Dr. Ruth Etzel warns that toxic molds growing indoors in homes of infants can make them seriously ill. At the spring session of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Atlanta, Georgia, she presented her studies as the chairperson of their Committee on Environmental Health. Etzel petitioned that acute pulmonary hemorrhage in several infants was linked to toxic molds in their homes.
Molds are fungi that generally grow in damp places. They can proliferate inside homes affected by dampness. Not all indoor molds are dangerous, but any mold growth is an indication of water damage that can cause toxic mold to quickly multiply in the home. Certain types of molds such as Stachybotrys and Penicillium growing indoors produce mycotoxins, which can cause damage to the growing lungs of infants. It is usually the spores produced by these molds that have the highest amount of toxins. The Academy’s statement titled “Toxic Effects of Indoor Mold” explains that the soft tissues lining the intestines and the respiratory tract can absorb these toxic substances. Mycotoxins can enter the body through the skin as well.
The toxic mold Stachybotrys had been suspected to be the cause of pulmonary hemorrhage in ten infants from Cleveland in the years 1993 and 1994. What confirmed the suspicion was that half of them had a recurrence on returning to their homes after treatment. Dr. Ruth Etzel’s study involved forty infants; ten with hemorrhage from the lungs and 30 other infants of the same age as the control group. She found that the homes of the affected children had poor indoor air quality due to water damage and resultant toxic mold growth. Stachybotrys atra, commonly known as black mold, was one of the toxic molds found in their homes.
The mold spores that are released into the air easily enter the respiratory tract of infants and stay in their lungs. They then release toxins into the alveoli of the lungs from where they enter the blood. In addition to hemorrhage from the lungs, they can cause a number of other illnesses too.
Dr. Etzel advises parents that any water damage should be immediately attended to. That includes leaks and water seepage from the roof and the plumbing line. Flood damage and water damage after firefighting should be followed up with damage control measures. Cleaning the walls with bleach diluted with water may help discourage mold growth. Items such as mold-infested carpets and rugs should be discarded. Keeping the homes dry and well ventilated reduces the chances of toxic mold growth.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises pediatricians and parents that babies should be kept away from water-damaged homes and mold-infested areas in the first year of their lives. All cases of pulmonary hemorrhage in infants and young children should be reported to the health departments of the respective state.