Interview with Dr. Thrasher Part III

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This is the final installment of my interview with toxicologist Dr. Jack Thrasher.

4. What is the number one myth regarding mold?

The number one myth regarding mold is that it cannot cause human disease as experienced by a multitude of individuals worldwide. Also, I highly recommend that we quit looking at just molds and mycotoxins and turn our attention towards the complexity of biocontaminants in the indoor environment. The molds and bacteria and their by-products have interactions that are being ignored by the EPA, CDC, AOEC, OSHA and other alphabetic organizations who attempt to control our lives and our health.

5. In your opinion, why is the medical community so unaware of the hazards of mold?

The medical community (i.e. the practicing physician) is under educated. Environmental health issues are not adequately taught in the medical schools. In addition, as result of the cutback of NIH funding for basic and medical research at universities and medical schools , industry, and particularly, the pharmaceutical industry, have become the primary sources for funding research at these institutions. Now, if an investigator has a research grant funded by industry, imagine what would happen if he/she published a paper contrary to the goals of that particular funding source. The academic position of a researcher is secured with respect to the research monies brought into the institute where he/she works. Without research monies, no job. Furthermore, funding sources also have to pay a large overhead into the university, covering the overhead as well as paying salaries of staff of the university.

6. What do you recommend to an individual looking to test their air, either at home or in an office building?

Most industrial hygienists in this country are not doing the correct testing. Indoor air samples vs. outdoor air samples are only good for the time that the sampling was done, i.e. on that day and time. Such sampling does not reflect the history of the indoor environment, which can fluctuate hour by hour and day by day. Further, air sampling will only identify the mold genera released at the time of sampling. Finally, air sampling cannot identify the key mold species, particularly Aspergillus and Penicillium species.

What is the proper sampling? It consists of different types of sampling. This includes but is not necessarily limited to bulk, carpet dust, wall cavities, and indoor vs outdoor air samples. The bulk and carpet dust samples should be cultured for mold and bacteria. In addition, PCR mold DNA testing should be done to identify the dangerous species of molds. The bacteria should be identified to at least the genus level of gram negative and positive organisms. Finally, the bulk and carpet samples should be tested for the presence of mycotoxins.

7. If a person needs to choose, would you suggest an ERMI test or an air test?

I highly recommend the ERMI test. This test should be performed on carpet dust and bulk samples, not air tests. The ERMI uses PCR DNA mold procedure and allows the identification of mold species. The presence of toxic species then dictates the ERMI score. This test can be performed for as little as $350.00. Air sampling will only allow identification of Aspergillus and Penicllium as Apergillus/Penicillium-like mold. The reason for this is that the spore morphology of these molds are too similar to separate under the microscope. If cultures are done on air samples, then the mold species must be identified by PCR-DNA tests. I trust this answers your question.

Also, I must emphsize that cultures for potentially dangerous bacteria should be done on the bulk samples. Care must be taken by the microbiology laboratory to identify actinobacter as well as other bacteria.

8.What is the difference between a toxin and poison (if any)?

A toxin is a poison and a poison is a toxin. The term poison arose many years ago in warnings on labels on over-the-counter medications that could harm an individual if ingested. A good example of this type of poison was an antiseptic called "Mercurochrome." Mercurochrome was a liquid form of mercury that one could put on a cut to prevent infection.

9. What is the connection between mold exposure and the mitochondria?

Again, please ask what is the connection between mold and bacterial exposure and mitochondria. I am trying direct your thoughts towards microbial contamination of the indoor environment.

Both mold and bacterial toxins can cause damage to mitochondria. Damaged mitochondria do not produce a sufficient amount of Adenosine Triphosphate (see below answer) that is needed for biochemical reactions in the body. Also, damage to the mitochondria can lead to cell death via apoptosis. In addition, some toxins can adduct to the DNA of mitochondria, causing mutations that adversely affect the function of mitochondria.

10. Is it true that the fatigue that is often incurred is due to the poisoning of the mitochondria?
Yes, damage to mitochondria that interferes with or causes the reduction in the production of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) will cause fatigue. ATP is used for almost all energy purposes in the body, from muscle contraction to nerve function. Too little ATP will lead to muscle fatigue as well as general fatigue.
11. If we leave a contaminated environment, why is it important to consider leaving some or all of our possessions?

Fabrics are very porous and have sites where toxins can bind. The microorganisms, particularly mold, grow just as readily on fabrics, particularly if there is a source of carbon. The mycotoxins and other toxins are adductors. They can bind to fabrics, forming adducts, and are almost impossible to remove. Also, their allergens that cause allergies also are present in the fabrics. Thus, individuals who have developed allergies, reactive airway disease and chemical sensitivities of other types will react to biological material attached to fabrics. Also, you will drag mold spores into your new environment, which may allow a cross-contamination from this point of view.

12. Why is chlorine bleach an ineffective method for cleaning mold?

Bleach is an oxidizing chlorine containing liquid. It can kill mold and bacteria. However, it also contains chlorinate hydrocarbons, which makes them toxic to the body. In addition the residual dead bodies of the bacteria and mold are not removed. The fragments of the dead bodies are just as toxic and dangerous to humans and animals as the live organisms.