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Mold & Fungus

 

 

 

 

Believe it or not, families around the country are fleeing their homes — or having them destroyed — because of an insidious intruder they say is making them sick. The invader? Black mold. Its technical name is Stachybotrys chartarumstachy for short — and it's got a lot of people panicked. In Oregon , the O'Hara family asked their local fire department to burn their $450,000 home to the ground after black mold was found inside. "It's basically just a house that poisoned my family," Mark O'Hara said. In Hawaii , a $95 million Hilton Hotel tower has been closed since July because black mold was found in some of the rooms. In a July 2001 story Time magazine said toxic mold is spreading "like some sort of biblical plague." The New York Daily News called it "killer mold." Whatever you call it, across the country, black mold is causing people to abandon buildings, close schools and leave beautiful homes sitting vacant.

 

What is Mold?

Molds are fungi that reproduce by releasing tiny spores into the air. Spores lucky enough to land on moist objects may begin to grow. There are thousands of different types of mold and we encounter many of them every day, inside and out.

 

What is Toxic Mold?

Toxic mold is a type of mold that produces hazardous byproducts, called mycotoxins. While individuals with asthma and other respiratory problems may have reactions to many types of mold, it's thought that mycotoxins are more likely to trigger health problems in even healthy individuals. These toxins are believed to be linked to memory loss and to severe lung problems in infants and the elderly. Floating particles of mold are invisible to the naked eye, so it's impossible to see where they might have landed unless they begin to grow. Loose mold particles that accumulate on items within a house are easily inhaled and can be a constant irritation to the people and pets who live there.

 

Virtually everyone has one type or another of mold somewhere in their home. Although not all types are toxic, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish types without lab testing. Thus it is imperative to treat and remove all molds as if they're potentially harmful. Regardless of the type of mold found, a home containing mold is not essentially a healthy home. Mold spores are very easily transported to different areas by attaching themselves to various hosts. These hosts would include people, animals, shoes and they even enter through open windows and doors. The spores then thrive and grow where it is damp and moist. Very toxic molds can develop from water seepage, and while black mold is "less common than other mold species it is not rare."

 

Molds are nothing new--they were even cited in the Book of Leviticus. They are naturally occurring organisms that are part of the natural environment and feed on dead material and propagate in moist environments. Molds are parasitic micro-organisms that appear as black, white or multi-colored stain or fuzz. In addition to causing asthma, they can cause other allergies and serious health problems. There are tens of thousand of varieties of molds and are difficult and expensive to identify, even for experts. Thousands can be found on everything from clothes to food to skin. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided. Many molds reproduce by making spores, which, if they land on a moist food source, can germinate and begin producing a branching network of cells called hyphae. The spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Health officials recommend eliminating all molds from inside your home.

 

Most molds are simply harmless fungi, including most black molds, which are often mistakenly thought to be toxic. But one black mold called Stachybotrys chartarum and its toxic by-product known as mycotoxin have been the focus of most of the panic. Many molds need simple things to exist and colonize. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are moist. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or a type of moisture intrusion or humidity, otherwise known as "the wicking effect." In some cases, it can take as little as 24 hours for this process to begin. After the source of the moisture has stopped, it does not mean that the mold is no longer dangerous. The amount of moisture varies for different species. Some are xerophillic (colonize under very dry conditions) some are xerotolerant (colonize under a wide range of moisture levels) and some are hydrophilic (colonize at high moisture levels). It does not have to be a leak. Humidity or moisture content of the substrate can often be sufficient (relative humidity 50% start becoming problematic in many indoor cases.)

 

Fungi and their biological metabolites, the mycotoxins, are silent and relentless attackers of human health by causing the major "degenerative" and "cancerous" diseases which plague mankind. Fungi are masters at producing a wide array of biologically active substances which serve the producing fungus extremely well. These biological metabolites are anti-predatory and pro-territorial-protective and insure the fungus will have a perpetual existence in a quite hostile world. These metabolites are anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-protozoan, anti-insect, anti-animal and, of course, anti-human. These metabolites are referred to as the mycotoxins. The term is derived from the Greek words "mykes" meaning fungus, and "toxicum," meaning toxin or poison.

 

Mycotoxicoses are diseases caused by mycotoxins, i.e. secondary metabolites of molds. Although they occur more frequently in areas with a hot and humid climate, favorable for the growth of molds, they can also be found in temperate zones. Exposure to mycotoxins is mostly by ingestion, but also occurs by the dermal and inhalation routes. Mycotoxicoses often remain unrecognized by medical professionals, except when large numbers of people are involved.

 

"Sick Building Syndrome" is caused by moisture and mold growth. It migrates through foundations up from the soil. A dehumidifier is not the final answer as it only works on the air and not the walls. The Stachybotrus species of mold is dangerous; it will start growing in 80 percent humidity but, once established, can grow at 55 percent humidity. This mold can develop from the decay of building materials and is much harder to control. If more than ten square feet develop, it is advised that a professional clean it up. When you see a small speck of mold, that's only part of the problem--the remainder being inside the walls. What is required is a combination of ventilation, circulation, and heat.

