Certain types of mold can produce toxins, called mycotoxins, that the mold uses to inhibit or prevent the growth of other organisms. It is believed that very specific environmental conditions are needed for mycotoxins to be produced. Currently, the specific conditions that cause mycotoxin production are not fully understood. The presence of toxic mold is serious, as mycotoxin exposure can be dangerous to your health. You can be exposed to these molds / spores and their toxins generally by inhalation or consuming contaminated food.
Mycotoxins are natural contaminants of food and their complete elimination is impossible. For example, the longer some grains are stored, the more likely they will become contaminated. If mycotoxins are contributing to health problems, avoiding certain foods will help by reducing your total mycotoxic exposure. One of the goals of agro-food companies has been to prevent and control mycotoxin contamination in foods and feeds for both human and animal safety.
There is much yet to be learned about the health effects of chronic inhalation exposure to indoor molds. Only a handful of decades have passed since improvements in building construction began making indoor spaces more airtight. Prior to this, excess production of mold spores and/or mycotoxins was likely diluted by regular exchange between indoor and outdoor air. Unlike other toxigenic substances, inhaled mycotoxins in residential settings have only been studied for the past 30 to 40 years and without specific markers of either exposure or disease. The inability to definitely link the presence of the agent in the environment to human exposure data and subsequently to molecular alterations and disease leave some unconvinced of the deleterious effects of mold/mycotoxin exposure.
Linking mycotoxin exposure to disease in humans has been tricky. For example, it became widely publicized that Stachybotrys chartum exposure caused serious breathing and bleeding problems for those living in homes where it had been growing. After further investigation, the CDC published a statement effectively retracting the conclusions of the original investigation, leaving the public confused about whether it was a threat or not. The amount of exposure required to produce Stachybotrys related disease has been estimated to be at least 1,000 times higher than amounts reported in most environmental surveys
Stachybotrys thrives on water damaged cellulose rich materials such as sheet rock, paper, ceiling tiles, cellulose containing insulation backing and wallpaper. The presence of this fungus in buildings is significant because of the mold’s ability to produce extremely toxic compounds like Satratoxin H. Exposure can occur through inhalation, ingestion or even skin contact. Symptoms include dermatitis, cough, rhinitis, nose bleeds, a burning sensation in the mouth and nasal passage, cold and flu symptoms, headache, general malaise, and fever. Stachybotrys typically appears as a sooty black fungus occasionally accompanied by a thick mass of white mycelia.
It is indeed clear that mycotoxins are real and that they can produce dramatic symptoms. However, clear linkage of a toxin to a disease is difficult. Given the broad range of fungi that produce mycotoxins, it seems reasonable to treat all fungi with substantial respect. Thus, the goal in interior environments should be to maintain them in a clean, dry, and mould-free state. Identifying the specific fungus that is infesting a wall is less important than getting rid of it and preventing its return.
Always locate the source of any strange smell in your house, especially the dank musty smell (volatiles produced by the molds) that is commonly associated with mold and mildew. The early detection of water leaks and the presence of mold in your home is an important safeguard to protecting your property and health. Avoidance of contaminated foods may be necessary in sensitive individuals.