I have sort of a confession to make: I am a total nerd when it comes to science.
I can’t get enough of scientific journals, reading about long-term study results, and researching the science behind anything health, diet or exercise related. So, I guess it should come as no surprise that sometimes, in my quest to learn all I can about mold and mycotoxins, I delve into scientific journals and published studies to help me understand some of the things that prolonged mold subjection (like the exposure my family and I endured) does to the body. What astounds me time and time again are the many (and still growing as studies on mold become more focused and common), scientifically proven connections between mold in indoor environments and health problems—both physical and mental. Also, since I am markedly better from a health standpoint than I was 2 years ago, I like to have references to direct people to, when they don’t believe that I could have ever been that sick from something like mold. Many people just look at mold in their homes as a nuisance or inconvenience, and don’t see the importance of being hyper vigilant about it, or being that concerned. I’ve even heard the statement, “All homes have mold. What’s the big deal?” Pointing people to these studies as a reference helps me to “show” people why mold is a big deal and why living in an indoor environment with mold or bad air quality should be a major health concern.
One of the most thought-provoking studies I have ever read is a 2007 Brown University Study that was published in The American Journal of Public Health. The study finds a proven link between levels of dampness and mold in the home and depression.
Depression. Not sinus symptoms, not asthma, but depression. For some reason, this particular study got many of the most “popular” docs—Dr. Axe, Sanjay Gupta, and Dr. Lisa Nagy, just to name a few, talking. Maybe that’s because depression and mental health strike a deeper chord with some than a chronically runny nose or sore throat? I’m not quite sure. But, nonetheless, it worked to open the conversation.
This particular Brown University study found that 40% of the residents included in the study (5,882 adults living in 2,982 households in eight European cities) lived in moldy homes. Those that lived in the moldy homes were determined by the study to have a 34-44% higher risk for clinically-classified depression than those people who lived in mold-free homes or dwellings.
The study was conducted by surveying the residents about depressive symptoms, such as problems sleeping and decreased appetite. They also were asked whether or not a physician had diagnosed them with depression in the past year. Then the level of dampness and mold in each residence was scientifically measured, so that the levels of any discernible mold could be classified as minimal, moderate, or extensive. Those respondents that lived in homes classified as moderate were shown to have the highest risk for depression by the study’s measurements.
Epidemiologist Edmond Shenassa of Brown University, who headed up the study, reasoned that there may be a tipping point where a certain critical amount of mold triggers a response that is not dose-related. It is also worth relaying that Shenassa was one of the biggest skeptics before embarking upon the study, saying, “We thought that once we statistically accounted for physical factors like crowding and psychological aspects like not having control over one’s living environment, then the association between mold and depression would vanish.”
Not so, the data collected does strongly suggest that mold toxins and depression are linked.
(Note: While we do not know the pathology or causal relationship, we do know that many symptoms are shared by these two diagnoses. We also know that the psychiatry world recognizes “environmental events,” like stress, trauma, and loss, as potential precursors to clinical depression. As I understand it, each case is unique as described in the literature. Regardless, this study makes a clear link between mold and depression. Whether it is the physiological effects from mold exposure, or the hopelessness of the situation, removing the mold in and of itself is a positive move in the right direction.)
So, what can we gain from this information? In my opinion, a blessing. The study provides another reason to go deeper and to explore the things that are happening to our bodies after a mold exposure, symptom-by- symptom. For example, I may be exposed to mold and acquire a sinus infection, whereas, my husband is exposed to mold and is sidelined by fatigue and depression. Two totally different, seemingly unrelated symptoms, caused by one thing—mold. That’s part of the reason why getting legislation to address mold and its causes in place is unlikely. (It took decades for the government (EPA) to enact legislation on asbestos, leaded gasoline, and tobacco smoke.) Mold and the dangers of mold are so varied and complex. But, knowledge is power, and knowledge drives people to be confident being their own advocates.
I hope you feel empowered by reading these studies and feeling like you have science to back up your quest to prevent mold in your indoor environments. Please feel free to comment with any questions or additional studies you think are relevant to this blog. I always love to hear from you!