A recently released report takes a major step toward discovering the truth about mold, though there's still a lot of research to be done.
Mold has been anecdotally blamed for ailments ranging from coughing to cancer. In an effort to begin to get scientific answers about the dangers of mold, the Centers for Disease Control commissioned the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies to evaluate existing research and issue a report.
The expert panel drew few definitive answers, but the ones they did were significant. According to the report, studies available show that there is “sufficient evidence of an association” between mold and coughing, wheezing, and other upper respiratory ailments. (An associative relationship should not be confused with a causal one; it's a step below.) Mold was also associated with hypersensitivity pneumonitis (a lung affliction) in sensitized people.
The report further identified an associative relationship between mold and asthma symptoms in diagnosed asthmatics. However, the evidence linking mold to new cases of asthma was “inadequate or insufficient” to determine if there was any association.
The report states that there was “limited or suggestive evidence” of an association between mold exposure and lower respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.
The panel also evaluated research dealing with relationships between health and exposure to damp indoor environments. The results were similar; sufficient evidence of an association was indicated for all the same ailments with dampness as with mold, except for hypersensitivity pneumonitis. In addition to lower respiratory illness in children, shortness of breath and asthma development were listed in the “limited or suggestive evidence of an association” category.
According to the report, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether there is an associative or causal relationship between mold exposure and many health problems, including cancer. The panel called for further research to be conducted. According to Institute of Medicine spokesperson Christine Stencel, the CDC could sponsor another report in the future.
The panel also campaigned for the development of national standards to control dampness in buildings.