 

Some of the causes of mold are brush and trees within 30 feet of the building; venting the clothes drier inside the home; furniture against outside walls; old fill, causing building movement leading to cracks causing water ingress; concrete will wick up water even to several feet above ground; ventilation not directed outside, such as the kitchen range hood, which should be vented outside; plants and aquariums; drying clothing indoors; standing water, such as keeping cold water in the kitchen sink; hot tubs; using several gallons of water to wash floors. Carpenter ants and termites will smell moisture from miles away and they only attack damaged wood. Ventilation alone won’t help a crawl space. In the summer the vents bring in warm, moist air.

 

Stachybotrys can worsen health problems in people who already have shaky health and can negatively affect normally healthy people. Most mold spores need condensation or damp materials to germinate and once they are established, many colonies generate their own moisture and can continue to survive even under dry conditions. They also need mild temperatures and a source of food, such as house dust or drywall paper. Some molds are cryophytes (these adapt to low temperatures), some are thermo tolerant (they adapt to a wide range of temperatures) and some are thermopiles (they adapt to high temperatures). Depending on the species, these microbes will grow just about anywhere. Mold requires a compatible temperature for each species. Environmental factors (temperature, nitrogen, oxygen, etc.) are necessary compounds for indoor molds to thrive. Mold also needs an organic source of food. People might be confused as mold can grow on glass, tile, stainless steel, cookware, etc., but it is generally feeding off of some organic source deposited on this material (oils, film, dirt, skin cells, etc.). The fiberglass insulation manufacturers like to say that mold does not grow on their product which is a fairly true statement, however, it grows on the organic debris that become trapped in their products. Mold also grows on things such as wood, fabric, leather, gypsum, fiberboard, drywall, stucco, and many insulation fibrous materials.

 

What Are Fungi?

Fungi are single cell living forms of life which inhabit the land, air and waters of the earth. They are everywhere. They are more highly developed than bacteria and viruses and there are many more species than are found in the microbes. It is estimated that there are over 500,000 different species. Fungi have been on earth several billion years and, quite remarkably, have had little genetic change over that period of time. They are survivalists. They can change their form from rapidly growing to no growth for thousands of years, such as seen in their living spores which have been found in Egyptian tombs. They make poisons called mycotoxins.

 

Single fungal cells can only be seen under the microscope but a colony of these cells makes a visible presence in the form of mushrooms, toad stools and molds on food and habitations. While plants, animals and humans are alive and well, the fungi around us are unable to overcome the natural defense mechanisms which higher forms of life possess. But once death overtakes the living, the fungi are the principle undertakers and managers: they reduce all that have ever lived into the molecules from which they were assembled. Biologists call this the carbon cycle while philosophers call it "from dust to dust." However, there is one exception to this simple balanced equation of life and death and that is that the fungi can attack the living while they are alive.

 

At its most simplistic perspective, one has many fungi entering the intestinal tract, the nose and lungs, and organs exposed to the world at large. We generally do not develop an infection from these intruders. However, a person might contract a fungal infection such as "athlete's foot" or a "ring worm" on the skin. At the opposite extreme is the patient with AIDS who faces death-threatening major fungal infections because that person's immune system has lost its effectiveness against fungi. In between the extremes are fungal infections associated with diseases such as diabetes, cancer and other conditions including cross infections amongst humans. Fortunately, the average person does not succumb to a serious fungal infection such as candida albicans and average life expectancy is into the 70's. All humans are colonized by candida albicans and normal healthy persons do not die from this organism. This organism plays a very small role in causing human diseases.

 

Toxicity

Molds can produce other secondary metabolites such as antibiotics and mycotoxins. Antibiotics are isolated from mold (and some bacterial) cultures and some of their bacteriotoxic or bacteriostatic properties are exploited medicinally to combat infections. Mycotoxins are also products of secondary metabolism of molds. They are not essential to maintaining the life of the mold cell in a primary way (at least in a friendly world), such as obtaining energy or synthesizing structural components, informational molecules or enzymes. They are products whose function seems to be to give molds a competitive advantage over other mold species and bacteria. Mycotoxins are nearly all cytotoxic, disrupting various cellular structures such as membranes, and interfering with vital cellular processes such as protein, RNA and DNA synthesis. They are also toxic to the cells of higher plants and animals, including humans.

