- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Indoor mold and dampness can trigger symptoms in asthmatics and respiratory problems in otherwise healthy people, but there is not enough evidence to directly link the conditions to the onset of asthma or a wider range of health problems, a report says.

Evidence, however, suggests a link, said Dr. Noreen Clark, chairwoman of the committee that produced the report. She said more research is necessary.

“In short, excessive building dampness is not your friend,” she said. “It’s associated with a lot of things that could give rise to problems.”

The report, titled “Damp Indoor Spaces and Health,” was conducted by the Institute of Medicine, a science-focused public-health research group under the umbrella of the National Academy of Sciences. It was based on a review of hundreds of scientific papers published in the past 25 years.

“I think it is an important public-health issue,” said committee member Peyton Eggleston, a pediatric allergist at Johns Hopkins University. He and Dr. Clark said dampness occurs at some point in most buildings across the country, often because leaks and spills aren’t taken seriously as potential health threats.

“If someone gets a plumbing leak, most people don’t address that as an emergency unless they’re filling up their basement with water,” Dr. Eggleston said. “You have to stop it and get the water out of the house and fix [the problem] quickly.”

The main focus of the committee’s advisory recommendations is education of homeowners, as well as building designers, builders and maintainers.

“The key to dealing with this problem is to improve design construction, operation and maintenance of buildings,” Dr. Clark said.

Committee members also suggested building regulations to assure the use of knowledge on reducing dampness.

Also important to addressing the issue, Dr. Eggleston said, is additional research on the health effects of dampness and mold, which can become toxic. Because of the time it takes to do research, he said, it will take years to find a definitive link.

“There has been a lot of controversy about the role of mold and indoor mold, in particular, in health,” Dr. Eggleston said. “This is the first really careful look at the data that is out there in the literature right now and what it means.”

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