A Spreading Concern: Inhalational Health Effects of Mold
The issue of mold contamination has drawn the national and international spotlight on the heels of publicity about prominent situations, such as a hotly contended link between mold and severe illnessand one deathin 10 Ohio infants in 1993 and 1994; a major 2001 insurance battle over the moldy Dripping Springs, Texas, house of Melinda Ballard and her family; the mushrooming mold infestations indoors and out along the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed ashore in 2005; and the mold infestation that helped spur the February 2007 outcry over the treatment given to recuperating soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. As recently as 25 years ago, inhaled mold was considered primarily a nuisance, not a serious health threat. But the growing scientific and medical evidence suggests the threat is widespread and, for some people, quite serious.
In the 9 June 2006 report Mold Prevention Strategies and Possible Health Effects in the Aftermath of Hurricanes and Major Floods, the CDC concluded that "excessive exposure to mold-contaminated materials can cause adverse health effects in susceptible persons regardless of the type of mold or the extent of contamination." The CDC based some of its findings on a landmark 2004 report, Damp Indoor Spaces and Health, by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies. Relying on the IOM report, and dozens of studies and reports that have been published since, many organizations and individuals that must deal regularly with mold problems have begun to take steps to reduce the threat.
But many of the puzzle piecesexactly who is vulnerable, to what extent, and under what conditionsare still missing. The vast information gaps that remain continue to feed significant controversy in the legal, insurance, political, scientific, medical, public health, and building design, construction, management, and maintenance arenas.