 

Mycotoxins vary in specificity and potency for their target cells, cell structures or cell processes by species and strain of the mold that produces them. Higher organisms are not specifically targeted by mycotoxins, but seem to be caught in the crossfire of the biochemical warfare among mold species and molds and bacteria vying for the same ecological niche. Not all molds produce mycotoxins, but numerous species do (including some found indoors in contaminated buildings). Toxigenic molds vary in their mycotoxin production depending on the substrate on which they grow. The spores, with which the toxins are primarily associated, are cast off in blooms that vary with the mold's diurnal, seasonal, and life cycle stage. The presence of competitive organisms may play a role, as some molds grown in monoculture in the laboratory lose their toxic potency. Until relatively recently, mold poisons were regarded with concern primarily as contaminants in foods.

 

More recently, concern has arisen over exposure to multiple mycotoxins from a mixture of mold spores growing in wet indoor environments. Health effects from exposures to such mixtures can differ from those related to single mycotoxins in controlled laboratory exposures. Indoor exposures to toxigenic molds resemble field exposures of animals more closely than they do controlled experimental laboratory exposures. Animals in controlled laboratory exposures are healthy, of the same age, raised under optimum conditions, and have only the challenge of known doses of a single toxic agent via a single exposure route. In contrast, animals in field exposures are of mixed ages, and states of health, may be living in less than optimum environmental and nutritional conditions, and are exposed to a mixture of toxic agents by multiple exposure routes. Exposures to individual toxins may be much lower than those required to elicit an adverse reaction in a small controlled exposure group of ten animals per dose group. The effects from exposure may therefore not fit neatly into the description given for any single toxin, or the effects from a particular species, of mold.

 

Field exposures of animals to molds (in contrast to controlled laboratory exposures) show effects on the immune system as the lowest observed adverse effect. Such immune effects are manifested in animals as increased susceptibility to infectious diseases. It is important to note that almost all mycotoxins have an immunosuppressive effect, although the exact target within the immune system may differ. Many are also cytotoxic, so that they have route of entry effects that may be damaging to the gut, the skin or the lung. Such cytotoxicity may affect the physical defense mechanisms of the respiratory tract, decreasing the ability of the airways to clear particulate contaminants (including bacteria or viruses), or damage alveolar macrophages, thus preventing clearance of contaminants from the deeper lung. The combined result of these activities is to increase the susceptibility of the exposed person to infectious disease, and to reduce his defense against other contaminants.

 

They may also increase susceptibility to cancer. Because indoor samples are usually comprised of a mixture of molds and their spores, it has been suggested that a general test for cytotoxicity be applied to a total indoor sample to assess the potential for hazard as a rough assessment. The following is a summary of toxins and their targets. While this compilation of effects doesn't describe the effects of multiple exposure, which includes synergistic effects, it gives a better idea of possible results of mycotoxin exposure to multiple molds indoors.

 

What Are Mycotoxins?

One could demonstrate this most biologically potent fungal reality by eating a cupful of poison mushrooms, a species of fungus. They have a deadly effect upon humans and all other animals. The name of the game is food for that mushroom, because in nature, the animal which nibbles on them dies and is consumed by the mycelium (root-like) under the ground which grows up into the now dead creature. There is a remarkable degree of biological activity which these simple single-celled fungi demonstrate. All fungi are so empowered, some less to humans, some more so. While fungi are potentially our enemies, some of their mycotoxins, such as penicillin, are beneficial to humans with bacterial infections and other diseases.

 

Molds, a subset of the fungi, are ubiquitous on our planet. Fungi are found in every ecological niche, and are necessary for the recycling of organic building blocks that allow plants and animals to live. Included in the group "fungi" are yeasts, molds and mildews, as well as large mushrooms, puffballs and bracket fungi that grow on dead trees. Fungi need external organic food sources and water to be able to grow.

 

All physicians are familiar with fungal infections and the drugs used to treat them. With the exception of poison mushrooms, which are deadly to those foolish enough to eat them, few physicians are aware that fungi make toxins. As many as 1,000 compounds, classifiable as mycotoxins, were studied by the pharmacology industry as potential antibiotics in the 1930's and 1940's only to be discarded as being too toxic for higher life forms to be of value in treating bacterial diseases in humans. Little, if any of the discarded data was published. These toxicity studies actually documented the existence of a large number of fungal-derived toxins which caused serious target-organ injury in various animal models.

 

Obviously, in retrospect, what was being seen was the pathology produced by the mycotoxins. The mycotoxin cyclosporin used as a medication for transplantation causes cancer and atherosclerosis, complete with hyperlipidemia in all humans who have received it. Many others develop gout and other diseases. However, the study of such fungal metabolites gave us penicillin at the beginning, quite later on cyclosporin, the most potent immunosuppressant transplantation drug, lovastatin, and the other "statins" which have revolutionized the treatment of hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis. The latter group is quite interesting in that they were initially developed as anti-fungal agents which just happened to have an effect in lowering blood levels of low density lipoproteins (commonly referred to as "bad cholesterol").

