EPA, HHS, and HUD officials reported that 75 percent of their mold research activities address at least one of five particular data gaps-three of which relate to asthma, and two of which relate to sampling and measurement methods. These five data gaps are as follows:
- Identify environmental factors that either lead to the development of asthma or precipitate symptoms in subjects who already have asthma using good measures of fungal exposure.
- Determine the association of dampness problems with asthma development and symptoms by researching the causative agents (e.g., molds, dust mite allergens) and documenting the relationship between dampness and allergen exposure.
- Advance the understanding of specific bioaerosols (small airborne particles) in relation to asthma by studying the epidemiology of building-related asthma in problem buildings where there are excess chest complaints among occupants in comparison to buildings where there are not complaints; or provide exposure-response studies of many building environments and populations.
- Improve sampling and exposure assessment methods for mold and its components (for example, by conducting research that will lead to standardization of protocols for sample collection, transport, and analysis or developing or improving methods of personal airborne exposure measurement, DNA-based technology, or assays for bioaerosols, etc.).
- Develop standardized metrics and protocols to assess the nature, severity, and extent of dampness and effectiveness of specific measures for dampness reduction.
Overall, agency officials reported that 38 of the ongoing projects-or nearly 60 percent-address asthma. In this respect, the federal mold research portfolio for EPA, HHS, and HUD, ongoing as of October 1, 2007, appears to be weighted toward addressing research gaps identified in the Institute of Medicine’s 2000 report,
Clearing the Air: Asthma and Indoor Air Exposures
- The research activities federal officials reported as addressing one or more of the asthma-related research gaps include studies using animals. For example, one focuses on gestational exposure in mice to mold extracts and the effect this exposure has on the development of allergy or asthma in adult life; one assesses in mice the relative allergenic potency of molds statistically more common in water-damaged homes; and another is developing animal models (using mice and rats) to evaluate the pulmonary inflammatory response to mold products collected from indoor dust samples from buildings where people have reported respiratory symptoms and from buildings with no reported health complaints.
Other asthma-related research activities are aimed, for example, at better understanding the relationship between respiratory symptoms and exposure to water-damaged homes in posthurricane New Orleans and at evaluating the respiratory health of staff and students attending schools that expose them to varying degrees of dampness.
Indoor Mold: Better Coordination of Research on Health Effects and More Consistent Guidance Would Improve Federal Efforts
United States Government Accountability Office