed.


Asthma can actually be caused by improper mold remediation technique.


The importance of environmentally friendly mold remediation procedure is not only to improve a child’s condition of asthma but also to avoid the exacerbation of these symptoms. Harsh chemicals are not always necessary, and often detrimental, in the removal of mold.



Killing Mold Vs. Cleaning Mold


A mold remediation contractor that focuses only on killing mold will leave behind potentially toxic residue. This is because the actual mold structure was left behind. Even though it may have been killed, it still contains the same level of toxicity and allergenicity as live mold. The toxins and allergens still remain in the structure of mold, despite it being dead.


The EPA clearly outlines that simply killing mold is not an effective method. The mold must be completely cleaned in order to prevent its negative effects. Cleaning signifies a total removal of the mold. The EPA procedure is designed to clean the mold and restore the building to a healthy environment. Often, the method suggested by the EPA is cheaper than other approaches using dangerous chemicals.



Fixing the Mold Problem


Typically, the occurrence of mold happens due to a construction defect in the air conditioning system, plumbing, or window and door installation. Leaks that are unnoticed or unattended can lead to major mold problems. In order for this issue to be fixed, it must first be identified and addressed. Sometimes, the solution could be as simple as repairing a minor water leak and replacing the air conditioning filter. In every situation, it is always best to seek out professional help to fix the problem correctly the first time.



Clearance Testing


While it is important to get an inspection done by a mold expert before any work is started, it is also important to get the area tested after the area is cleaned by a mold remediation expert. A clearance test will let you know that the area has been adequately cleaned and gives you peace of mind knowing the mold is gone.



Take Away

With the recent increase in research demonstrating a correlation between childhood asthma and mold, it is important to check buildings and homes for undiscovered mold. Water damage is one of the most common causes of asthma inducing mold. This can occur due to leaks or other construction defects. Remediation of the mold can greatly improve the symptoms of asthma, and in some cases completely cure the condition. The technique of remediation is very important. If it is done improperly, it could lead to an exacerbation of respiratory issues. Cleaning, or total removal, is more effective than simply killing the mold. Mold that has been killed still contains the same toxicity and allergenicity as live mold. Make sure the mold remediation contractors follow the procedure recommended by the EPA so that the mold problem is corrected in order for childhood asthma to be improved and prevented in the future.


BNF Consulting, Inc. is a licensed mold inspection company that abides by New York State & US EPA regulations for mold inspection and testing. Does your home or business have a mold problem? Our company can provide an independent and unbiased mold inspection service to determine potential risks. Call us today at 914-297-8335 for a free phone consultation!


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About Author:

Justin H. Joe, PhD, CIH, CSP, CPE is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and a principal consultant of BNF Consulting, Inc. Dr. Joe graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with PhD and MS degrees in nuclear engineering. Dr. Joe has provided industrial hygiene consulting

as a core function with his diverse background of experience and education.


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References:


1. Fields, H., 2021. Household Molds Linked To Childhood Asthma. [online] National Institutes of Health (NIH). Available at: <https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/household-molds-linked-childhood-asthma> [Accessed 5 January 2021].


2. Vesper SJ, McKinstry C, Yang C, Haugland RA, Kercsmar CM, Yike I, Schluchter MD, Kirchner HL, Sobolewski J, Allan TM, Dearborn DG. Specific molds associated with asthma in water-damaged homes. J Occup Environ Med. 2006 Aug;48(8):852-8. doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000224736.52780.2f. PMID: 16902378.


3. US EPA. 2021. Mold And Health | US EPA. [online] Available at: <https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-and-health> [Accessed 5 January 2021].


4. Win, P. H., & Hussain, I. (2008). Asthma Triggers: What Really Matters?. Clinical Asthma, 149–156. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-032304289-5.10017-7


5. Idph.state.il.us. 2021. MOLD AND YOUR HEALTH. [online] Available at: <http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/factsheets/mold.htm> [Accessed 5 January 2021].