What is a toxic mold and why is it different than other molds?
Mold is a fungus. Fungi are “ubiquitous” or they are everywhere. They use nonliving organic material (like building materials) as a source for nutrients and for growth and reproduction just we as humans use food and water for our existence. During the digestion process fungi secrete enzymes in the nutrient source to break down the complex compounds of the material into simpler compounds so they can digest them easier. This is similar to what happens to food as we digest it and the acid in our stomachs start to break it down.
The digested nutrients are classified into two categories; Primary and Secondary Metabolites. Primary metabolites assist in producing energy to grow and reproduce. The second metabolite is call MYCOTOXIN
Not all molds produce mycotoxins. In fact only several do.
Mycotoxins are the mold’s defense mechanism. Because other molds are competing for the food source the bad molds compete for the food source using the mycotoxins. How the mycotoxins attack other molds goes in a scientific depth not needed here however they do produce toxic, immunosuppressive and carcinogenic substances. These substances not only attack other molds they can attack humans.
Mycotoxins can cause a variety of short term as well as long-term health effects, ranging from immediate toxic response to potential long term carcinogenic effects. Symptoms due to exposure to mycotoxins include but are not limited to dermatitis, cold and flu symptoms, sore throats, headaches, fatigue, diarrhea and impaired or altered immune functions.
Mycotoxins are very small and cannot be detected visually and with a standard mold test. There are several Mycotoxins that can go airborne. These are Ochratoxins, Aflatoxins and Trichothecenes.
The good news they are Doctors who can test to see if these three mycotoxins are in your body by taking a blood and urine sample. If they are can they be tested in your home where most likely they were generated from? Yes they can.
When we test for mold spores they may or may not show up in an air sample. The right conditions are needed for the mold to release it spores. However if the mold is one of the toxic molds the Mycotoxins will show up no matter where the mold is growing or whether it is visible or not.
Aflatoxin mycotoxins are a type of mycotoxin produced by toxic molds, such as Aspergillus. These mycotoxins are very toxic and carcinogenic.
The most important aflatoxin mycotoxins are B1, B2, G1, G2 and M1. B1 is the most abundant aflatoxin mycotoxin. It is also the most toxic and carcinogenic. M1 is a mycotoxin that comes from animals after the animals have eaten feed contaminated with aflatoxin mycotoxins. For example, M1 can be in cow’s milk after cows have eaten aflatoxin mycotoxins.
Aflatoxin mycotoxins mainly affect agriculture. Toxic molds, such as Aspergillus, leave aflatoxin mycotoxins on crops they grow on. These aflatoxin mycotoxins can then end up in food. However, there are processes to remove aflatoxin mycotoxins from crops after harvest. There are also limits set for the maximum amount of aflatoxin mycotoxins in food (20 parts per billion).
Trichothecene mycotoxins are a type of mycotoxin produced by toxic molds, such as Fusarium molds and Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as "black mold" or "black toxic mold").
Trichothecene is one of the most toxic types of mycotoxins. Trichothecene mycotoxins also suppress the immune system. See Black Mold Symptoms for information about the symptoms caused by trichothecene and Stachybotrys.
Some of the trichothecene mycotoxins are deoxynivalenol, nivalenol, vomitoxin, HT-2 and T-2 mycotoxin. T-2 mycotoxins have been used in biological warfare.
Trichothecene mycotoxins have caused problems in houses. This is because toxic molds which produce trichothene mycotoxins (such as Stachybotrys) often grow in homes. Trichothecene mycotoxins are also very resilient and stable, and they are hard to remove from homes.
There are five categories of toxic mold. They are Cladosporium, Penicilium, Fusarium, Aspergillus, and Stachybotrys. Some of the species included in these categories may only cause hay fever-like allergic reactions, while others can cause potentially deadly illnesses. All five of these mold families can be found lurking indoors, in damp spaces. Each has its own particular characteristics that can greatly affect whatever organism or material it contacts. Indoor mold is not always obvious. Mold can manifest on hidden surfaces, such as wallpaper, paneling, the top of ceiling tiles, and underneath carpet.
The toxin produced by Stachybotrys chartarum is the most deadly. It has been tied to diseases as minor as hay fever, to those as serious as liver damage, pulmonary edema, and in the most severe cases, brain or nerve damage and even death. It has also been linked to severe illness in infants. Those with compromised immune systems, small children, and the elderly are highly susceptible to illness when they come in contact with this species of mold. Some symptoms associated with exposure to Stachybotrys include:
- respiratory issues
- nasal and sinus congestion
- eye irritation
- sore throat
- hacking cough
- chronic fatigue
- central nervous system issues
- aches and pains
Cladosporium, Fusarium, and Penicillium
These mold families have been connected to illnesses such as nail fungus, asthma, and also infections of the lungs, liver, and kidneys. Additionally, Fusarium may cause gastrointestinal illnesses, and even illness which affect the female reproductive system. Chronic cases of Cladosporium may produce pulmonary edema and emphysema.
The least serious of the toxic mold groups, the Aspergillus mold family consists of over 160 species. Only 16 of those cause illness in humans, none of which are fatal if treated.
Toxic molds produce chemicals during their natural growth that are classified as toxins or poisons. The types that have been found to have profound effects on human health, are given the label of "toxic mold."
Toxic molds are all very dangerous if allowed to grow inside the home. Proper precautions should be taken to prevent and eliminate their growth. These measures should include eliminating every material that nourishes the molds, such as old remodeling materials left in a basement. Also, never try to determine the type of mold in your home. Contact a professional to test any mold colony you may find, and consult with your family physician.