(Written By Moe Bedard / Co-authored and Edited by Dr. Tim Jackson) – Many children spend as much as 80-90% of their time every day indoors, whether at home or school. It has been estimated that 50-68% of the homes and 85% of the commercial properties in the United States have water damage and toxic mold (fungus).
In 1989, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health estimated that up to 50% of illness results from exposure to indoor air pollution, with exposure to water-damaged indoor environments likely being a significant contributor to this.
This is truly the #1 health threat to children all around the globe.
I know from firsthand experience because I also lived in a water-damaged home for 5 years and my whole family had become ill as a result. My now 10-year-old son was hit the worst to the point that he was sick all the time with flu-like symptoms, earaches, sore throats, coughing up fungus balls, and it got so bad that he could not walk because of severe crippling pain in his joints, spine, and bones as a result of inflammation from the mold mycotoxins.
We tried desperately over a years time to find help from our current medical system. What we found was far from it.
In the beginning, the doctors would see our children for 2 minutes and they were simply given drugs such as antibiotics and steroids and sent on our way. There was never one single question asked about our history, such as the environment, foods etc.
The drugs didn’t work. My kids were getting sicker by the day.
I began to think these doctors didn’t know what the hell they were doing or they didn’t have the time to care.
Finally, I began the search for answers and came across people with children who had very similar health symptoms that had been exposed to toxic molds. That is when I had the ah-ha moment.
I knew then I had to get a mold inspection for my home, and sure enough, the toxic mold spore counts were sky high. We had some of the worst such as Stachybotrys (aka black mold), Aspergillus and Cladosporium.
Now we had something to show the doctors, or so we ignorantly thought. When we mentioned to the doctors that our home had high levels of many different toxic molds, many looked at us like so what and who cares? Others thought we were lying.
It saddened us at first and also made us very upset. We felt hopeless for a long time and didn’t know what to do or where to turn.
Fortunately, I became educated about the dangers of mold exposure and how to treat toxic mold illness using natural methods with virtually no side effects. With the knowledge I have learned, I have been able to help my family and son recover to the point that our health is now approximately 80-90% better than when we first began this most difficult journey.
If your child or children are sick from mold, there is hope for you all.
You can do the same thing I did and help heal your children. It first starts with getting educated about how toxic molds affect children. This knowledge you learn will lead to possible natural foods, vitamins, minerals and remedies that you can implement what you learn into your lives to the point that mold avoidance and mold treatments become a way of life.
It first starts with getting educated about how toxic molds affect children. This knowledge you learn will lead to possible natural foods, vitamins, minerals and remedies that you can implement what you learn into your lives to the point that mold avoidance and mold treatments become a way of life.
Why does mold adversely affect infants and children?
Mold (fungus) mycotoxins can affect anyone, but they can be worse for people who have weakened or undeveloped immune systems, such as infants and children.
One of the main reasons that children are so vulnerable to mold and these toxins is because their immune system is developing from birth to adolescence.
A child’s immune system is not fully developed and any disturbance or foreign substance brought into their bodies like man-made drugs and mold mycotoxins will increase the risk for abnormal immune reactions such as allergy like symptoms, asthma, inflammation and gut issues to name a few of the mold-related symptoms.
What people need to understand is that children who are adversely affected from mold exposure are not really having an allergic reaction, they are having an immune reaction to the mold. This is why a 1990 Mayo Clinic Study Shows Mold as the Cause of Nearly All Chronic Sinus Infections.
One of the lead researchers in that study, Dr. Sherris had said, “Fungus allergy was thought to be involved in less than ten percent of cases. Our studies indicate that, in fact, fungus is likely the cause of nearly all of these problems. And it is not an allergic reaction, but an immune reaction.”
It is important to distinguish the issue of difficulty detoxifying mold from a mold allergic reaction. They are 2 separate entities, but one can have both. Normally, when mycotoxins enter the body, the immune system tags them so that they can be processed and excreted from the body.
