(NaturalNews) Mold toxins in buildings damaged by moisture are much more prevalent and more potent than previously thought, according to new international research from Lund University in Sweden. Scientific research concerning toxic mold has broad implications for not only patients with respiratory illnesses but also U.S. home sellers, building contractors, trial lawyers and insurance companies.
Researchers in the university's medical microbiology lab analyzed dust and material samples from buildings damaged by mold using mass spectrometry. The 167 samples studied came from numerous sources, including some buildings flooded in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. They found that 67 percent of all of the samples contained at least one mold toxin.
"Previously it was claimed that the occurrence of mold does not necessarily mean that there are toxins present. But they are! On the contrary, we can assume that wherever there is visible mold, there are also mold toxins," says Erica Bloom, a doctoral candidate at Sweden's Lund University. Bloom is the lead author on three related studies published in international scientific journals.
Bloom's study also asserts that toxins produced by mold are more potent than previously thought. "It has now been shown, for instance, that mold toxins (mycotoxins) not only directly kill cells but can also affect immune cells in a way that increases the risk of allergies," wrote Bloom. "Even incredibly tiny amounts of these toxins can do this, as little as a few picograms." A picogram is one millionth of a millionth of a gram.
These extremely small particles can enter the lungs more easily than the spores that have been the focus of much more study, said Bloom. "We looked at 6-7 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.
The Lund team will continue to study the health effects of mold, and will take part in a large EU study on the possible connection between asthma and allergies and indoor environments in schools.
A 2007 study published in the scientific journal Thorax related that mold remediation - the removal of visible mold - improved respiratory illnesses in most of the 95 asthma patients that took part in the South Wales study.
Asthma and rhinitis symptoms and the use of medications to treat them were reduced in patients who took part in a randomized controlled trial to see if removing visible household mould would relieve symptoms, according to the study.
After a year the intervention group (those whose mold was removed) reduced their use of medications by 22 percent while the controls reduced their medications by 16 percent. The intervention group also reported about 24 percent net improvement in rhinitis and rhino conjunctivitis symptoms than the control group, and the intervention group also showed an improvement in wheezing that affected their activities like sleeping and speaking (31 percent vs. 7 percent improvement reported by the control group).
With mass spectrometry and data sharing growing among researchers, and the public's growing awareness about mold, expect to hear much more about its health impacts and effective and safe removal methods.
Citations: Bloom, Erica, Mycotoxins in Indoor Environments: Determination using Mass Spectrometry. Doctoral Thesis 2008 Burr ML, Matthews IP, Arthur RA, Effects on patients with asthma of eradicating visible indoor mould: a randomized controlled trial. Thorax. 2007 Sep;62(9):766-71. Epub 2007 Mar 27.
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Kathlyn Stone is an independent journalist in St. Paul, MN covering health care news and policies for public and professional audiences. She is the publisher of FleshandStone.net.