Mould toxins more dangerous than was thought


Erica Bloom from the Division of Medical Microbiology at Lund University in Sweden, by analysing dust and materials samples from buildings damaged by mould, has established that virtually all of the mould samples contained potent toxins. As little as a few picograms (a picogram is one millionth of a millionth of a gram) of these mycotoxins can not only directly kill cells but can affect immune cells in a way that increases the risk of allergies.

New research also shows that mould releases extremely small particles that remain suspended in the air, and can get into our lungs much more easily than the spores on which research has previously focused. This can increase exposure to mould and mycotoxins hundreds of times over compared with previous calculations. Moreover, mycotoxins have been shown to have a synergistic effect: the effect of two toxins is not merely 1 + 1 but much greater.

Using methods from analytical chemistry, Erica Bloom analysed dust sample and samples from construction materials such as moulding, drywall, and wallpaper from buildings damaged by mould. ‘We looked at six or seven different mycotoxins and found them in a majority of the samples. And since there are at least 400 sorts of mycotoxins, what we have seen is probably just the tip of the iceberg,’ she says.

Mould in buildings is a phenomenon that has been known since Old Testament times. In Leviticus mention is made of spots that constitute ‘a fretting leprosy in the house’, and should be scraped off and thrown away ‘in some unclean place’.

In fact, maintains Erica Bloom, ‘we haven’t made much progress since. We know that people are sickened by buildings damaged by moisture, but not whether this is primarily caused by mycotoxins, bacteria, or gases given off by the moist building materials. We should therefore observe the principle of caution and renovate the building as soon as a moisture problem or mould is found.’

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First Published Febuary 2009

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