However, 25% of the population has 1 of the genetic glitches in the HLA-DR genotype. If the body’s immune system fails to tag these antigens (mycotoxins), they accumulate in the body. Eventually, every system in the body is impacted.
These immune reactions to mold will cause immune system disorders that may result in recurrent and unusual fungal infections, or inflammation and dysfunction of the body’s own tissues that are difficult for medical professionals to diagnose. Immune system disorders can cause a deficit in a single organ or body system that results in extreme loss of function.
They can also cause limitations in two or more organs or body systems, and when associated with symptoms or signs, such as severe fatigue, fever, malaise, diffuse musculoskeletal pain, or involuntary weight loss, can also result in extreme limitation. In children, immune system disorders or their treatment may also affect growth, development, and the performance of age‑appropriate activities.(1)
In addition to molds and their mycotoxins seriously affecting the immune system, it has been well documented by various studies that infants and children who have been exposed to mold and mycotoxins suffer from impaired and stunted growth.
My research shows that these children are slowly being robbed of vital nutrients, vitamins as they are also being systematically poisoned by these mold toxins.
For example, a 2102 study, researchers found that the three of these proposed pathways cause damage to the intestinal tract, leading to reduced absorptive capacity or impaired intestinal barrier function.
The following section will review the current literature, focusing on the effects of mycotoxins, particularly aflatoxin (AF), fumonisin (FUM), and deoxynivaenol (DON) on the intestine to further elucidate the possible relationship between mycotoxin exposure and growth.
The researchers proposed that the intestine is a major target for the toxic effects of all 3, resulting in impaired nutrient uptake and intestinal pathology. Persistent diarrhea results in impaired nutrient uptake.
Altered intestinal architecture and can result in a loss of enzymes, leading to malabsorption of a variety of nutrients; most notably, associated with zinc deficiency. Various mycotoxins may therefore share a convergent pathway in which mucosal damage can lead to impaired nutrient absorption and/or increased intestinal permeability, pathology that resembles the change.(2)
Mold creates a cytokine storm, or a cascade of inflammatory events that impact the entire body in different ways. If you have systemic inflammation, it can lead to a leaky gut and finally, a leaky blood-brain barrier.
In addition, there exists a hormone called Alpha-Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone that plays a role in controlling inflammation throughout the body as well as one’s pigmentation. Low Alpha-MSH commonly presents in clients dealing with mold. This also contributes to gut hyper-permeability.
Mold Can Cause Death in Infants and Children
There are many studies which have shown that infants and children who live in water-damaged buildings with mold will produce potent toxins known as mycotoxins that can compromise a child’s immune system and will make them very sick.
In fact, there have been so many illnesses, diseases and even deaths of infants and children associated with toxic mold that the nation’s largest and most prestigious pediatric organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued warnings and recommendations on water damaged buildings and mold to its 66,000 pediatrician members.
The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that when pediatricians are treating patients with idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage, prudence dictates that pediatricians try to ensure that infants under 1 year of age are not exposed to chronically moldy, water-damaged environments.
The academy says, “Pediatricians should ask about mold and water damage in the home when they treat infants with idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage. If mold is in the home, pediatricians should encourage parents to try to find and eliminate sources of moisture.”
They also recommend, “if infants who die suddenly of idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage, coroners, and medical examiners should consider using the recently published Guidelines for Death Scene Investigation of Sudden, Unexplained Infant Deaths, which includes a question about dampness, visible standing water, or mold growth.”(3)
Remember, idiopathic simply means that the idiot cannot find the pathology.
I had written ar article about a family of six from Visalia, California, that became a family of 5 after they lost their 16-month-old boy to what clearly looks like a case of toxic mold exposure. The parents and siblings experienced multiple health conditions associated with mold exposure.
The coroner’s office had found the dangerous mold known as Aspergillus versicolor by PCR-DNA analysis in the lungs and brain of the deceased child. Aflatoxin was detected in his lungs, while monocyclic trichothecenes were identified in the lungs, liver, and brain.
