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Molds (fungi) and their spores emit both solids and gases into the environment. Molds emit a wide range of allergens and large toxic molecules (mycotoxins) in solid forms, often on very small particles which travel freely in the air. Molds also emit a wide range of gases such as acetone, ethanol, and hexane.

Marion Flamant-Hulin et al. Relationships between molds and asthma suggesting non-allergic mechanisms. A rural-urban comparison. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology 2013;24:345-51. AND

Stephane Moularat et al. Detection of fungal development in closed spaces through the determination of specific chemical targets. Chemosphere 2008;72:224-232.

Heavy mold growth indoors or on food often gives off strong, “musty”, and usually unpleasant odors.
French researchers have used 19 volatile organic chemicals emitted from molds as “fingerprints” to develop a mold “fungal index”. These gases are relatively specific for mold growth and include 2-ethylhexanoic acid methyl ester, 1-octen-3-ol, 3-heptanol, 3-methyl-1-butanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol, 1,3-octadiene, 2-(5H)-furanone, 2-heptene, alpha-pinene, 2-methylisoborneol, 4-heptanone, 2-methylfuran, 3-methylfuran, dimethyldisulfide, methoxybenzene, a terpenoid and three sesquiterpenes. Indoor levels of mold tend to be higher in spaces with a high levels of volatile organic chemicals found in the fungal index.
This fungal index was used to measure fungal volatile organics (and indirectly measure home mold growth) in the homes of 44 asthmatic children and 51 control children. A significantly higher percentage of asthmatic children lived in homes with high fungal volatile organic levels (fungal index) as compared to control children (71% vs. 49%). The relationship between higher fungi index and asthma was especially strong in rural children as compared to urban children. In addition, blood neutrophils were significantly higher and lung capacities significantly lower among children exposed to high levels of volatile mold chemicals. (Lung capacities were measured as FVC= forced vital capacity and FEV1= forced expiratory volume at 1 second).
Both the solid components (allergens and mycotoxins) and gaseous components (volatile organic chemicals) may be able to trigger asthma.



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