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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The link between mold and asthma

The following was originally published at on 10/11/11 as "Does Mold Cause Asthma?"

Just when I thought I had covered all the possible causes of asthma, now Reuters and MSNBC report mold might be another culprit.  Surely we've had mold listed as an asthma trigger for years, yet new evidence shows exposure to mold may also cause asthma.

The study completed by researchers at Harvard Medical school researchers was published in the summer of 2010.  These researchers believe mold and fungus in the home might be responsible for worsening asthma, and in some cases might even cause asthma.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati did a study analyzing data for seven years for 178 kids living with mold, and concluded these babies were three times as likely to develop asthma. 

About nine percent of school aged kids develop asthma, and in this study 18 percent of the kids developed asthma by the time they were seven. 

According to this article, "exposure to high levels of mold may increase the risk of severe asthma attacks among people with certain chitinase gene -- CHIT1 -- variants."

Plus, "the presence of chitinases -- enzymes that break down chitin found in the cell walls of mold -- could be signaling inflammation."

The UPI post sites Ann Wu of Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute in Boston as saying  "Our results support increasing evidence that CHIT1, which is primarily released in the lung, plays an important role in the pathophysiology of asthma in the proper environmental context of exposure to chitin, which was approximated by mold levels."

This evidence may be good news in a way because scientists and pharmaceuticals may use this information to come up with a new medicine aimed at blocking chitinase enzyme activity.  This would block the inflammatory response and prevent mold and fungus from causing or triggering asthma.

We knew mold was a major asthma trigger, yet this provides us with more evidence. This is why it is essential that asthmatics, or those with a family history of asthma, have their homes checked for mold.  One way to prevent mold buildup is by making sure there is no standing water in your home, and leaks should be fixed as soon as possible. 

I had a friend whose asthma became worse one summer, and after his home was tested he learned one wall in his basement was covered with mold.  A quick paint job soved the mold problem, and his asthma improved.

One thing we are learning as we continue to investigate the causes of asthma is the environment around us may be a possible cause.  Studies like this suggest that just by raising our children in homes free of mold may be a major step in preventing them from developing asthma.

However, if it were that easy asthma could easily be extinguished as a major disease.  Unfortunately there appears to be many causes of asthma.  On the other hand, this is just one study, so more evidence will be needed.

In the meantime, we know that mold is an asthma trigger for many asthmatics, so it's a good idea to do your part in keeping it away from yourself or any other asthmatic in your life.

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