Mold and Health

Mold can be a touchy subject. There is a hot debate over what exact health problems can result from an excessive exposure to mold. In fact, a lot of the research and interest has shifted to damp buildings in general to include other microorganisms and their byproducts.

The current issue of the journal Indoor Air has an interesting article, “Culturable mold in indoor air and its association with moisture-related problems and asthma and allergy among Swedish children” by authors J. Holme et al.

Air samples for mold were taken in 382 homes in Sweden and compared to parental reports of asthma/allergy in children. The spore concentrations were also compared to inspector observations of mold odors and visual signs of moisture. The homes were almost evenly divided into symptomatic children and non-symptomatic controls.

The results of the study may be surprising! There was little to no association between indoor mold spore concentrations and:

  • Mold odors
  • Signs of visible dampness
  • Asthma/allergy in children

Some of these conclusions contradict the findings of other studies, so one shouldn’t take these results as cold, hard fact.  The paper does a great job of highlighting some of the research that draws a different conclusion.

Based on their findings, the authors conclude that there is no value for air sampling as it unable to predict hidden mold problems or health effects of occupants.  This really kicks the hornets nest with an entire industry that regularly measures the airborne concentrations of mold.

Here is my quick opinion: an indoor air quality assessment should include visually investigating any moisture or mold problems.  An initial assessment is typically not destructive, so you may not necessarily be able to identify hidden mold in the walls, ductwork or under flooring.  If a client is unconvinced with your visual inspection, air samples can corroborate your findings and approximate the taxa and exposure levels indoors.

I’m finding more and more that clients want to see the numbers and have the additional assurance that they provide.  Every once and a while I come across a seemingly clean environment that has very high counts, and ultimately a hidden mold problem.  Those clients were sure glad they did the air samples.

Leave a comment to share your thoughts on sampling the air for mold.

By Ian Cull

I'm I.A.N. the Indoor Air Nerd. I'm a speaker and consultant on indoor air quality issues. To learn more about me, click "about" at the top of this page.

2 replies on “Mold and Health”

As most of my customers are tennants I walk the rope between them and the owner.
Initial visual walk throughs are always followed by a minimum of three air samples. Pictures of the sampling site offer visual reinforcement.
Include your best judgement thoughts in the final report of the investigation. Keep the costs reasonable and other will call. Long term clients are worth more than a one time overcharge.
Good site Ian

Recently I did 3 Air ocells for a would be homeowner.I made the comment that the air smelt crisp in the basement to the realtor as I was taking the test.It had just been remodeled,Tests came back 15 stachy., in basement with half that upstairs.So much for my nose on the subject.

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