The U.S. government has not established general guidelines for acceptable levels of residential mold. And no study has conclusively linked mold exposure to mental health problems.
However, the CDC cautions that inhaling living or even dead mold spores can provoke an allergic respiratory reaction among sensitive individuals. Wheezing, shortness of breath, and even lung infections can ensue, as can the onset of a stuffy nose, cough, headaches, and skin, throat, or eye irritations.
Those most at risk include men and women suffering from allergies, asthma, or the immune suppression that accompanies HIV infection, chemotherapy treatment for cancer, and organ transplants.
To explore the possible link between mold and mental health problems, Shenassa and his colleagues reviewed World Health Organization data collected between 2002 and 2003 in eight European cities: Angers, France; Bonn, Germany; Bratislava, Slovakia; Budapest, Hungary; Ferreira do Alentejo, Portugal; Forli, Italy; Geneva, Switzerland; and Vilnius, Lithuania.
Almost 6,000 men and women in almost 3,000 households were questioned in person about their health, including whether they had been clinically diagnosed as depressed in the prior 12 months. The participants, who ranged in age from 18 to 104, were divided equally between men and women and were chosen by random.
They were asked if they had experienced any of four symptoms of depression in the previous two weeks, such as problems sleeping, low self-esteem, poor appetite, and/or a decreased interest in activities. Those with three or more symptoms were deemed to be depressed.
Residents were also asked to assess their living conditions, while, at the same time, the researchers conducted visual inspections to calculate the levels and location of any dam
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