Sick Building: Fungi Release Toxin Directly Into The Air
Sick Building: Fungi Release Toxin Directly Into Air, Study Finds
by MAGGIE FOX
Toxins from mold can aerosolize directly into the air, which may help explain one cause of sick building syndrome, French researchers said Friday.
Mold growing in buildings can make people sick, especially people who are allergic to various fungi. It’s also known that various molds and fungi produce mycotoxins — chemicals that can sicken and even kill people and animals.
What’s not been entirely clear is how mold growing in and on walls or elsewhere in buildings might make people sick.
Jean-Denis Bailly of the University of Toulouse in France and colleagues tested three common types of fungi that can grow inside buildings and found that their mycotoxins could and did disperse into the air until normal conditions.
“These toxins can subsequently be aerosolized, at least partly, from moldy material,” they wrote in their report in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, published by the American Society for Microbiology.
“This transfer to air requires air velocities that can be encountered in ‘real life conditions’ in buildings.
The three species they tested were Penicillium brevicompactum, Aspergillus versicolor and Stachybotrys chartarum, all of which grew on wallpaper in their lab.
“It is estimated that, in Northern Europe and North America, 20 percent to 40 percent of buildings display macroscopically visible (visible to the eye) fungal growth,” they wrote.
“For instance, Aspergillus versicolor, a potent producer of sterigmatocystin (STG), is one of the most frequent fungal contaminant of indoor environments that can be found together on building materials, in dust or in the air samples.”
Mold growth and the circulation of particles that carry their toxins.
Researchers Find Mold Toxins Can Easily Become Airborne Indoors
This could be making people sick.
MIKE MCRAE As if a sensitivity to their spores wasn't enough of a problem for some people, new research has found the toxins produced by mold sprouting in the damp corners of your house can also become airborne.
The discovery could help explain what is referred to as "sick building syndrome", a broad collection of symptoms that appear to increase in severity the longer a person occupies a room or building.
A team of French researchers has found evidence that particles shed by several species of fungi (that we'd commonly think of as mold) can contain chemicals called mycotoxins, and that the toxins themselves can also become airborne.
For people with asthma and other allergies, the mold particles themselves can be a nightmare, inflaming the lungs and sinuses and causing anything from sneezing and itchy eyes to restricted airways and asthma attacks.
Usually, mycotoxins are substances we'd associate with food contamination as they leach out of fungi growing on fruit or grains. Nobody is sure why fungi produce them, but consumed in high enough concentrations they can be deadly.
While their effects on the body after being ingested have been studied extensively, less is known about the effect of breathing in mycotoxins, or whether it's even something to consider as a potential health concern for most of us.
Of the little data that does exist, most research has focused on the kinds of fungi found in agriculture. These numbers have contributed to what's called a concentration of no toxicologic concern (CoNTC), which is 30 nanograms per cubic metre for agricultural mycotoxins.
Based on this, there's little evidence that airborne mycotoxins can reach high enough concentrations to cause health problems for most of us.
But indoor environments could be different, and mycotoxins just might be playing a role in making those of us who spend a lot of times indoors sick.
The study involved controlling the air movements around a piece of wallpaper that had been contaminated with the different moulds.
The researchers then analysed the air that came off the wallpaper.
Each species of fungus shed particles at different air speeds, most probably due to their unique structures and spore arrangements.
"Most of the airborne toxins are likely to be located on fungal spores, but we also demonstrated that part of the toxic load was found on very small particles – dust or tiny fragments of wallpaper, that could be easily inhaled," says Bailly.
The fact that there are levels of mycotoxin that can be inhaled on particles smaller than spores, and that these particles can become airborne at the low wind speeds you'd find in most indoor environments, are factors that could be taken into consideration when evaluating limits of toxicity.
"The presence of mycotoxins in indoors should be taken into consideration as an important parameter of air quality," says Bailly.
The research doesn't come to any conclusions on what kinds of concentrations are commonly found in our homes and offices, or how these might compare with agricultural limits.
Molds are a common name for fungi. Molds are microscopic organisms that produce enzymes to digest organic matter and mold spores to reproduce. These organisms are part of the fungi kingdom, a realm shared with mushrooms, yeast, and mildews. In nature, molds play a key role in the decomposition of leaves, wood, and other plant debris. Molds need moisture to grow.
Should I use bleach to clean mold?
OSHA does not recommend using bleach in mold remediation. Ammonia dissolves some molds and neutralizes the mycotoxins. It is important to follow safety guidelines when using cleaners to remove molds. Consult the EPA website for proper personal safety equipment when removing mold. If mold growth is over 10 square feet, the recommendation is to contact a professional who is experienced in cleaning up mold; SERVPRO of Olympia (360)754-9689
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
There is no practical way to eliminate all molds and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.
Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
According to an EPA study, an estimated 50% of our nation’s schools have problems linked to poor indoor air quality.
If you or someone you know has a concern about the possibility of mold being present inside the home, call a certified mold professional to have the home inspected. SERVPRO of Olympia will be glad to help you with you suspected microbial growth concerns.
Microscopic mold spores naturally occur almost everywhere, both outdoors and indoors. This makes it impossible to remove all mold from a home or business. Therefore, mold remediation reduces the mold spore count back to its natural or baseline level. Some restoration businesses advertise “mold removal” and even guarantee to remove all mold, which is a fallacy. Consider the following mold facts:
Mold is present almost everywhere, indoors and outdoors.
Mold spores are microscopic and float along in the air and may enter your home through windows, doors, or AC/heating systems or even hitch a ride indoors on your clothing or a pet.
Mold spores thrive on moisture. Mold spores can quickly grow into colonies when exposed to water. These colonies may produce allergens and irritants.
Before mold remediation can begin, any sources of water or moisture must be addressed. Otherwise, the mold may return.
Mold often produces a strong, musty odor and can lead you to possible mold problem areas.
Even higher-than-normal indoor humidity can support mold growth. Keep indoor humidity below 45 percent.
If your home or business has a mold problem, we can inspect and assess your property and use our specialized training, equipment, and expertise to remediate your mold infestation.
If You See Signs of Mold, CALL SERVPRO of Olympia Today – (360) 754-9689