Asthma Risk In Infants Increase With Mold Exposure
August 3, 2012

Asthma Risk In Infants Increase With Mold Exposure

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

One in 10. This is the number of children who suffer from asthma. Researchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC) recently found that infants who are exposed to certain molds during their infancy are more likely to have a higher risk for asthma.

In the past, scientists were not sure which environmental factors affected the risk of developing asthma. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, asthma is caused by the inflammation in the airways that leads to swelling and narrowing of the lungs. It can cause people to have shortness of breath, coughing, chest tightness, and wheezing.

When the team of UC investigators looked at three types of mold, they discovered a connection between the mold and asthma developments during childhood. The molds they studied were generally found in homes that were damaged by water. The research findings highlight the need for public health education on mold remediation and are featured in the August 2012 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, a publication affiliated with the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

"Previous scientific studies have linked mold to worsening asthma symptoms, but the relevant mold species and their concentrations were unknown, making it difficult for public health officials to develop tools to effectively address the underlying source of the problem,” noted lead author Tiina Reponen, a professor in the UC College of Medicine´s environmental health department, in a prepared statement.

The project consisted of approximately 300 infants, who had at least one parent who had allergies. Researchers from UC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Cincinnati Children´s Hospital Center teamed up to monitor the allergy developments and respiratory health of the children. The subjects were also participants of the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Population Studies, which examined over 70 children from greater Cincinnati over a long-term period to better understand the impact of environmental particles on allergy development and respiratory health of adolescents. The children were given a checkup every year for the first four years of their life and a follow-up when they were seven years of age, which is when signs of asthma usually appear. The scientists also tracked the home allergens and mold.

Based on the findings, the researchers discovered that 25 percent of children were asthmatic if they had parents who had allergies. As well, the only indoor contaminants that affected the children´s risk of asthma was the exposure to mold. In studying the children, the scientists utilized the environmental relative moldiness index (ERMI), which is a mold level analysis tool that is based off DNA.

"This is strong evidence that indoor mold contributed to asthma development and this stresses the urgent need for remediating water damage in homes, particularly in lower income, urban areas where this is a common issue,” remarked Reponen in the statement. "Therapeutics for asthma may be more efficient if targeted toward specific mold species.”

The study was supported from funding by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.