are one type of fungi that exist practically everywhere. The purpose
of fungi is to break down organic material and recycle them for
future use by plants and animals. Fungi include mildews, yeasts,
large mushrooms, and mold. Fungi require organic materials in order
to form and expand.
is able to grow in damp conditions on a variety of materials such
as wood, carpet, insulation, cloth, and all types of food. Mold
thrives in damp, moist, or wet surroundings. Molds typically reproduce
by releasing their spores into the air and on moist, organic materials.
The spores then germinate and begin expanding outwards in elaborate
networks. The factors that determine the rate of this growth include
amount of moisture, type of food or organic material, temperature,
and many others.
often come in contact with molds in moist areas in or around their
homes. When mold spores become airborne, once airborne, mold spores
can come into contact with human skin or it can be ingested.
the mold spores are "toxic", they can adversely affect
the health of humans. Different mold spores will affect humans differently
depending on the type of mold involved, the metabolic byproduct
of the mold, as well as the amount of contact and the length of
exposure. This also depends on how susceptible the particular human
is. Children tend to be affected more than adults.
ill effects of molds generally break down into 4 categories that
include allergies, infections, irritations, and toxicities.
are probably the most common reaction to contact with molds. Individuals
who experience allergic reactions that is often hereditary, who
are exposed to mold, mold spores, or mold byproducts may begin to
show allergic reactions once they become vulnerable (sensitized)
to the particular mold. The reactions can be very mild and temporary
reactions or acute or chronic illness. Of course, molds are simply
one of the causes of indoor allergens. Other common causes include
dust mites, cockroaches, effluvia from domestic pets and other microorganisms
(molds are included in this category).
according to The Institute of Medicine:
in ericans suffer from allergic
rhinitis, the most common chronic disease in humans.
in 9 Americans suffer from allergy-related sinusitis.
in ericans have allergic-related
in 11 Americans experience allergic dermatitis.
than 1 in 100 Americans suffer from serious chronic allergic diseases.
statistics indicate that allergic reactions to mold are extremely
common in humans. Recently, the existence of mold in homes and workplaces
has cropped up as a very real possibility as the cause of some of
these allergic reactions.
different types of molds can put their spores and byproducts into
the air, but only a few purified mold allergens are available for
allergy tests. Individuals can become sensitized to certain molds,
but this may not always be cited by a health care professional as
a mold-related allergy. A positive mold allergy test indicates that
an individual is susceptible to a specific allergen, but testing
negative doesn't necessarily rule out mold allergy.
type of reaction to indoor mold is fairly rare, occurring primarily
in those individuals who are susceptible. Aspergillus types of mold
have been known to be pathogenic (a disease producing microorganism)
For instance, Aspergillus fumigatus (A. fumigatus) is a fairly weak
pathogen thought to cause infections in vulnerable individuals.
A. fumigatus is also fairly commonly implicated in ABPA and allergic
fungi that cause infection include Coccidioides, Histoplasma, and
Blastomyces. However, these fungi are usually found outdoors, growing
in soil and dirt. Human contact is usually due to contact with animals.
to fungus can also come from any volatile compounds (VOCs) that
a fungi/mold creates through primary or secondary metabolism that
then becomes airborne. (Primary metabolic processes are those necessary
to sustain the life of an organism.) These volatile compounds may
be constantly created as the fungus consumes its food source during
the primary metabolic process. VOCs can irritate the mucous membranes
of the eyes and respiratory system.
that consume certain organic sources can release highly toxic gases.
For instance, a fungus that grows on wallpaper often releases toxic
gas arsine directly from the wallpaper that contains arsenic pigments.
Thus, fungi and molds can release dangerous materials when they
break down the host material. Causing0 mucous membrane irritation
in sensitized individuals.
volatile compounds may impact the "common chemical sense"
which senses pungency and responds to it. This sense is primarily
associated with the trigeminal nerve. The sensory and motor nerves
respond to pungency by trying to hold the breath, discomfort, or
through 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. Reactions often include a reduced attention level,
general disorientation, lowered reflex time, dizziness, etc.
Compounds found in or around homes can irritate mucous membranes.
It is thought that fungi can add to the already existing compounds
when breaking down certain organic substances. A mold-contaminated
building may have a significant contribution from its fungal contaminants
that is added to common VOCs---building materials, paints, plastics
and cleaners. VOCs in general can result in symptoms that include
lowered attention span, headaches, lack of concentration, and dizziness.
to Mold Odors
individuals have extremely strong reactions to the smells given
off by molds. Among humans, the ability to detect these odors varies
greatly. Certain individuals can detect low levels of VOCs, while
others can only detect relatively high levels. Those individuals
who are particularly susceptible to mold odors may react with headache,
nasal stuffiness, nausea or even vomiting. Asthmatics often exhibit
symptoms when exposed to certain odors.
also produce secondary metabolites such as antibiotics and mycotoxins
(a poisonous substance produced by a fungus). It is possible to
isolate antibiotics from the molds themselves in order to utilize
some of their properties in fighting infections. Secondary metabolisms
are not necessary for maintaining the existence of a mold. They
do, however, function to provide molds with advantages over other
mold and bacteria and are toxic to certain plant and human cells.
Toxic conditions exist when a human has exposure to these mycotoxins---either
through ingesting mycotoxins-containing mold spores or with skin
contact to mold itself. Mycotoxins are nearly all cytotoxic (substances
produced by microorganisms that are toxic to individual cells),
and disrupt various cellular structures such as membranes, they
also interrupt important processes, including protein, RNA and DNA
vary in how dangerous they are for humans. Mycotoxins pose a threat
to larger organisms not because they are specifically targeting
them, but rather because these large organisms inadvertently come
across the byproduct of the competing molds all vying for the same
ecological niche. Many types of mold produce mycotoxins, including
some found indoors in contaminated homes and office buildings. A
determining factor for mycotoxins that are produced by specific
molds usually depends on the materials or organisms that they grow
the past it was believed that dangerous molds were primarily contaminants
in foods. This notion is no longer accurate. Recently, researchers
have become more concerned with multiple mycotoxins associated with
types of mold spores growing in moist indoor environments. Health
effects from exposure to such mold mixtures can differ from those
related to single mycotoxins in controlled laboratory exposures.
Although it is difficult to predict how exposure to multiple toxigenic
molds can affect an individual, the following provides possible
poor health effects from mycotoxin exposure to multiple molds indoors.
Problems with the vascular system. Increased vascular fragility,
possibility of hemorrhaging into body tissues. Possible molds
include aflatoxin, satratoxin, and torridness.
with digestive system. Diarrhea, vomiting, intestinal hemorrhage,
liver effects (such as necrosis and fibrosis). Aflatoxin results
in deleterious effects on mucous membranes.
with respiratory system. Including respiratory distress, and bleeding
from the lungs.
with nervous system. Tremors, lack of coordination, depression,
with crustaceous system. Symptoms include rash, burning sensation,
and sloughing of skin.
with urinary system.
with reproductive system. Including infertility, changes in reproductive
mycotoxins can produce changes or weaken the immune system. Unfortunately,
not all types or species of molds have been tested for the presence
of mycotoxins. The production of toxins varies according to the
type of mold, the substrate on which it grows, and seasons of the
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