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Your Environment. Your Health.

Mold Exposure During Infancy Increases Risk of Asthma

Grace LeMasters, Ph.D. and Elisabet Johansson
University of Cincinnati
NIEHS Grants R01ES011170 and T32ES010957

Children who live in moldy homes are three times more likely to develop asthma by age 7, according to new research from NIEHS grantees at the University of Cincinnati. The researchers also point out that genetic factors also play a role in early asthma development as children whose parents have asthma are at the greatest risk for developing the respiratory ailment.

The children were part of the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study, which is a long-term effort that includes more than 700 children. One hundred and seventy-six participants were identified at birth for being at high risk to develop asthma based on family history.

Mold exposure levels were measured using a tool developed by the EPA which combines 36 different mold types into one index which accurately described the mold burden in the children’s homes.

By age seven, 36 of the 176 children had developed asthma. Children living in homes with high mold content at one year of age were more than twice as likely to develop asthma. The timing of the exposure seems to be critical because living in high mold homes later in life was not correlated with developing asthma. Of all the other factors examined, only dust mite allergy and parental asthma were linked to asthma development. Air-conditioning reduced the risk of asthma. The results of this study suggest that parents of young children should pay careful attention to poor water drainage and other issues that contribute to mold develop in their homes, especially if the parents themselves have a medical history of asthma.

Citation: Citation: Reponen T, Vesper S, Levin L, Johansson E, Ryan P, Burkle J, Grinshpun SA, Zheng S, Bernstein DI, Lockey J, Villareal M, Khurana Hershey GK, LeMasters G. High environmental relative moldiness index during infancy as a predictor of asthma at 7 years of age. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2011 Aug;107(2):120-126.

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