Mold and Mycotoxins

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"Fungus is everywhere." If I had a dime for every time I've heard this statement I'd have enough money to pay for an air test for any of those who have said it.

My favorite use of this phrase came from a spokesperson for the FAA in regard to concerns about mold in the air traffic control tower in Atlanta. Another control tower with mold issues.

"Not to minimize the employees' concerns, but mold is everywhere, especially down here in the south."

It's true. Fungus is all around us. It's a wonderful addition to our creation. It naturally recycles plant and animal life. It's a gift.

Until it's found indoors. In high concentrations. Or in foods. In high concentrations. It helps to learn the basics of fungus in order to understand the dangers. Fungi are not plants. They are not animals. They are their own kingdom. A rather daunting realization. There are more than 1.5 million fungal species. In other words, we have a lot to learn about this kingdom. The fungus kingdom includes yeasts, molds, smuts, and mushrooms.

It's too much to tackle a kingdom in a blog entry, but there are two key characteristics of fungi worth mentioning. 1. Fungi lack chlorophyll. 2. Fungi cannot make their own food.
(This makes diet critical to recovery after an exposure and worthy of a later discussion.)

But here is the key piece of information. Fungi secrete and make a poisonous substance called a mycotoxin. Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals. Now, if we are in a building with little to no ventilation with mold growing behind the walls, mycotoxins are emitted. The fact that mold is everywhere in the world, especially the south, is no longer comforting.

According to the World Safety Organization, "The human body once exposed to a mycotoxin runs a triple risk to its toxic effects. The triple risk factors are direct toxic effect of the mycotoxin, acquisition of mutated RNAi from the mycotoxin's parent fungus, and creation of an internal biofilm, which will harbor a toxic soup of disease."

Here are some of the mycotoxins known to cause harm to mankind. Again, this is from the World Safety Organization's 17th International Environmental Safety & Health Conference & Exposition. (November 3 - 5, 2003)

DISEASES ASSOCIATED WITH VARIOUS MYCOTOXINS

Aflatoxin

Aflatoxin is one of the most potent carcinogens known to man and has been linked to a wide variety of human health problems. Aspergillus species fungi produce aflatoxin.

Ochratoxin

Ochratoxin is primarily produced by species of Penicillim and Aspergillus. Ochratoxin is damaging to the kidneys and liver and is also a suspected carcinogen. There is also evidence that it impairs the immune system.

T-2 Toxin

T-2 Toxin is trichothecene produced by species of Fusarium and is one of the more deadly toxins. If ingested in sufficient quantity, T-2 toxin can severely damage the entire digestive tract and cause rapid death due to internal hemorrhage. T-2 has been implicated in the human diseases alimentary toxic aleukia and pulmonary hemosiderosis. Damage caused by T-2 toxin is often permanent.

This is only a partial list. Other mycotoxins include: fumonisin, vomitoxin, zearalenone, gliotoxin. The mold stachybotrys emits tricothescenes.

I like what my friend Kristina said the other day when I told her we tested our air in our current home because of some slightly elevated mold counts. "Mold is always guilty until proven innocent." When we understand the biological warfare that accompanies the fungal kingdom, guilt is far better to presume than innocence.