The family had lived in a water-damaged home for 8 years that tested positive for many toxic molds such as Stachybotrys, Aspergillus/Penicillium, Cladosporium and Chaetomium. The home was in such bad condition that the Fresno County Department of Health required the family to move out.
The home was eventually demolished because of mold contamination and construction defects. The official cause of death was listed by the coroner’s office as respiratory failure with pulmonary bleeding and hemosiderosis. Both pulmonary bleeding and hemosiderosis have been associated with toxic mold exposure.
I also wrote about a $2.2 million settlement for the wrongful death of an innocent 3 year old child in Southern California who died after being exposed to aspergillus. The young boy was immunocompromised from a prior kidney transplant. The plaintiff’s attorneys had a tough time fighting the defense counsel on medical causation. But they ultimately prevailed in winning $2.2 million for the poor family who lost their son and brother.
Aspergillus causes a disease known as aspergillosis, which is an infection, usually of the lungs.
A growth of tangled fungus fibers (fungus ball) may develop in air spaces (cavities) in the lung as part of chronic pulmonary aspergillosis, which causes fever, asthma and coughing up blood or brownish mucus plugs. Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis is a serious infection with pneumonia. It can spread to other parts of the body.
One of the symptoms of aspergillosis is nosebleeds, severe bleeding from your lungs and coughing up blood or brownish mucus plugs.
The poor 16-month-old child who lived in a home that tested positive for Aspergillus and they found this same mold in his lungs was found face down, blue in color, lifeless with oral and nasal blood discharge, which is the exact same symptom of aspergillosis.
The Mayo Clinic lists these signs and symptoms depending on which organs are affected, but in general, invasive aspergillosis can cause:
- Fever and chills
- Cough that brings up blood-streaked sputum (hemoptysis)
- Severe bleeding from your lungs
- Shortness of breath
- Chest or joint pain
- Headaches or eye symptoms
- Facial swelling on one side
- Skin lesions
A 1997 New York Times article detailed a study by Dr. Ruth A. Etzel, chief of the Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch of the Federal agency’s National Center for Environmental Health. Dr. Etzel said, “Doctors in 24 states had formally filed reports with the centers of 79 unexplained bleeding-lung cases in infants in the last four years. Thirty were in Cleveland; nine of those infants died.
The study showed that the mold had probably caused the children in Cleveland to get sick. Most of the Cleveland cases were clustered on the east side of the city in a low-income neighborhood with older, wooden houses, some of which had not been kept in good repair by landlords.
The federal agency’s study covered 40 infants: 10 sick babies and 30 healthy infants who were used as a basis for comparison. All the babies lived in the same seven zip-code areas where the sick children lived.
The study showed that the prime suspect for previously unexplained cases of the disease was a black mold called Stachybotrys chartarum. Just three months before Dr. Dearborn became aware of the medical problem, a heavy rainstorm had flooded many homes in Cleveland.
As part of the study, the county coroner reviewed all 172 infant deaths for a two-year period. With further tests on tissue samples collected before the infants were buried, doctors found that six of the 117 deaths attributed to sudden infant death syndrome were more likely caused by the mold.”
In 1999, an international workshop was organized with 15 scientists from eight countries. The participants agreed that exposure to molds may constitute a health threat to children resulting in respiratory symptoms in both the upper and lower airways, an increased incidence of infections, and skin symptoms.
Allergy, either to mold or to other indoor agents, also presents a health risk. At very high exposure levels to specific molds, nose bleeding, hemoptysis, and pulmonary hemorrhage have been documented.(4)
Mold Causes Asthma in Children
I have found that one of the main symptoms affecting children in moldy environments is asthma. Mold is found both outdoors and indoors, and as I mentioned above, it has been said by experts that approximately 50% or more of homes, and 85% of commercial buildings in the U.S. have water damage which causes indoor mold growth. Even the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you get rid of mold in your home to help control your asthma attacks.
