We hear so much about toxic mold. What is it that makes mold so toxic?
In short, mycotoxins are the toxins released by a fungus (mold). There are over 500,000 species of mold, but only 200 of them are considered toxic to humans. Those 200 molds release mycotoxins which is what makes them harmful. Mycotoxins are among the most common toxins in the environment. They can infest buildings, vehicles, and our food. There is still so much to uncover about mycotoxins and the symptoms they can cause. (1)
Mycotoxins can make anyone sick, but for someone with Lyme disease, mold illness, or immunocompromised for another reason, mycotoxins can worsen an already bad situation. For these individuals and their doctors, being able to test to see if mycotoxins are present in the person’s living environment can help assess the safety of their home.
Symptoms Caused by Mycotoxins
Mycotoxins in the lungs can be very dangerous
Mycotoxins affect a wide range of body systems. Because of this, the number of systems is as diverse as the number of people affected. Here are some of the symptoms mycotoxins are known to cause:
- Respiratory (asthma, sinus issues, earaches)
- Anxiety and depression
- Irritability, “mold rage.”
- Ice pick pain
- Light sensitivity
- Blurred vision
- Red eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Short-term memory loss
- Morning stiffness
- Muscle cramps
- Heart palpitations
- Slow wound healing
- Sweats, especially night sweats
- Trouble regulating temperature
- Ringworm and other fungal rashes
- Problems with eyesight
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Food sensitivities
- Migraines and other headaches
- Hair loss
- Decreased learning of new knowledge
- Word-recollection issues
- Skin sensitivity
- Mood swings
- Appetite swings
- Excess thirst
Why is it important to test for them in an indoor environment?
When someone is dealing with biotoxin illness, and the mold in their home (from the mycotoxins!) is making them sick, many important and often costly decisions must be made. Before taking on expensive remediation or discarding belongings, it’s important to assess the severity of the situation. This is where mycotoxin testing can come in handy.
Mycotoxin testing can help us to understand:
- Where the mold exposure came from
- Understand if the HVAC system is a candidate for cleaning or if it should be replaced
- The best way to approach the contents of the home (porous content might not be able to be saved depending on mycotoxin levels)
- What might be making you sick
Which Mycotoxins Can We Test for in the Indoor Environment?
There are five mycotoxins we can test for in your home. These are mycotoxins that are most likely to make someone very sick. Here’s what we know about them:
- Ochratoxin A – Ochratoxins are metabolites of Aspergillus, Fusarium, and Penicillium species. There are three types: A, B, and C, A being the most toxic, and it goes down from there. Studies show that Ochratoxin A is mutagenic, immunosuppressive teratogenic in many animals, most affecting the kidneys and nervous system. (2)
- Aflatoxin Group (B1, B2, G1, G2) – Aflatoxins are produced by different species of Aspergillus, including flavus, oryzae, fumigatus, and parasiticus, as well as members of the Penicillium classification. Aflatoxins are the most studied mycotoxin, made famous by an incident in England where 100,000 turkeys died from Aflatoxin toxicity (this was when it was discovered). It is widely accepted that inhalation of them will cause disease in humans and animals, and this mycotoxin is also considered carcinogenic. (3)
- Tricothocene Group – The trichothecenes are a large family of mycotoxins produced by several species of molds, including Fusarium, Myrothecium, Trichoderma, Trichothecium, Cephalosporium, Verticimonosporium, and the infamous Stachybotrys. They are toxic to humans, animals, and plants and affect all body systems, including neurological ones. They cause damage on a cellular level. They stay stable even in extreme temperatures. (4)
- Gliotoxin derivatives are part of a particular class of mycotoxins known as epipolythiodioxopiperazines (ETPs). The ETPs are produced by various fungi, Aspergillus spp, Chaetomium spp, and Penicillium spp. It has been linked to A. fumigatus and found in the lungs of patients suffering from aspergillosis. (5)
- Zearalenone – Zearalenone (ZEA) is a mycotoxin produced by a mold species called Fusarium and Gibberella and is commonly found in many foods in the US and Europe. ZEA exposure can cause the thymus to atrophy, alter spleen lymphocyte production, and impair lymphocyte immune response. (6)
Every piece of the puzzle helps us give you better guidance regarding your next steps. Mycotoxin testing is a tool we often use and recommend you do too. Mycotoxin testing is a newer technology used to analyze the indoor environment for hypersensitive individuals suffering from biotoxin illness.
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1. Mycotoxin & Mold Health Effects | Realtime Labs. RealTime Labs. https://realtimelab.com/molds/. Published 2022. Accessed October 17, 2022.
2. Ochratoxin Test Kits & Information | Realtime Labs. RealTime Labs. https://realtimelab.com/ochratoxins/. Published 2022. Accessed October 17, 2022.
3. Aflatoxin Information & Testing Kits | Realtime Labs. RealTime Labs. https://realtimelab.com/aflatoxins/. Published 2022. Accessed October 17, 2022.
4. Trichothecenes Information & Testing Kits | Realtime Labs. RealTime Labs. https://realtimelab.com/trichothecenes/. Published 2022. Accessed October 17, 2022.
5. Gliotoxin Information & Testing Kits | RealTime Labs. RealTime Labs. https://realtimelab.com/gliotoxin/. Published 2022. Accessed October 17, 2022.
6. MycoTOX Profile – Mycotoxin / Mold Test — Great Plains Laboratory. Great Plains Laboratory. https://www.greatplainslaboratory.com/gplmycotox. Published 2022. Accessed October 17, 2022.