• Justin H. Joe

Environmental Testing for Mold and Mycotoxins

Updated: Apr 23

Justin H. Joe, Ph.D, CIH, CSP, CPE


Recently, we received a call asking us to perform a mold inspection in our client’s house because he had been experiencing low amounts of energy and fatigue. Due to his symptoms, he went to his Dr. who ordered a mycotoxin test. Subsequently, he received medical results that displayed mycotoxins present within the analyzed blood sample. He wanted to know where the mold was located and which type of mold was growing in his house.

Mold isn’t just a substance that exists on your walls or hidden in damp places. In fact, where spores of mold are growing in a living area, individuals can become exposed to the potential of growth within their own bodies. It is good practice to get a mycotoxin test to help you determine the mold toxicity levels in your body.

What Is Mycotoxin?

Mold can emit many different substances that can alter the indoor environment as well as the health of individuals. These substances include things that are odorous, mold spores and mycotoxins, which are produced by mold. (Wooley, 2020)


Mycotoxins are formed by microfungi that can have impacts on human health while causing neurotoxicity. When these mycotoxins are created and dispersed through various different types of mold, the molecular structure of these toxins will vary, leading to differing impacts and dangers on human health. (Wooley, 2020) Mycotoxins are toxic metabolic by-products of common molds that you would usually expect to see on food or in buildings (KUNG'U, n.d.). Typically, they are produced from extremely common types of mold.


How Do Mycotoxins Enter The Human Body?

Mycotoxins have been shown to cause harm to human beings and animals, through inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion. These mycotoxins (Ochratoxin, Aflatoxin, Mycophenolic acid) are found in low amounts in food. However, other mycotoxins such as the Trichothecenes are toxic in much smaller quantities, but only in water-damaged buildings, and they are much more toxic. Trichothecenes are produced by Stachybotrys, otherwise known as black mold(1).


According to “Molds and Mycotoxins in Indoor Environments (Bloom, Nyman, Must, Pehrson, & Larsson, 2009)”, Erica Bloom and her team acknowledged that mycotoxins are toxic and frequently produced by molds in water-damaged indoor environments. They concluded that molds that had been affected by water damage generally produced mycotoxins.


Some toxins are much more volatile than others, being released into the air so that as humans we breathe them in, get on our skin or come in contact with these toxins through other items in the area. (You Are The Healer, n.d.) Through soil, vegetation, hay, and grains, the presence of mold may go unnoticed. These nutrients are then used in many different types of foods, therefore, contaminating the products.


Your immune system will play a huge part in how susceptible you are to the toxigenic molds that produce mycotoxins. If you have a weak immune system or suffer from an autoimmune disease, then the mycotoxins produced from toxigenic molds could affect your health. That’s why we urge anyone with symptoms of tiredness, fatigue, or having the presence of mold within the house to get a mycotoxin test.

The 4 Common Types Of Molds That Produce Mycotoxins


1) Stachybotrys Chartarum

Known to many as black mold, Stachybotrys Chartarum is a form of micro fungus. It is commonly found in cellulose-rich building materials from damp or water-damaged buildings. ( Samson, Houbraken, Thrane, Frisvad, & Andersen, 2010) Health problems have been associated with this type of black mold dating back to the 1930s. It has also been linked to what is known as “sick building syndrome”, with symptoms consisting of headaches, dry skin, and eyes, as well as tiredness. (NHS, 2020)


2) Aspergillus Flavus

Aspergillus Flavus is a toxigenic mold that can produce health-affecting mycotoxins like aflatoxins. Usually found in stored food products, they are also predominantly found in indoor environments that have been subject to dampness. This type of mycotoxin is linked to organ damage, specifical problems with the liver. (Amy Myers, 2020)


3) Aspergillus Fumigatus

Hailed as being one of the most common airborne molds, it is likely that you consume much of its spores through breathing. Located in indoor as well as outdoor environments, Aspergillus Fumigatus is a relatively weak pathogen. However, due to the significance of auto-immune diseases, it can have a significant impact if left unnoticed. It affects cells within your immune system, making it weaker and thus, individuals would be more prone to infection.


4) Aspergillus Versicolor

Typically found in air conditioning, Aspergillus Versicolor is one of the most common molds you will come across. (Amy Myers, 2020) Known to be linked with a pulmonary disease it is particularly dangerous once again to those who are immunocompromised. Like with Aspergillus Flavus it produces mycotoxins that are linked to organ damage.



Can Mycotoxins Cause Health Problems?