As an important side note, asthma is typically treated with inhaled steroids. This can cause further problems for those with mycotoxins.
In the U.S., asthma is the most common chronic disease in children. Asthma is more common in children than adults and more common in boys than girls. The CDC estimates that about 7 million children have asthma, which equates to 1 in 10 children.
It is the third leading cause of hospital stays in children.
Approximately 1 in 5 children with asthma went to an emergency department for care in 2009, and it is also the number on reason for missed school days. In 2013, it accounted for more than 13.8 million missed school days. Every day in the U.S., approximately 9 people die per day because of asthma.
Researchers have estimated that 21% of asthma in the U.S. is attributable to dampness and mold exposure (5), exposure to mold odors at home increased the risk of developing asthma in children 2.4 times (6).
Many studies have also shown that exposure to water-damaged buildings (WDB) has been associated with numerous health problems that include fungal sinusitis, abnormalities in T and B cells, central and peripheral neuropathy, asthma, sarcoidosis, respiratory infections, and chronic fatigue.
For example, a May 2015 study titled, “Mold Allergens in Respiratory Allergy: From Structure to Therapy,” had shown data from several epidemiological studies that provide evidence for the important role of mold and fungi in respiratory disease in the indoor as well as in the outdoor environment.
Exposure to mold was found more often in patients with asthma, and is a factor for development of asthma. Some of these studies they examined are detailed in this article.
The Mayo Clinic says this about mold allergies and asthma:
If you have a mold allergy and asthma, your asthma symptoms may be triggered by exposure to mold spores. In some people, exposure to certain molds can cause a severe asthma attack. Signs and symptoms of asthma include:
* Shortness of breath
* Chest tightness
The Mayo Clinic had said, “Like any allergy, mold allergy symptoms are triggered by an overly sensitive immune system response. When you inhale tiny, airborne mold spores, your body recognizes them as foreign invaders and develops allergy-causing antibodies to fight them.
After the exposure has passed, you still produce antibodies that “remember” this invader so that any later contact with the mold causes your immune system to react. This reaction triggers the release of substances such as histamine, which cause itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing and other mold allergy symptoms.
Molds are very common both inside and outside. There are many types, but only certain kinds of mold cause allergies. Being allergic to one type of mold doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be allergic to another. Some of the most common molds that cause allergies include alternaria, aspergillus, cladosporium and penicillium.(3)
“A team led by Dr. Tiina Reponen of the University of Cincinnati has been investigating the relationship between mold and childhood asthma. Between 2001 and 2003, they collected dust samples from 289 homes with infants who were an average of 8 months old.
At age 7, the kids had allergy skin tests and tests for asthma. The study was funded by NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The researchers analyzed the original samples of house dust for concentrations of 36 different species of mold. The molds are on the Environmental Relative Moldiness Index, or ERMI, which was developed by the EPA to measure how moldy a house is.
The association between the trio of molds and asthma doesn’t prove that the molds cause asthma on their own. But it does provide strong evidence that indoor mold can contribute to asthma development. “This stresses the urgent need for remediating water damage in homes, particularly in lower income, urban communities where this is a common issue,” Reponen says.”
Another 1999 study, Indoor Mold and Children’s Health, stated:
“About 30 investigations from various countries around the world have demonstrated a close relationship between living in damp homes or homes with mold growth, and the extent of adverse respiratory symptoms in children. Some studies show a relation between dampness/mold and objective measures of lung function.
Apart from airway symptoms, some studies demonstrate the presence of general symptoms that include fatigue and headache and symptoms from the central nervous system. At excessive exposures, an increased risk for hemorrhagic pneumonia and death among infants has been reported. The described effects may have important consequences for children in the early years of life.(7)
In the August 2012 edition of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the team reported that 69 of the children (24%) had developed asthma. The ERMI score of a baby’s home predicted whether the child would have asthma at age 7.
