Mold and dampness can cause coughing and wheezing, but
there is little evidence to support the existence of the
so-called toxic mold syndrome, according to a report by
researchers at the Oregon Health Sciences University in
Toxic mold syndrome -- illnesses caused specifically
by exposure to mold -- continues to cause public concern
despite a lack of evidence that supports its existence,
researchers explain in the September issue of the Annals
of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Several critical reviews
have failed to find scientific support for toxic effects
from breathing in mold spores as a viable mechanism of human
disease, they add.
Dr. Barzin Khalili and Dr. Emil J. Bardana, Jr. describe
the clinical characteristics of 50 patients with complaints
of illness they attributed to mold exposure in their home
or workplace. The patients had been referred by a defense
attorney in a civil litigation or by insurance adjusters
representing worker's compensation agencies.
There was no consistent set of symptoms, the authors report,
with patients having an average of more than eight symptoms.
Most patients reported a family or personal history of allergy
Three quarters of the patients had abnormal physical examination
results, the researchers note, with inflammation of the
eye or skin and congestion occurring most commonly.
Thirty patients had other non-mold-related illnesses that
could explain most, if not all, of their mold-related complaints,
the report indicates, and nearly two thirds of the individuals
had evidence of a previously diagnosed mood disorder.
"In fact," the investigators write, "when the entire history
and objective evidence were scrutinized, a number of well-established
and plausible diagnoses emerged that explained many, if
not all, the complaints."
In a commentary in the journal, Dr. Abba I. Terr from UCSF
Medical Center, San Francisco contends that toxic mold disease
is "the latest in a series of environmentally related pseudo-illnesses"
that include multiple chemical sensitivity, also known as
idiopathic environmental intolerance, and chronic fatigue
syndrome, which was attributed at one time to infection
with Epstein-Barr virus.
"Since these authors have determined that the patients
they describe do not have a mold-related disease but are
nevertheless seeking compensation for presumed illness through
a legal process that has defined it in those terms, toxic
mold disease is truly a diagnosis of litigation," Terr concludes.
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SOURCE: Annals of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, September