Toxic mold syndrome can be a major health concern because of its implications of life-altering (or ending) illness. Unfortunately, the topic of mold and mycotoxins is extremely complex, technical, and incomplete, leading to a delay in our ability to have a comprehensive understanding about mold and mycotoxins’ effects on our health. There are certain mold species that are extremely detrimental to our health. These molds are called “toxigenic.” Toxigenic molds (can) produce mycotoxins, which are toxic substances that increase inflammatory processes such as asthma, gastro-intestinal issues, mental health problems such as depression, and several other diseases.
Dr. Ann Shippy, a leading specialist in the field of mold toxicity, describes the dangers of mold on your health as, “I don’t want to minimize the danger mold allergy has on the respiratory system: Allergies and asthma can significantly impact quality of life, and can be deadly. Mold toxicity, specifically, can have big health consequences, because of the kind of toxins molds make as their biological byproducts. These toxins fall into two main categories: mycotoxins or microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs). The fungal MVOCs, produced as mixtures of alcohols, aldehydes, acids, ethers, esters, ketones, terpenes, thiols, and their derivatives, are responsible for the characteristic moldy odors sometimes associated with damp indoor spaces.”
Primarily, mold illness is associated with allergic reactions that mimic seasonal allergies. Respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, watery eyes, and skin irritation are the predominant symptoms. Mold is also known to cause asthma and life-threatening primary and secondary infections in immune-compromised patients that have been exposed. Toxic mold exposure has also been linked to more serious, long-term effects like memory loss, insomnia, anxiety, depression, trouble concentrating, and confusion. In a 2003 study by the Environmental Health Center-Dallas, 100 participants were examined to uncover how toxic mold exposure can affect the brain and lead to cognitive and emotional impairments. After the mold exposure, nervous system challenges were observed in all 100 patients. Brain SPECT imaging scans also identified abnormalities in a significant portion of the patients studied.
Diagnosing mold-related illnesses is still controversial. A major part of the problem is that the testing technology is limited. There has been some progress in recent years, though. When mold exposure was first identified as a health issue, the only test available was for antibodies to mold—which tests if you have an immune system response to an exposure to mold. That test does not identify toxicity. Now we can test for a few of the mycotoxins in urine, some of the common shifts in inflammation, and changes in hormones that commonly show up with blood testing. If a mycotoxin urine test is positive, we start looking for the source. But if the mycotoxin test is negative, it doesn’t mean there is not toxic mold exposure—because we can’t test for all the important toxins yet.
If you are concerned about mold in your home reach out to a mold professional today, they will be able to evaluate the condition of your home and provide you with an official report.
Shippy, Ann. “Every Life Well.” Ann Shippy MD, 2017, annshippymd.com/.