The role of molds in the relation between indoor environment and atopy in asthma patients
Evidence that indoor dampness and mold growth are associated with respiratory health has been accumulating, but few studies have been able to examine health risks in relation to measured levels of indoor mold exposure. In particular, little is known about the contribution of indoor molds to the development of allergic sensitization. As a part of an ongoing study examining the effects of ambient air pollutants on respiratory health and atopic diseases in German school children, we examined the relation between viable mold levels indoors and allergic sensitization in 272 children. We examined whether allergic sensitization in children is associated with higher fungal spore count in settled house dust sampled from living room floors. Adjusting for age, sex, parental education, region of residency, and parental history of atopy, we found that mold spore counts for Cladosporium and Aspergillus were associated with an increased risk of allergic sensitization. Sensitized children exposed to high levels of mold spores (> 90th percentile) were more likely to suffer from symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis. We conclude that elevated indoor concentrations of molds in wintertime might play a role in increasing the risk of developing atopic symptoms and allergic sensitization not only to molds but also to other common, inhaled allergens. These effects were strongest in the group of children who had lived in the same home since birth.