ATLANTA — Pediatricians unable to trace the cause of bleeding lungs in infants should ask parents whether they've had severe water damage in their homes, a national pediatricians group recommended Monday.
Severe water damage in wood, wallpaper, ceiling tiles and paper products can sometimes give rise to toxic mold called "stachybotrys" that can attack the lungs of infants and cause bleeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics said.
About 100 cases of bleeding lungs among infants have been reported in the U.S. in the last four years, but it is not known how many can be attributed to toxic molds in the home.
If pediatricians treating infants with bleeding lungs have ruled out other possible causes, such as bacteria, they should consider the "very preventable cause" of a toxic mold, said Dr. Ruth Etzel, who chairs the academy's committee on environmental health.
Etzel discovered a link between toxic molds and bleeding lungs in infants while leading a 1994 investigation of a cluster of 10 cases of the condition in Cleveland.
Further examination found that the infants were more likely to have lived in homes with major water damage from chronic plumbing leaks or flooding, according to findings published in this month's issue of Pediatrics.
The 53,000-member academy said parents should throw away water-soaked items that can be disposed of and clean those that can't with soap, water and a chlorine bleach solution.