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Exposure to indoor mold and moisture

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Indoor mold and moisture exposure can cause asthma, rhinitis and neurological problems.

The growth of indoor mold and bacteria are stimulated by water damage, and such fungal and bacterial growth can cause infection and also produce a great variety of allergens and toxins (1). It has long been known that exposures to indoor mold and moisture can increase risk of asthma and rhinitis. For example, meta-analysis have linked indoor mold exposure to significantly more asthma  (16 Studies, Effect Estimate= EE 1.29, 95% CI 1.04-1.06, p=0.001) (2)and significantly more rhinitis (31 Studies, EE 1.82, 95 % CI 1.56-2.212, p<0.001) (3).

Two recent Finnish studies (4, 5)and one 2009 California study (6)have also reported that indoor exposure to heavy mold growth and/or water damage is associated with a significantly increased risk of many neurological problems including chronic fatigue, chemical sensitivity, muscular skeletal pain, “brain fog”, and significantly poorer function on neuropsychiatric testing.  The results of these three studies are summarized below:



A Finnish study of hospital workers has reported that exposure to mold and water damage were associated with significantly more neurological problems.  Ninety nurses and midwives exposed to water and/or mold damage were compared to 45 midwives (5). Many serious neurological problems were significantly more common in the mold and water exposed patients including peripheral nervous systems problems (Relative Risk= RR 4.36, 95% CI 1.90-7.41 p< 0.001), MCS= multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) (RR 3.44, 95% CI 1.39-6.44 p=0.01), chronic fatigue (RR 3.05, 95 CI 3.29-2.34, p<0.001), muscle or joint pain (RR 2.02, 95% CI .11-3.62, p=0.02), and cardiac arrhythmias (RR 19.75, 95% CI 4.47-36.30) (5).  Among the hospital workers exposed to mold or water damage, 77% reported chronic fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivity was reported in 40%, brain fog in 62%, muscular skeletal pain in 51%, and arrhythmias in 57% (5).



A second recent Finnish study of police workers has also reported that indoor exposure to water and mold damage can increase risk of many common neurological problems.  A group of 116 mold and moisture exposed police station workers were compared to a group of 45 unexposed police workers (4).  Many serious neurological problems were significantly more common in the mold and water exposed patients including MCS= multiple chemical sensitivity  (RR 2.81, 95% CI 1.06-7.46, p=0.04), chronic fatigue (RR 2.82, 95% CI 1.55-5.11, p=0.001), muscle or joint pain (RR 1.50, 95% CI 0.75-3.00 p=0.25), and cardiac arrhythmias (RR 9.58, 95 % CI 1.33-68.81) (4). Among the police station workers exposed to mold or water damage, 22% reported multiple chemical sensitivity, 59% reported chronic fatigue, 28% muscle or join pain, and 23% reported cardiac arrhythmias (4).


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Heavy indoor mold and water damage exposure has been associated with significant declines in neurological and neuropsychological performance in general.  Kilburn did extensive neurological tests on 105 patients with documented heavy indoor mold exposure and 202 controls (6).  Compared to the 202 controls, the 105 mold exposed patients did significantly worse on many neurological tests including slower reaction times, poorer balance sway speed and blink latency, poorer color vision, poorer grip strength, and poorer scores on tests of memory and concentration  (p<0.0001 all comparisons (6)).


Related Articles

Exposure to indoor mod and moisture

Indoor mold and asthma


Research and References:


1. Curtis L, Lieberman AD, Rea W, Stark M, Vetter M. Adverse human health effects ofindoor molds. Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine. 2004;14(3):261-74.

2. Quansah R, Jaakkola MS, Hugg TT, Heikkinen SA, Jaakkola JJ. Residential dampness and molds and the risk of developing asthma: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e47526.

3. Jaakkola MS, Quansah R, Hugg TT, Heikkinen SA, Jaakkola JJ. Association of indoor dampness and molds with rhinitis risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013;132(5):1099-110 e18.

4. Hyvonen S, Poussa T, Lohi J, Tuuminen T. High prevalence of neurological sequelae and multiple chemical sensitivity among occupants of a Finnish police station damaged by dampness microbiota. Arch Environ Occup Health. 2020:1-7.

5. Hyvonen S LJ, Tuuminen T . In Press- Moist and Mold Exposure is Associated with High Prevalence of Neurological Symptoms and MCS in a Finnish Hospital Workers Cohort. Safety and Health at Work. 2020;In Press.

6. Kilburn KH. Neurobehavioral and pulmonary impairment in 105 adults with indoor exposure to molds compared to 100 exposed to chemicals. Toxicol Ind Health. 2009;25(9-10):681-92.

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