Mold hysteria: Origin of the hoax

Christopher Chang, M. Eric Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The topic of building related illness came into the public's eye as a major health issue in the mid 1970s, when several cases of pneumonia were found to be associated with an infectious agent in Philadelphia. This agent was subsequently found to be a gram-positive bacterium known as Legionella pneumoniae. During the ensuing 30 years, a myriad of symptom constellations, disorders, clinical syndromes and illnesses have been attributed to indoor living or working environments. Over time, there appeared to be no limit to claims of building related illness, and it was "reported" that almost any kind of clinical symptom, real or imaginary, could be blamed on indoor environments. As society became more and more litigious, many of these disorders were erroneously played out in courtrooms rather than medical offices, creating a circus atmosphere surrounding this class of disorders. With the advent of the internet, as well as other advances in telecommunications, these issues eventually became part of a media frenzy, and all truths could be thrown out the window as issues became more and more decided upon by emotions and unfounded beliefs, rather than scientific data and logical thinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-158
Number of pages8
JournalClinical and Developmental Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005


  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Mold

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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