Allergy Major Cause of 'Toxic Mold Syndrome'
But Many Cases of Mold-Linked Illness Not Allergy
Feb. 24, 2005 -- Mold allergies -- not mold poisoning -- cause most cases of
"," new study explains.
But the study also shows that many cases of mold-linked illness can't be
explained by allergic reactions. The report, by allergists David A. Edmondson,
DO, Jordan N. Fink, MD, and colleagues at Medical College of Wisconsin, appears
in the February issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma &
The researchers examined 36 children and 29 adults thought to have toxic
mold syndrome. About half turned out to be allergic to molds.
"Our patients assumed that they were experiencing toxic mold syndrome
when, in fact, most were experiencing [allergic] reactions to various antigens
in their environment," Edmondson and colleagues write.
That still left a sizeable number of patients whose illness could not be
explained by allergy.
"Twenty-five percent of the patients had symptoms not compatible with
[allergy]," Edmondson and colleagues write. "[Mold]-mediated mechanisms
may account for these symptoms. …The [cause] of these symptoms … remains
unclear and warrants further investigation."
Toxic Mold Syndrome Remains Controversial
The patients, ranging in age from 1.5 to 52, had all kinds of symptoms. Most
had a runny nose and a cough. Others had headaches, breathing problems
(including shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness), itchy eyes, and
nervous system problems (including dizziness, anxiety, weakness, restless legs,
memory loss, and shaking), intestinal problems (including nausea, vomiting, and
gut pain), nosebleed, and urinary problems.
Accompanying the study is an editorial by mold expert W. Elliott Horner,
PhD, of Air Quality Sciences, Inc., in Atlanta. Horner notes that toxic mold
syndrome is extremely controversial. However, he also points to a recent report
by the prestigious Institute of Medicine that strongly supports the idea that
damp, moldy buildings can harm people's health.
"Perhaps part of the controversy regarding the health effects of indoor
mold could be [done away with] if the ill-defined phrase toxic mold
syndrome> were replaced by damp building effect, which refers
to a well-documented effect but avoids any claim of [cause]," Horner
Horner points out there is currently no accurate way to measure mold toxins
in damp buildings. Without such a tool, it is impossible to test whether toxic
mold is, in fact, causing illness. Until scientists develop such tests, he
says, people should stop arguing and start collecting more data. In the
meantime, he urges both doctors and patients to keep an open mind about the
possible toxic effects of molds.
"Although certainly not proven, the suspect with the most fingerprints
at the scene seems to be mold components shed from fungal colonized
construction and finishing materials and furnishings," he writes. "It
is time now for data rather than diatribe."