When it comes to illness caused by mold, it is the immune system that becomes inflamed and causes problems. This inflammation remains consistent due to the number of mycotoxins in the body’s system, leading to tissue damage. However, there are a lot more aspects of mycotoxins and their effects on the human body. Anything that affects the immune system is bound to cause some harm. Your immune system is what protects you from illness and disease; if it is unable to perform at its peak, then you can become vulnerable to health problems. All cells have surface receptors. When your body becomes infected with mycotoxins, they bind to these surface receptors which causes inflammation pathways to be created. (Genesis Performance Chiro, 2020) This can lead to: headaches, muscle ache, high body temperature, fatigue, breathing difficulty, blood clotting conditions, and more! (Genesis Performance Chiro, 2020)


Mycotoxin Testing: Should You Consider Getting A Mycotoxin Test?

Before we consider what mycotoxin testing is, it is important to understand the difference between mycotoxin testing and mold testing. Mold testing focuses on the presence of mold in a building or someone’s home: we call this environmental testing. With mycotoxin testing the focus is on the presence of mycotoxins in the body and how it affects your health. Testing for mycotoxins in humans is simple. It can be performed in blood serum, nasal fluid, and urine. Mycotoxin test may show that there is a presence of mold inside of your body, but how dangerous it is and its impact on your health can be difficult to determine.


Takeaway

Are you experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, tiredness, and being low in energy? These can be due to mycotoxins which, in an indoor environment, can have a truly significant impact on your health. Mycotoxin testing certainly is a practical action to consider when experiencing the health effects of mold spores within your own body.


BNF Consulting, Inc. is a licensed mold inspection company that abides by New York State & US EPA regulations for mold inspection and testing. Does your home or business have a mold problem? Our company can provide a reliable mold inspection service to determine potential risks.


Call us today at 914-297-8335 for a free phone consultation.

about Author

Justin H. Joe, PhD, CIH, CSP, CPE, is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and a principal consultant of BNF Consulting, Inc. Dr. Joe graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with Ph.D. and MS degrees in nuclear engineering. Dr. Joe has provided industrial hygiene consulting as a core function with his diverse background of experience and education.

Reference

A. Bertero, A. Moretti, L. J. Spicer, F. Caloni, Fusarium Molds and Mycotoxins: Potential Species-Specific Effects. Toxins (Basel) 10, (2018).


Samson, R., Houbraken, J., Thrane, U., Frisvad, J., & Andersen, B. (2010). Food and Indoor Fungi. Utrecht, The Netherlands: CBS-KNAW Fungal Biodiversity Centre.


Amy Myers, M. (2020, August 9). Mycotoxin Poisoning: Symptoms and Solutions for Toxic Mold. Retrieved from Amy Myers MD: https://www.amymyersmd.com/article/toxic-mold/#What_Are_Mycotoxins


Bloom, E., Nyman, E., Must, A., Pehrson, C., & Larsson, L. (2009). Molds and mycotoxins in indoor environments--a survey in water-damaged buildings. PMID.


Dr. Michael Ruscio, D. D. (2021, March 4). Mold and Mycotoxin Testing: When Is It Worth It? Retrieved from Dr Ruscio: https://drruscio.com/mycotoxin-testing/


Genesis Performance Chiro. (2020, May 12). How Mold and Mycotoxins Affect Your Body's Function. Retrieved from Genesis Performance Chiro:

https://www.genesisperformancechiro.com/blog/2020/5/11/how-do-mold-and-mycotoxins-affect-your-bodys-function


KUNG'U, J. (n.d.). What Are Mycotoxins: And What Are Their Effects to Human and Animal Health? Retrieved from Mold Bacteria Consulting: http://www.moldbacteriaconsulting.com/fungi/what-are-mycotoxins-and-what-are-their.html


NHS. (2020, September 22). Sick Building Syndrome. Retrieved from NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sick-building-syndrome/


The World Health Organization. (2018, May 9). Mycotoxins. Retrieved from World Haelth Organization: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mycotoxins


Science Direct. (2018). Mycotoxin. Retrieved from Science Direct: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/mycotoxin


Wooley, A. (2020, March 9). What are Mycotoxins & Do Air Purifiers Remove Them from the Air? Retrieved from Enviroklenz: https://enviroklenz.com/what-are-mycotoxins-in-air


You Are The Healer. (n.d.). Mold and Mycotoxins. Retrieved from You Are The Healer: https://youarethehealer.org/mold-and-toxins/mold-and-mycotoxins/#:~:text=Some%20of%20the%20toxins%20molds%20produce%20are%20volatile

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