 

The members of this group of drugs are joined by another anti-fungal antibiotic, griseofulvin, which is also a remarkably efficient anti-atherosclerosis drug. All of this goes a long way to confirm the fungal etiology of atherosclerosis. This appears to be a quite valid conclusion since all of the other effective anti-cholesterol and/or anti-atherosclerotic therapeutic modalities share nothing in common except that they possess anti-fungal and/or anti-mycotoxin activity.

 

Mycotoxins in the Food Chain

Most of us know that food itself cannot be considered poisonous. Very few of us know that the toxicogenic fungi and their mycotoxins, which are characteristically present in stored and fermented food, are using our food chain as a Trojan Horse. It is not known just how much fungal-colonization of our food chain has been actually documented. Our food could be the source of much toxic fungi and their multitude of mycotoxins. If food is loaded with fungi, then the mycotoxin concept is fully operative and the disease-producing potential is more than obvious. This Important question of how much fungal colonization of food exists is answered by a most recent mycological study of some quite common foods; corn kernels, peanuts, cashew nuts and copra (dried coconut). There is a remarkable degree of fungal colonization of the interior of corn kernels and peanuts. Humans who eat these foods are ingesting both the toxicogenic fungi and their mycotoxins. These fungi are capable of surviving in the intestinal stream where they may continue to produce their toxins. Similarly, animals fed fungal colonized/ mycotoxic feed are not only at risk for developing mycotoxicoses, their meat and their fat, constitute another vehicle for human exposure to excessive mycotoxin intake. Animal fat is increasingly being documented to be a major risk factor for a number of human cancers and atherosclerosis.

 

Mycotoxins In Human Blood and Breast Milk

It has already been documented that over half of German adults have ochratoxin in their blood, that leukemic children have aflatoxin in their blood, that patients with urinary tract cancers have ochratoxin in their blood, that patients with Crohn's Disease have aflatoxin in their blood, and finally, 18 to 90 % of nursing mothers have mycotoxins in their breast milk. Obviously, the problem of mycotoxins in human health is quite real and requires full elucidation, particularly since we all know that food is in some way connected to the major disease of humans.

 

Diet and Mycotoxins

The major means of preventing the development of these diseases rests most significantly upon the informed/intelligent selection of what the public eats and drinks. A person's dietary choices play the critical role in the causation or in the prevention of all of the mycotoxin-caused diseases, not only for himself, but also for his offspring. The selection of foods for children is going to determine the life expectancy and quality of health for these adults-to-be. The dietary choices required for controlling the degree of mycotoxicity are all based upon documented facts found in the scientific literature. The diet must reduce the intake of mycotoxin-containing foods, not feed the fungi living within us, and decrease the toxicity of the mycotoxins which do enter our body.

 

The fungal fermentation processes, such as making bread, beer, wine, cheese, smoking/chewing tobacco, aging/curing meats, etc., constitutes yet another part of the human food chain which places humans at potential risk. Bread has been recently epidemiologically incriminated as a cause of breast cancer in Japan and atherosclerosis in the United States. Alcoholic beverages correlate not only with cirrhosis of the liver, but a wide range of other diseases which includes brain damage, cancers, fetal injury, etc. Alcohol is a fungal-produced toxic metabolite and the conditions that it produces are as mycotoxicotic in nature as ergotism or aflatoxicosis.

 

Fungal toxins are constantly being absorbed from toxin-producing fungi living in the host, particularly in the gut. An increased fungal growth/toxin production is caused by diets high in sugar, fruit, oils, fats, and fermented foods such as beer, wine, bread and cheese. A decreased fungal growth/toxin production is due to the anti-fungal action of fish/ fish oils, garlic, onion, herbs, spices, cultured soy, yogurt and green vegetables. Toxicity caused by mycotoxins is significantly reduced by increasing the amount of fiber in the diet. This is done by increasing the amount of vegetables in the diet. While fruit is also a source of fiber, the high sugar (fructose) content of fruit stimulates fungal growth (fructose increases blood cholesterol and uric acid levels which are associated with increased risk of hypertension and atherosclerosis).

 

Health Effects

Molds can have an impact on human health, depending on the nature of the species involved, the metabolic products being produced by these species, the amount and duration of individual's exposure to mold parts or products, and the specific susceptibility of those exposed. Mold spores or fragments that become airborne can expose people indoors through inhalation or skin contact. Health effects generally fall into four categories. These four categories are allergy, infection, irritation (mucous membrane and sensory), and toxicity. Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing.

 

It should be noted that not all mold genera have been tested for toxins, nor have all species within a genus necessarily been tested. Conditions for toxin production vary with cell and diurnal and seasonal cycles and substrate on which the mold grows, and those conditions created for laboratory culture may differ from those the mold encounters in its environment. Toxicity can arise from exposure to mycotoxins via inhalation of mycotoxin-containing mold spores or through skin contact with the toxigenic molds. A number of toxigenic molds have been found during indoor air quality investigations in different parts of the world. Among the genera most frequently found in numbers exceeding levels that they reach outdoors are Aspergillus, Penicillium, Stachybotrys, and Cladosporium.

