Ronald E. Gots, MD, PhD

International Center for Toxicology and Medicine


There are only three reasons to clean up mold

_ Health

_ Structural

_ Aesthetic

Since the structural and aesthetic reasons are far less dramatic (especially for the media) and less remunerative for claimants and their lawyers, _health@ has become the driving force behind the frenzied movement to assess and remediate mold.

Let us examine some important truths about mold and health. I shall do so by making a number of essential points, all of which are grounded in well-established scientific and medical facts. Mold promoters (i.e., someone who has a political or economic interest in heightening mold phobia) might try to challenge these statements. However, their responses will be based on speculation and wishful thinking and will have little or no scientific credibility behind them.

These facts may surprise you:

_ As measured by the NAB of the American Association of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology (AAAAI), mold spore levels in cities around the country show remarkable seasonal variation. In St. Louis, for instance, summer levels are routinely 30,000 and sometimes as high as 75,000 spores/m3 . To put these figures into context, some mold promoters encourage homeowners to evacuate their residences when indoor levels reach 1,000-5,000 spores/m3 .

_ Mold toxins at indoor environmental levels have never been shown scientifically to cause any illness. Physicians generally do not accept that there is any causal connection between them.

_ The paper published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) purporting to show a connection between newborns with bleeding lungs and the presence of Stachybotrys has been rescinded by the CDC because the science used in the study was poor. Moreover, no such clinical Aoutbreaks@ have ever been repeated, despite the increasing number of homes found to have Stachybotrys.

_ Indoor exposure to mold or mold toxins has never been proven to cause brain damage.

_ The toxins made by Stachybotrys are not neurotoxins, whereas the toxins made by Fusarium can be.

_ The term Atoxic mold@ makes no scientific sense. Almost all molds make toxins. For example, Alternaria which lives on trees and is considered by mold promoters to be benign, makes 80 mycotoxins, some which have been shown to be quite toxic in studies.

_ No one knows exactly how many homes have mold behind the walls, but the best current estimate is about 70 percent.

_ It is highly unlikely that there is a home in the world without some Stachybotrys spores in it.

_ Most epidemiological studies of mold have depended upon symptom reporting as primary indicator of exposure. There are no chronic diseases characterized by symptoms alone that arise from mold exposure.

_ Looking at symptoms alone is a poor means of evaluating disease, one fraught with the potential for error. It is an impossible way to draw causal connections, particularly when fear, publicity, and litigation are at work.

_ There is no medical condition known as Atoxic fungal syndrome,@ fungal bioaerosol building-related illness,@ or Afungal syndrome.@ These are ersatz medical disorders created by mold promoters.

_ Fungi primarily produce allergies in people. These are standard upper respiratory allergies and occasional asthma. In rare cases, they may produce hypersensitivity pneumonia, although I know of no case from a home and only very rare cases from buildings. Also, fungi may rarely cause infection. Again, I know of no such cases from homes or buildings, except hospitals, where aspergillosis is a risk. Infections from indoor exposure to such molds as Aspergillus can lead to infection in immunocompromised patients: transplant patients, cystic fibrotics, chemotherapy patients, other and related disorders. Even in these individuals, the risk is low.

_ The best known mold infections occur from outdoor mold. Histoplasmosis in the Ohio Valley and coccidiomycosis in the San Joaquin Valley are the prime examples.

_ The mold at summer camps is much more extensive and, theoretically, hazardous, than the mold found in a home, school, or workplace. Yet, no disease Aoutbreaks@ have ever been reported at a summer camp.

_ Occupational exposures to many molds (including Stachybotrys) can be in the millions of spores/m3 and may affect people such as sawmill operators, landscapers and mushroom and horse farmers. These people have elevated incidences of allergic diseases.

_ People living in the damp south spent their lifetimes exposed to mold prior to air conditioning. There is no evidence of more chronic, non-specific diseases in those populations.

_ Indoor levels of molds do not cause cancer.

_ Numbers that can be used to make rational decisions about reasonable exposures are available. The AAAAI already has developed standards.

_ The syllogism, AI feel sick; there is mold; therefore, the mold made me sick,@ is an example of circular reasoning. No causal connection can be drawn, either logically or medically.

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