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Molds are common and important allergens. About 5% of individuals are predicted to have some allergic airway symptoms from molds over their lifetime. However, it should be remembered that molds are not dominant allergens and that the outdoor molds, rather than indoor ones, are the most important. For almost all allergic individuals, the reactions will be limited to rhinitis or asthma; sinusitis may occur secondarily due to obstruction. Rarely do sensitized individuals develop uncommon conditions such as ABPA or AFS. To reduce the risk of developing or exacerbating allergies, mold should not be allowed to grow unchecked indoors.

Fungi are rarely significant pathogens for humans. Superficial fungal infections of the skin and nails are relatively common in normal individuals, but those infections are readily treated and generally resolve without complication. Fungal infections of deeper tissues are rare and in general are limited to persons with severely impaired immune systems. The leading pathogenic fungi for persons with non-impaired immune function, Blastomyces, Coccidioides, Cryptococcus, and Histoplasma, may find their way indoors with outdoor air, but normally do not grow or propagate indoors. Due to the ubiquity of fungi in the environment, it is not possible to prevent immune-compromised individuals from being exposed to molds and fungi outside the confines of hospital isolation units.

Some molds that propagate indoors may, under certain conditions, produce mycotoxins that can adversely affect living cells and organisms by a variety of mechanisms, for example, the ingestion of contaminated foods. Occupational diseases are also recognized in association with inhalation exposure to fungi, bacteria, and other organic matter, usually in industrial or agricultural settings. One mold, Stachybotrys chartarum, is known to be able to produce mycotoxins under appropriate growth conditions. However, years of intensive study have failed to establish exposure to S. chartarum in home, school, or office environments as a cause of adverse human health effects. Levels of exposure in the indoor environment, dose-response data in animals, and dose-rate considerations suggest that delivery by the inhalation route of a toxic dose of mycotoxins in the indoor environment is highly unlikely, even for the most vulnerable subpopulations.

Mold spores are present in all indoor environments and cannot be eliminated from them. Normal building materials and furnishings provide ample nutrition for many species of molds, but they can grow and amplify indoors only when there is an adequate supply of moisture. Where mold grows indoors there is an inappropriate source of water that must be corrected before remediation of the mold colonization can succeed. Mold growth in the home, school, or office environment should not be tolerated because mold physically destroys the building materials on which it grows, mold growth is unsightly and may produce offensive odors, and mold is likely to sensitize and produce allergic responses in allergic individuals. Except for persons with severely impaired immune systems, indoor mold is not a source of fungal infections. Current scientific evidence does not support the existence of a causal relationship between inhaled mycotoxins in home, school, or office environments and adverse human health effects.

Per the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) Evidence-based Statement, Adverse Human Health Effects Associated with Molds in the Indoor Environment, February 24, 2011.

Ox Pond Industries, Inc.

Francis W. McGrail IV [FWMIV@OxPond.com]

5103 Ox Road
Fairfax, Virginia 22030-4562

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