 

Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rash or dermatitis. Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. Mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold. Asthma has increased 300 percent in children in the past ten years. Research by the WHO, in Germany, finds prostate cancer, breast cancer, and other cancers increasing due to mold-related problems. Mold is the number one health problem with one in every three persons affected by mold and one in ten with a severe problem related to mold. These can range from the common cold, tonsillitis, otitis, sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma, and pneumonia, to cancer. Few toxicological experiments involving mycotoxins have been performed using inhalation, the most probable route for indoor exposures. Defenses of the respiratory system differ from those for ingestion (the route for most mycotoxin experiments).

 

Experimental evidence suggests the respiratory route produces more severe responses than the digestive route. Effects from low level or chronic low level exposures, or ingestion exposures to mixtures of mycotoxins, have generally not been studied, and are unknown. Effects from high level, acute sub-acute and sub-chronic ingestion exposures to single mycotoxins have been studied for many of the mycotoxins isolated. Other mycotoxins have only information on cytotoxicity or in-vitro effects. "The bottom line is that we still do not know how much exposure it takes to which molds to produce significant health effects," said Dorr Dearborn, professor and director of the MaryAnn Swetland Center for Environmental Health at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. It's not a simple thing like lead exposure, in which we can measure blood levels and know "this much" will cause "these sorts of problems." Instead, we're dealing with multiple molds that may or may not be producing multiple toxins and may or may not be producing multiple health effects.

 

"Scientists have known for a long time that molds can trigger allergies in sensitive people," said Dearborn. "We just don't have concrete data to tell people how to walk that line. There's a lot of published research information about the dangers to animals and humans in eating some toxic molds," he said. "But the current level of knowledge is inadequate regarding the usual inhalation of molds in living environments." Dearborn said modern building techniques have created "new ecologies" with new problems, in part because builders now use paper-covered gypsum board, called wallboard, rather than lath and plaster for wall surfaces. "The gypsum part of the wallboard can hold water for a long time," he said, "so you then have moisture held into the paper covering it. Mold is normally not a problem because it's slow growing and requires continuous moisture to support it. But if you have a chronic moisture situation on a substrate such as this paper, you can have mold. And molds capable of producing toxins, such as the Stachybotrys chartarum love to grow on wallboard." In fact, said Dearborn, he and colleagues use wallboard samples in their lab as a growth medium for Stachybotrys in experimental studies.

 

Another modern building technique contributing to mold problems, especially in the United States, is improper air handling associated with heating and air conditioning, said Dearborn. It's been increasing during the past 30 years, fueled by energy consciousness. In general, many buildings are sealed to prevent inefficient air leaks. But contractors don't then provide for the necessary exchanges of stale, moist indoor air with fresh air from outside. "If you were to build a new home in Ontario, for example, you'd have to build the ventilation system so it would turn over the air several times in 24 hours," said Dearborn.

 

Ventilation contractors also tend to use oversized air conditioning units, chilling indoor air too quickly without letting it become dehumidified, according to Romie Herring, industrial hygiene consultant supervisor with the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch of the state Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Public Health. "When dehumidification isn't properly considered in the design, it can really be a problem in buildings where you have widely varying heat loads, such as in dorms or classrooms," said Herring. "They have a lot of load when students are in there, but that changes when students leave the building. Sometimes people cycle the systems, too, turning them off at night thinking they'll save energy." "Our position, from the practical standpoint, is that if you have mold, you have a moisture issue," said Herring. "And that has to be addressed. Mold typically is eating dead materials. It's attacking the building. So without even getting into what causes what from the health standpoint, we don't need buildings to be attacked."

 

Fungal/Mycotoxin Cause of Cancer

A 1993 review of the food connection to cancer, noted that the concept of diet and nutrition having an important influence on health is an age-old one. Its link with cancer was mentioned in Chinese medical writings in the Twelfth century. Recent interest in this subject started in the 1930’s with animal studies which progressed to extensive investigations of dietary factors implicated in various human cancers both from an etiology and a protective perspective. The belief that diet is related to cancer is now generally accepted. However, the studies are confusing in that some show increased cancers associated with a particular food, while other similar studies show no such relationship. The only logical explanation to such conflicting reports is that the particular food itself is not the cause but is associated with a variably present co-factor.

 

Adverse Reactions to Odor

Odors produced by molds may also adversely affect some individuals. Ability to perceive odors and respond to them is highly variable among people. Some individuals can detect extremely low concentrations of volatile compounds, while others require high levels for perception. An analogy to music may give perspective to odor response. What is beautiful music to one individual is unbearable noise to another. Some people derive enjoyment from odors of all kinds. Others may respond with headache, nasal stuffiness, nausea or even vomiting to certain odors including various perfumes, cigarette smoke, diesel exhaust or moldy odors. It is not know whether such responses are learned, or are time-dependent sensitization of portions of the brain, perhaps mediated through the olfactory sense, or whether they serve a protective function. Asthmatics may respond to odors with symptoms.

