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Hands off the moldy docs (for your own good?)

French archive employees handling moldy documents were found to be more likely to experience headaches, fatigue, eye or throat irritation, coughing, and rhinorrhea (stuffy nose) than their co-workers breathing the same air but not handling moldy documents . The culture and qPCR-based analysis of air samples showed Penicillium chrysogenum, Cladosporium sphaerospermum, and Aspergillus versicolor were the three main fungi found in terms of frequency and quantity in air and dust samples in the ten French archives where the research was done. The strongest effects were seen in frequency of eye irritation and coughing. Other symptoms included throat irritation, fatigue, and rhinorrhea. Workers in the archives with the highest mold concentrations in air and dust reported no more symptoms than workers in the other archives. It appears that handling the moldy documents was the key factor in symptom prevalence.

The researchers recommend that future studies also consider concentrations of fungal metabolites and chemical substances as potential confounders in investigations of the effects of molds.

The article is available in the current issue of Indoor Air 22 (6) 514-512. (ISIAQ members have free access through their membership by logging in to the ISIAQ web site).

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Hal Levin

Hal Levin is a research architect and leads the Building Ecology Research Group in Santa Cruz, CA.

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