Osborne conducted this research while pursuing her master's at UC and is currently employed as an environmental consultant at Quantus Analytical, a mold and allergen laboratory and consulting group in Cincinnati.
Using a small air sampling device, the UC research team collected fungal spores from the homes of 144 infants enrolled in the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS).
The CCAAPS, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, is a five-year study examining the effects of environmental particulates on childhood respiratory health and allergy development.
Air samples were collected for a total of 48 hours in the child's primary activity room and in the child's bedroom during sleep. Samples were analyzed for both total and individual spore counts.
"We found that, at least in children, some fungi may cause allergic sensitization while other fungal types may actually inhibit the development of allergies," explains Osborne.
"But very little is known about how infant allergies to environmental allergens develop," she adds, "and more research is needed before we will fully understand the impact of fungi as an allergen in infants."
If mold is found in the home, the UC team recommends following the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-accepted guidelines for removing it. They also say any moisture issues, such as roof or plumbing leaks, should be resolved immediately to avoid mold development. Additional information on household mold issues can be found at www.epa.gov/moldresources.html.