 

Medications

Unlike the other dietary approaches to the prevention and treatment of human diseases, the mycotoxin concept does not exploit the adverse effects of drugs in an attempt to support a diet-only attitude. It should be noted that almost all medications are plant-derived or chemical derivatives thereof. Aspirin derives from the bark of the willow tree. Colchicine derives from a plant. Both aspirin and colchicine possess significant anti-fungal activity as do most plant-derived drugs. (They protect living plants from the fungi.) Similarly, all of the other anti-inflammatory drugs possess significant anti-fungal activity. These drugs are cyclo-oxygenase inhibitors and fungal survival is dependent upon the competency of their cyclo-oxygenase-related metabolic pathways. Interestingly, corticosteroids not only significantly reduce the toxicity of mycotoxins but are also anti-fungal against a number of fungi. Actually, all of the medications proven to be effective in the treatment of the mycotoxin-induced diseases possess anti-fungal and/or anti-mycotoxic activity. It is a point overlooked by pharmacologists.

 

Symptoms

Mold toxicity is often the end result with constant exposure to mold of a toxic substance. A common misconception among allergists who are untrained in this type of toxicity levels in humans, which is technically not their area of expertise unless they have trained specifically in environmental medicine with their background in immunology, is to do general allergen testing. Most tests usually come back unequivocal, a 2+ or less. This induces some physicians to order allergy shots, regardless. These shots are absolutely worthless to a person who has been heavily exposed to these mycotoxins as they are already in a state of toxicity. If anything, this could exacerbate the problem. Because many doctors are not trained in this field, they may try to “guess” at a diagnosis.

 

In laymen’s terms, molds produce mycotoxins. These substances, although unseen by the naked eye, are ingested and enter the body through the skin, mucous and airways. Once inside the body, mold has it requirements to colonize and live. In doing this, it compromises the immune system and damages everyday processes of the body. Mold and yeast are interchangeable only in their dimorphic state, which is often a big misconception, although both are fungi.

 

There has long been a theory between Autism Spectrum Disorder onset and Candida Albicans in the body.

 

The following are a list of the most common symptoms of fungal exposure (Bear in mind, most people never fit all of this criteria). Most people with mycotoxicosis meet at least ten (recent symptoms) of the following criteria:

Allergy

The most common response to mold exposure may be allergy. People who are atopic, that is, who are genetically capable of producing an allergic response, may develop symptoms of allergy when their respiratory system or skin is exposed to mold or mold products to which they have become sensitized. Sensitization can occur in atopic individuals with sufficient exposure. Allergic reactions can range from mild, transitory responses, to severe, chronic illnesses. The Institute of Medicine, in 1993, estimated that one in five Americans suffers from allergic rhinitis, the single most common chronic disease experienced by humans. Additionally, about 14% of the population suffers from allergy-related sinusitis, while 10 to 12% of Americans have allergically-related asthma. About 9% experience allergic dermatitis. A very much smaller number, less than one percent, suffer serious chronic allergic diseases such as allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Allergic fungal sinusitis is a not uncommon illness among atopic individuals residing or working in moldy environments. There is some question whether this illness is solely allergic or has an infectious component. Molds are just one of several sources of indoor allergens, including house dust mites, cockroaches, effluvia from domestic pets (birds, rodents, dogs, cats) and microorganisms (including molds).

 

While there are thousands of different molds that can contaminate indoor air, purified allergens have been recovered from only a few of them. This means that atopic individuals may be exposed to molds found indoors and develop sensitization, yet not be identified as having mold allergy. Allergy tests performed by physicians involve challenge of an individual's immune system by specific mold allergens. Since the reaction is highly specific, it is possible that even closely related mold species may cause allergy, yet that allergy may not be detected through challenge with the few purified mold allergens available for allergy tests. Thus a positive mold allergy test indicates sensitization to an antigen contained in the test allergen (and perhaps to other fungal allergens) while a negative test does not rule out mold allergy for atopic individuals.

 

Infection

Infection from molds that grow in indoor environments is not a common occurrence, except in certain susceptible populations, such as those with immune compromise from disease or drug treatment. A number of Aspergillus species that can grow indoors are known to be pathogens. Aspergillus fumigatus (A. fumigatus) is a weak pathogen that is thought to cause infections (called aspergilloses) only in susceptible individuals. It is known to be a source of nosocomial infections, especially among immune-compromised patients. Such infections can affect the skin, the eyes, the lung, or other organs and systems. A. fumigatus is also fairly commonly implicated in ABPA and allergic fungal sinusitis. Aspergillus flavus has also been found as a source of nosocomial infections.

