Mycotoxins, the toxic chemical byproducts produced by mold, are linked with many health effects, and need to be measured and remediated along with the visible mold colonies and microscopic spores.
Incorporating mycotoxin testing into the assessments of water damaged facilities, particularly where occupants are complaining about health effects that could be related to environmental conditions, has a variety of important benefits. One of the main advantages of mycotoxin testing as compared to other types of air or surface samples, is that tests can more definitively link toxins present in the environment to toxins recovered from medical samples from the occupants. Evaluating this potential connection helps clarify whether the primary remediation effort needs to be directed toward cleaning the environmental contamination, addressing residual contaminations in the occupant’s body, or both.
These microscopic contaminants can remain even if restoration efforts were otherwise determined to be effective based upon a visual standard or mold spore level. The EPA explains that the variation in why some mycotoxins are present and other times absent in their mold training course. “The amount and types of mycotoxins produced by a particular mold depends on many environmental and genetic factors. No one can tell whether a mold is producing mycotoxins just by looking at it.” Also, just quantifying the airborne mold levels by spore trap testing does not clarify what mycotoxins are present or remain.
Although a significant body of research related to mycotoxins and health effects have been developed over the last 20 years, there are still a lot of unknowns. Part of the difficulty in understanding all the specific health effects from mycotoxin exposure, is the sheer number of poisonous compounds that have been identified related to fungal materials. The EPA notes that: “More than 200 mycotoxins from common molds have been identified, and many more remain to be identified.” Exposure to mycotoxins can occur from inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact. It is prudent to avoid unnecessary inhalation of mold spores, fungal parts and the airborne chemical byproduct.
Microbial growth may result in greater numbers of spores, cell fragments, allergens, mycotoxins, endotoxins, B’glucens and volatile organic compounds in indoor air. The causation agents of adverse health effects have not been identified conclusively, but an excess level of any of these agents in the indoor environments is a potential hazard. Acute and long-term exposure can both lead to heightened sensitivity and poor health outcomes.
Given the history and limitations of cultures and spore trap samples for mold, there was a need for more sensitive testing compared to what spore trap analysis can provide. The development of dust sampling techniques that are analyzed using DNA-based technology called mold specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) MSQPCR, are called ERMI that was developed to produce a mold score. This did not adequately quantify or identify the level of mycotoxins in the building environment.
This gap was bridged with the introduction of the Environmental Mold and Mycotoxins Assessment (EMMA) sampling system.The EMMA test uses the newer analytical techniques to identify and quantify 10 mold species. The 10 mold types are known to produce the 16 most toxic mycotoxins confirmed by various scientific studies to be the most dangerous to health.
From these environmental testing results, mycotoxins, specifically trichothecenes, aflatoxins, and ochratoxins, can be detected in human tissue and body fluids in patients who have been exposed to toxin producing molds in the environment. The toxins can be best determined in urine or blood samples as a screening qualitative test which can assist the physician to determine what the best mode of therapy can be.
The connection of both scientific and medical results has been achieved, and appropriate long-term solutions can be developed.
Keith E Roe CIE/CMC
Sr. Research and Project Manager
Advanced IAQ Solutions, Inc.