The main study objective was to compare different methods for assessing mold exposure in conjunction with an epidemiologic study on the development of children's asthma. Homes of 184 children were assessed for mold by visual observations and dust sampling at child's age 1 (Year 1). Similar assessment supplemented with air sampling was conducted in Year 7. Samples were analyzed for endotoxin, (1-3)-β-D-glucan, and fungal spores. The Mold Specific Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction assay was used to analyze 36 mold species in dust samples, and the Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) was calculated. Homes were categorized based on three criteria: 1) visible mold damage, 2) moldy odor, and 3) ERMI. Even for homes where families had not moved, Year 7 endotoxin and (1-3)-β-d-glucan exposures were significantly higher than those in Year 1 (p<0.001), whereas no difference was seen for ERMI (p=0.78). Microbial concentrations were not consistently associated with visible mold damage categories, but were consistently higher in homes with moldy odor and in homes that had high ERMI. Low correlations between results in air and dust samples indicate different types or durations of potential microbial exposures from dust vs. air. Future analysis will indicate which, if any, of the assessment methods is associated with the development of asthma.
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