 

There are other fungi that cause systemic infections, such as Coccidioides, Histoplasma, and Blastomyces. These fungi grow in soil or may be carried by bats and birds, but do not generally grow in indoor environments. Their occurrence is linked to exposure to wind-borne or animal-borne contamination.

 

Mucous Membrane and Trigeminal Nerve Irritation

Another group of possible health effects from fungal exposure derives from the volatile organic compounds (VOC) produced through fungal primary or secondary metabolism, and released into indoor air. Some of these volatile compounds are produced continually as the fungus consumes its energy source during primary metabolic processes. (Primary metabolic processes are those necessary to sustain an individual organism’s life, including energy extraction from foods, and the syntheses of structural and functional molecules such as proteins, nucleic acids and lipids). Depending on available oxygen, fungi may engage in aerobic or anaerobic metabolism. They may produce alcohols or aldehydes and acidic molecules. Such compounds in low but sufficient aggregate concentration can irritate the mucous membranes of the eyes and respiratory system. Just as occurs with human food consumption, the nature of the food source on which a fungus grows may result in particularly pungent or unpleasant primary metabolic products. Certain fungi can release highly toxic gases from the substrate on which they grow. For instance, one fungus growing on wallpaper released the highly toxic gas arsine from arsenic containing pigments.

 

Fungi can also produce secondary metabolites as needed. These are not produced at all times since they require extra energy from the organism. Such secondary metabolites are the compounds that are frequently identified with typically "moldy" or "musty" smells associated with the presence of growing mold. However, compounds such as pinene and limonene that are used as solvents and cleaning agents can also have a fungal source. Depending on concentration, these compounds are considered to have a pleasant or “clean” odor by some people. Fungal volatile secondary metabolites also impart flavors and odors to food. Some of these, as in certain cheeses, are deemed desirable, while others may be associated with food spoilage.

 

There is little information about the advantage that the production of volatile secondary metabolites imparts to the fungal organism. The production of some compounds is closely related to sporulation of the organism. “Off” tastes may be of selective advantage to the survival of the fungus, if not to the consumer. In addition to mucous membrane irritation, fungal volatile compounds may impact the "common chemical sense" which senses pungency and responds to it. This sense is primarily associated with the trigeminal nerve (and to a lesser extent the vagus nerve). This mixed (sensory and motor) nerve responds to pungency, not odor, by initiating avoidance reactions, including breath holding, discomfort, or paresthesias, or odd sensations, such as itching, burning, and skin crawling.

 

Changes in sensation, swelling of mucous membranes, constriction of respiratory smooth muscle, or dilation of surface blood vessels may be part of fight or flight reactions in response to trigeminal nerve stimulation. Decreased attention, disorientation, diminished reflex time, dizziness and other effects can also result from such exposures.

 

It is difficult to determine whether the level of volatile compounds produced by fungi influence the total concentration of common VOCs found indoors to any great extent. A mold-contaminated building may have a significant contribution derived from its fungal contaminants that is added to those VOCs emitted by building materials, paints, plastics and cleaners. Miller and co-workers (1988) measured a total VOC concentration approaching the levels at which researchers found trigeminal nerve effects. At higher exposure levels, VOCs from any source are mucous membrane irritants, and can have an effect on the central nervous system, producing such symptoms as headache, attention deficit, inability to concentrate or dizziness.

 

How to Get Rid of Mold

It is unwise to wait to take action until toxicity is determined after laboratory culture, especially since molds that are toxic in their normal environment may lose their toxicity in laboratory monoculture over time and therefore may not be identified as toxic. While testing for toxins is useful for establishing etiology of disease, and adds to knowledge about mold toxicity in the indoor environment, prudent public health practice might advise speedy clean-up, or removal of a heavily exposed populations from exposure as a first resort. It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors. Some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust. The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors and an Aran generator to kill the existing colonies. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold, but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will return.

 

Molds can gradually destroy things they grow on. You can prevent damage to your home and furnishings, save money and avoid potential health problems by controlling the moisture and eliminating mold growth. If you already have a mold problem--act quickly. Check your home's humidity levels; buy or borrow a hygrometer and watch the changes in relative humidity that occur throughout a typical day in different rooms of the house and over the heating season. To inspect your home for mold growth, winter is the best time except for basements which should also be inspected in the summer. With a flashlight and some simple tools, go through the entire house, both inside and outside, searching for moisture damage and mold growth and their potential causes.

