New York: Children who live in water-damaged, moldy homes, especially those with visible mold, have higher risks for asthma and allergies than their peers, according to a study.
The study, which reviewed 61 international studies conducted since the 1990s, underscores the importance of not only getting rid of visible mold, but also preventing it in the first place, said coauthor Christina Tischer, of the German Research Center for Environmental Health.
"Home environment with visible mold and mold spore exposure increase the risk for allergic respiratory health outcomes in children," she wrote in the European Respiratory Journal.
While the findings do not prove mold is the culprit, and more study is needed, laboratory research has suggested that exposure to mold and airborne mold spores can create inflammation in the airways, she told Reuters Health.
For the review, Tischer and her colleagues separated studies that examined visible mold -- the most obvious sign of a mold problem -- from the smaller number in which researchers measured mold components in household dust samples.
Overall, children in homes with visible mold were 49 percent more likely to have asthma than unexposed children, and 39 percent more likely to have nasal allergies.
"Visible mold patches at the walls, or a moldy odor, is indicating that the normal microbial composition is out of kilter, which is most often due to dampness, excessive moisture or building damage," Tischer said.
Exposure to mold components in house dust was linked to a lower risk of both asthma and allergies.
That could be due to differences between visible mold and the mold components that are part of the normal mix of bacteria, fungus and other microbes in indoor air.