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Christmas trees could be a source of indoor mold growth

Usually, Christmas trees are associated with thoughts of good tidings and cheer, but for people who suffer from allergies and chronic respiratory issues, instead of making the holiday season merry and bright, Christmas trees can make the season pure misery.

What’s the problem? “Christmas tree syndrome”, a term that was coined by Dr. Lawrence Kurlandsky, an allergist, after he submitted to studies that indicate live Christmas trees can be caked with mold, and exposure to the mold can cause breathing issues.

Those who suffer from allergies and asthma are more prone to complications when they are exposed to mold growth on live Christmas trees. That’s because about 70 percent of the molds that grow on live trees spark severe asthma attacks, as well as sinus congestion and intense fatigue.

Dr. Sharmilee Nyenhuis, an allergist at the University of Illinois of Chicago, agrees, stating that a lot of people who suffer from old allergies are unaware of the dangers that mold growth on living Christmas trees can pose.

Dr. Nyenhuis said that live Christmas trees should be taken down after about a week. After about seven days, the mold counts begin to increase at an exponential level. That’s largely believed to be the result of the warmth that the trees are exposed to when they’re brought indoors. Mold thrives in warm conditions, and if any mold is present on a Christmas tree, it will flourish indoors and spread throughout the air. As time goes on, the dangers of airborne mold spores and the health complications that are associated with them, become more severe.

“The trees themselves most likely have mold spores and pollen on them that are brought into the home,” said Melanie Carver, the vice president of community health and marketing for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Carver also pointed out that mold thrives in warm, humid environments, and that often, the inside of a home provides the ideal conditions to promote mold growth.

If a Christmas tree does have mold on it before it is brought into a home, it makes sense that once it is brought inside – especially if the conditions are right and the tree is left in place for a prolonged period of time – those who are prone to mold allergies or respiratory conditions would start to experience aggravated symptoms; shortness of breath, chest tightness, runny nose, nasal congestion, etc.

To prevent the damaging health effects that mold growth on live Christmas trees can potentially cause, do not leave a live tree up for longer than 7 days. Or, instead of using a live Christmas tree, opt for an artificial tree and store it in a cool, dry location when it isn’t in use to prevent the potential for mold growth.

Mold Inspection & Testing Chicago has years of experience conducting mold tests in residential and commercial properties throughout Chicago and the surrounding areas. If you suspect that you are experiencing indoor mold growth, call 312.583.7576 to speak with an MI&T representative.