 

Mold forms on the coldest space. The only way to deal with it is with heat. Wall heaters with fans are more efficient than baseboard heaters. Pull furniture and store material away from exterior walls and off basement floors; leave closet doors ajar; leave bedroom doors open as much as possible; undercut doors; don't block or deflect warm air registers; open drapes, blinds, and curtains; set the furnace fan to run continuously. This will use more electricity but can be offset by installing a two-speed energy-efficient motor; don't cut off the heating supply or close off unused rooms. Uninsulated or poorly insulated areas such as exterior corners or foundation walls should be improved with additional insulation. Be sure to install an air-vapor barrier, usually polyethylene, on the room side of the insulation to prevent hidden condensation behind the insulation. Seal hidden opening into the attic, tighten the attic hatch, weather-strip and caulk around windows and doors, gasket electrical outlets, caulk baseboards and seal the top of foundations. Using an air conditioner on muggy summer days also helps take out the moisture. Humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air-conditioning units and filtration systems can be a source of mold growth if they are not regularly cleaned.

 

Key areas to check for moisture sources leading to condensation inside the home are roof leaks, especially at chimneys, flashings, skylights and rain gutters; wall leaks, especially at window and door flashing and sills; foundation leaks, especially where the ground slopes toward the foundation; and plumbing leaks, especially at toilet bases and under sink drains. Check any fuel-burning equipment - furnaces, hot water heaters, boilers, fireplaces, and wood stoves - to ensure that they are venting properly. A blocked chimney could mean that combustion products, including large amounts of water vapor, are spilling into your house. Along with that moisture comes dangerous combustion gasses, such as carbon monoxide, which cause deaths every year. Also, have heating equipment and venting systems checked by a trained service person.

 

If your moisture remedial work includes extensive air sealing, be sure that all fuel-burning equipment has an adequate supply of combustion air. High efficiency furnaces, for example, have their own air supplies and exhaust fans but conventional equipment may rely on house air for combustion and on "natural draft" to move combustion products up the chimney flue. If starved for air or overpowered by an exhaust fan somewhere else in the house, such equipment can spill combustion gasses indoors. Examples of this include stains near the vent of a gas water heater, smoke entering the room from a wood-burning fireplace or stove, and pilot lights being blown out. Mold growth often occurs in out-of-the-way areas like closets, corners, walls behind furniture and unused rooms. Increasing air circulation to these areas warms the cold surfaces and lowers local humidity levels. To solve moisture problems, cover any exposed earth in a crawl space or basement with heavy polyethylene, sealed and weighted-down; slope soil away from foundations to keep basement walls and slab dry; patch any foundation leaks; don't use humidifiers, unless humidity levels are below 30 percent relative humidity; avoid drying firewood indoors; operate bathroom exhaust fans during a bath or shower; use your range hood exhaust when cooking; avoid steam-cleaning carpets in winter; clean mold from wood and gyproc with a 10 percent to 30 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide applied with a spray bottle. This is more effective than bleach and water.

 

If you use chlorine bleach, mix one part bleach with two parts water and a little detergent to clean nearby surfaces. Leave for 15 minutes and rinse well. Use gloves, protective glasses and a tight-fitting dust mask, along with good ventilation. Persons with any respiratory problems should not perform clean-up or be in the clean-up area. Children and pets should not be allowed access. Soiled curtains, clothing, linens and any other washable materials should be removed and cleaned. Badly mildewed carpets, furnishings and books will probably need to be thrown out.

 

Dietary Changes

Mycotoxins cause a wide range of health problems in humans when we are exposed to small amounts over an extended period of time, and can even be lethal if taken in large quantities over a short period of time. Given the large number of diseases linked to mycotoxins and our tendency to eat a large amount of grains in our typical American diet, this is a very concerning problem. Grains are sources of carbohydrates, or sugars, and as such , they risk contamination by certain fungi. These fungi produce secondary metabolites, or mycotoxins.

 

Top 10 Myco-toxic Foods

Aran

The patented Aran generator, creates a special electrical corona that energizes the oxygen in the air similar to the effect of the discharge of a lightning bolt, and adds additional energy to this process causing single oxygen atoms to group into higher forms than O3. These higher forms of energized oxygen have more power to oxidize pollutants. The Aranizer activates the oxygen in the air into O4, O5, O6, etc. Aran is the trade name for these higher forms of oxygen. When an Aran molecule comes in contact with pollution, the pollutant is quickly oxidized, leaving only neutralized pollutants and stable oxygen.

 

This oxidizing agent attacks organic and inorganic chemicals, microbiologicals and changes their chemical composition leaving only oxidized particulate residues and diatomic oxygen (O2). The Aranizer simply accelerates the process Nature uses to break down air pollutants leaving the air smelling fresh and clean--without using chemical fragrances or costly filters. An Aranizer does not produce undesirable oxides of nitrogen, as does the production of ozone from ambient air, so it is even safer to use than an ozone generator. The energy required to make an Aran molecule is far greater than that which is usually used to make ozone (O3). The nascent oxygen created not only has more active atoms, but their affinity to combine with each other to form the higher allotropic forms of oxygen, which are substantially greater than ozone, is not hindered by nascent Nitrogen atoms.

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