ERMI values range from about -10 to 20. For a 10-point increase in ERMI, a child’s risk of asthma increased 80%. Three particular species of mold were most associated with asthma: Aspergillus ochraceus, Aspergillus unguis and Penicillium variable.
The home inspection team also looked and smelled for evidence of mold. Sometimes even homes with no sign of mold were found to have high ERMI values and result in the development of asthma. Other studies have shown that many homes with high ERMI values have undetected mold problems and that remediating those homes improves children’s asthma.(8)
Mold Affects Children’s Cognitive Function
A 2011 study had shown the potential impact of early childhood exposure to indoor molds on the subsequent cognitive function of 6-year old children.
The results of this study are based on the six-year follow-up of 277 babies born at term to mothers participating in a prospective cohort study in Krakow, Poland. The study participants were all non-smoking pregnant women who were free of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
The researchers found that the children who lived for longer periods in mold-contaminated dwellings scored about 10 points lower than those with no exposure. They concluded that the findings provided an additional evidence that indoor molds exposure in early childhood might impair children’s cognitive ability, especially in children who were exposed over longer periods.(9)
Pharmaceutical Drugs Are Increasing the Number of Children With Fungal Infections and the Severity
Another reason fungal infections are increasing at an alarming rate is from changes in medical practice such as the overuse of antibiotics, steroids, intensive chemotherapy and immunosuppressive drugs.
Many children who are ill from mold exposure and subsequent fungal infections are often misdiagnosed by medical professionals who are quick in prescribing them pharmaceutical drugs such as antibiotics and steroids, which actually can make their fungal infections much worse.
This is causing the rate of childhood fungal infections to increase at an alarming rate.
A 2012 study titled, Emerging fungal infections among children: A review on its clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and prevention, had shown that this increase is directly related to the growing population of immunocompromised individuals especially children resulting from changes in medical practice such as the use of intensive chemotherapy and immunosuppressive drugs. Although healthy children have strong natural immunity against fungal infections, fungal infections among children are increasing very fast.(10)
Mold Safe Inspections Conclusion
As you can see from this lengthy article, infants, and children who are exposed to toxic mold can have serious immune reactions and malnutrition problems that may develop serious fungal infections, diseases, and even death.
I believe from my own experience and the extensive research I have done that it is one of the biggest health threats to children around the globe.
If you have children that are sick, and you suspect it may be because they were exposed to a water-damaged environment and mold, you should get your home tested for mold.
If the test comes back positive, you then need to evaluate if you should remediate the damage or move. If you rent, it may be difficult to remediate properly and you will need to move.
If you own your home, then it may be best to remediate, but you need to make sure that you hire a reputable company who will do the job right.
You will also need to get your children on a proper diet with very little to no sugar, no sodas, etc. Eat mostly all organic foods, and start taking extra vitamins and minerals along with antifungals and binders.
If your child is seriously ill, talk to a doctor or health coach who specializes in mold illnesses.
- Immune System Disorders – Childhood
- Food Chain Mycotoxin Exposure, Gut Health, and Impaired Growth: A Conceptual Framework
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- PubMed: Introduction and summary: workshop on children’s health and indoor mold exposure.
- Public health and economic impact of dampness and mold
- Home dampness and molds, parental atopy, and asthma in childhood: a six-year population-based cohort study,
- PubMed: Indoor mold and Children’s health
- National Institutes of Health
- COGNITIVE FUNCTION OF 6-YEAR OLD CHILDREN EXPOSED TO MOLD-CONTAMINATED HOMES IN EARLY POSTNATAL PERIOD. PROSPECTIVE BIRTH COHORT STUDY IN POLAND
- Emerging fungal infections among children: A r
- eview on its clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and prevention
Moe Bedard is the founder of Mold Safe Inspections and manager at Mold Safe Solutions. A full-service Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) company specializing in property water damage, mold inspections, consultations, and mold remediation.
If you need help with a project, please call 760-818-6830.