Molds that may produce mycotoxins should be considered hazardous to children. Exposure to moldy homes increases the likelihood of children developing asthma.

"Early life exposure to mold seems to play a critical role in childhood asthma development," says Tiina Reponen, PhD, lead study author and University of Cincinnati (UC) professor of environmental health.

In the study, researchers from the UC and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center analyzed data of 176 children to evaluate the effects of mold exposure at an early age. The children were part of an ongoing study by Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study of 700 children born in the years 2001 to 2003 in greater Cincinnati area. The research was published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Researchers analyzed the level of exposure to mold by DNA based PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction). Using the ERMI index that involves the analysis of a single sample of dust from a home, the sample is then analyzed using a mold specific DNA-based method for quantifying mold species. The ERMI index was used to measure the exposure of mold in the children affected with asthma. 18 percent of children tested where found to be asthmatic by the time they reach age 7.

"The symptoms of pediatric asthma range from a nagging cough, which lingers for days or weeks, to sudden episodes of shortness of breath and wheezing that require emergency treatment," says allergist David Bernstein, MD, study co-author, UC professor of internal medicine and ACAAI fellow.

"This study should motivate expectant parents—especially if they have a family history of allergy or asthma—to correct water damage and reduce the mold burden in their homes to protect the respiratory health of their children," said Bernstein.

Another study found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people by Institute of Medicine (IOM)