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Household Mold Doubles Kids' Asthma Risk

A Moldy Smell Is Enough to Trigger Increased Risk, Study Shows
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Mar. 4, 2005 -- Kids' asthma risk more than doubles if their homes smell of mold, says a new study.

"This study is important for families everywhere," says Jim Burkhart, PhD, in a news release. Burkhart is the science editor for Environmental Health Perspectives, which published the study in its March issue.

"Anyone with young children in the home should be aware of the potentially harmful effects of long-term exposure to mold and this potential link to asthma in children," he continues, in the news release.

Mold has been linked to asthma before. Mold has been linked to asthma before. So have other irritants such as cigarette smoke, dust mites, and furry or feathery pets. A family history of asthma or hay fever give children genes that raises a kids' risk of being susceptible to environmental triggers to asthma, say the researchers.

You don't have to see mold for it to cause problems. The smell alone can be bad enough, the research shows.

Stamp Out Dampness, Mold

Household mold odor increased kids' asthma risk about 2.5 times, according to the study. No connection was seen between asthma and homes' visible mold, water damage, or the presence of moisture, like wet spots in the home.

Still, damp dwellings can be troublesome, and not just from an architectural perspective. Mold contains allergens, which can trigger hay fever or asthma in sensitive people. They also produce a musty odor that can cause irritation to the nose, eyes, and throat.

Dampness could foster dust mites, mold, and other breathing hazards, write the researchers. It could also indicate ventilation problems that allow indoor pollutants to build up, they add.

Getting rid of mold and moisture problems aren't always a do-it-yourself chore. Professionals can help find and fix the problem.

Like Parent, Like Child?

The study focused on nearly 1,900 children living near Helsinki, Finland. While the kids were 1-7 years old, researchers watched to see who got asthma over the next six years.

The kids' parents or guardians answered asthma questionnaires and phone surveys. Topics included the child's doctor-diagnosed asthma, parental history of allergies or asthma, and potential breathing irritants in the home.

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