It has been well known and accepted that indoor or outdoor exposure to molds (fungi) can worsen asthma, sinus problems, and allergies in general. Now many studies have established that indoor mold exposure can cause neurological problems such as worsened memory or concentration and chronic fatigue 1. A recent review article by Tufts University researchers has examined published research on indoor air and neurological problems 2.
Probably the biggest research done on the topic was that of Kilburn in 20093. This study reported the scores on a battery of 26 neuropsychiatric tests were significantly more abnormal in a group of 105 indoor mold-exposed adults as compared to 202 control adults (p ≤0.0001) 3. Compared to the controls, the mold exposed patients scored significantly more abnormal on tests of simple and choice reaction time, balance sway speed, blind reflex, color discrimination, grip strength, digit symbol, verbal memory, information, and picture completion (p≤0.0001 for all of these tests). The mold-exposed patients also had significantly poorer scores on other neuropsychiatric tests including visual field performance (p=0.0009 left, p=0.0016 right), Culture Fair (IQ measure) (p=0.0006), and trail making (p=0.004) 3. The mold-exposed patients also had significantly more mental confusion, fatigue, and depression than controls on the profile of mood states (POMS) test (p =0.001 for all three) 3.
Gordon et al. studied 31 patients exposed to indoor toxic mold along with 65 patients with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), 26 patients with moderate TBI, and 47 patients with no disability 4. Neuropsychological tests showed that the 31 mold-exposed patients had many significant deficits in memory, executive function, processing speed, and attention. The mold-exposed patients experienced significantly more symptoms than the controls and had a similar level of symptoms as compared to the mild TBI patients 4.
Gray et al. studied 209 adults who lived, worked, or studied in water damaged buildings. Compared to 28 controls, the mold exposed patients had significantly higher levels of many neuropsychiatric health symptoms including chronic fatigue (p=0.0001), headache (p=0.005), memory problems (p=0.0002), dizziness (p=0.005), and lightheadedness (p=0.006)5.
Crago et al. conducted clinical interviews, neuropsychological testing, and quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) on 182 adults with documented indoor mold exposure 6. Among the 182 subjects, higher estimated mold exposure was associated with significantly higher depression and significantly impaired neurocognitive function, including tests of attention/ concentration, trail marking, and symbol search, and coding 6.
Baldo et al. performed neuropsychiatric tests on 10 indoor mold-exposed patients and 10 controls 7. Compared to the controls and normative data, the 10 mold-exposed patients scored significantly worse on many tests of cognitive function including visuospatial learning, visuospatial memory, verbal learning, and psychomotor speed 7.
Other research has linked indoor mold exposure or damp conditions to significantly lower IQ in children 8,9.
References / Sources
1. Pizzorno J, Shippy A. Is Mold Toxicity Really a Problem for Our Patients? Part 2-Nonrespiratory Conditions. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif). 2016;15(3):8-14.
2. Ratnaseelan AM, Tsilioni I, Theoharides TC. Effects of Mycotoxins on Neuropsychiatric Symptoms and Immune Processes. Clin Ther. 2018;40(6):903-917.
4. Gordon WA, Cantor JB, Johanning E, et al. Cognitive impairment associated with toxigenic fungal exposure: a replication and extension of previous findings. Appl Neuropsychol. 2004;11(2):65-74.
6. Baldo JV, Ahmad L, Ruff R. Neuropsychological performance of patients following mold exposure. Appl Neuropsychol. 2002;9(4):193-202.
7. Jedrychowski W, Maugeri U, Perera F, et al. Cognitive function of 6-year old children exposed to mold-contaminated homes in early postnatal period. Prospective birth cohort study in Poland. Physiology & behavior. 2011;104(5):989-995.
8. Casas L, Torrent M, Zock JP, et al. Early life exposures to home dampness, pet ownership and farm animal contact and neuropsychological development in 4 year old children: a prospective birth cohort study. International journal of hygiene and environmental health. 2013;216(6):690-697.