Over the years, scientists have proven that some molds and fungi may be to blame for allergies, infections, poisoning, and other serious health complications. Sometimes, these toxic molds can be embedded in houses where homeowners can’t see them. Hidden and undetected, these molds may release powerful, poisonous toxins that can make children and adults silently sick. Often, people don’t know that toxic molds could be the culprits of their illnesses.
Health problems associated with high levels of airborne mold spores include allergic reactions, asthma episodes, irritations of the eye, nose and throat, sinus congestion, and other respiratory problems. For example, residents of homes with mold are at an elevated risk for both respiratory infections and bronchitis. When mold spores are inhaled by an immunocompromised individual, some mold spores may begin to grow on living tissue, attaching to cells along the respiratory tract and causing further problems. Generally, when this occurs, the illness is an epiphenomenon and not the primary pathology. Also, mold may produce mycotoxins, either before or after exposure to humans, potentially causing toxicity.
A serious health threat from mold exposure for immune-compromised individuals is systemic fungal infection (systemic mycosis). Immune-compromised individuals exposed to high levels of mold, or individuals with chronic exposure may become infected. Sinuses and digestive tractinfections are most common; lung and skin infections are also possible. Mycotoxins may or may not be produced by the invading mold.
Dermatophytes are the parasitic fungi that cause skin infections such as athlete's foot and tinea cruris. Most dermataphyte fungi take the form of a mold, as opposed to yeast, with appearance (when cultured) that is similar to other molds.
Opportunistic infection by molds such as Penicillium marneffei and Aspergillus fumigatus is a common cause of illness and death among immune-compromised people, including people with HIV, AIDS, and asthma.
The most common form of hypersensitivity is caused by the direct exposure to inhaled mold spores that can be dead or alive or hyphal fragments which can lead to allergic asthma or allergic rhinitis. The most common effects are rhinorrhea (runny nose), watery eyes, coughing andasthma attacks. Another form of hypersensitivity is hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Exposure can occur at home, at work or in other settings. It is predicted that about 5% of people have some airway symptoms due to allergic reactions to molds in their lifetimes.
Hypersensitivity may also be a reaction toward an established fungal infection in allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.
Molds excrete toxic compounds called mycotoxins, secondary metabolites produced by fungi under certain environmental conditions. These environmental conditions affect the production of mycotoxins at the transcription level. Temperature, water activity and pH, strongly influence mycotoxin biosynthesis by increasing the level of transcription within the fungal spore. It has also been found that low levels of fungicides can boost mycotoxin synthesis. Certain mycotoxins can be harmful or lethal to humans and animals when exposure is high enough.
Extreme exposure to very high levels of mycotoxins can lead to neurological problems and in some cases death; fortunately, such exposures rarely to never occur in normal exposure scenarios, even in residences with serious mold problems. Prolonged exposure, e.g. daily workplace exposure, can be particularly harmful.
However, not all mycotoxins are harmful, and some are even beneficial to humans, e.g. penicillin.
The health hazards produced by mold have been associated with sick building syndrome, but no validated studies have been able to demonstrate that normal indoor exposures to these common organisms pose a significant threat.
It is thoughtthat all molds may produce mycotoxins and thus all molds may be potentially toxic if large enough quantities are ingested, or the human becomes exposed to extreme quantities of mold. Mycotoxins are not produced all the time, but only under specific growing conditions. Mycotoxins are harmful or lethal to humans and animals only when exposure is high enough.
Mycotoxins can be found on the mold spore and mold fragments, and therefore they can also be found on the substrate upon which the mold grows. Routes of entry for these insults can include ingestion, dermal exposure and inhalation.
Some mycotoxins cause immune system responses that vary considerably, depending on the individual. The duration of exposure, the frequency of exposure and the concentration of the insult (exposure) are elements in triggering immune system response.
Aflatoxin is an example of a mycotoxin. It is a cancer-causing poison produced by certain fungi in or on foods and feeds, especially in field corn and peanuts.
Originally, toxic effects from mold were thought to be the result of exposure to the mycotoxins of some mold species, such as Stachybotrys chartarum. However, studies are suggesting that the so-called toxic effects are actually the result of chronic activation of the immune system, leading to chronic inflammation.Studies indicate that up to 25% of the population have the genetic capability of experiencing chronic inflammation to mold exposure, but only 2% actually experience such symptoms. A 1993–94 case study based on cases of pulmonary hemorrhage in infants in Cleveland, Ohio originally concluded there was causal relationship between the exposure and the disease. The investigators revisited the cases and established that there was no link to the exposure to S. chartrum and the infants in their homes
If you or your family has been victimized in your home or workplace by toxic mold, contact us today for help.