Fungi share some basic similarities with plants and bacteria but are neither. All 1 million to 1.5 million species of true fungi are in their own kingdom, the Fungi Kingdom. Many persons inaccurately use the term mildew to describe fungal growths that they feel are not harmful to human health. The powdery green or white growth in humid closets is sometimes considered by homeowners as “just mildew”.
Ironically this growth is almost always penicillium / aspergillious mold. Many species of pen / asp produce offensive smelling volatile organic compounds and may be toxigenic or allergenic when present at the correct levels. According to more reliable definitions, mildew is a powdery or downy parasitic fungal growth that attacks and grows on living plants, while molds are often fuzzy and grow on all sorts of moist surfaces. Molds, mildews, and other fungi usually reproduce by forming and releasing spores into the air. Typical indoor spores are around 3 to 15 microns across. For reference the period at the end of this sentence is 500 microns.
Mycotoxins are chemicals that are sometimes produced by various species of molds. These toxins are real and are powerful weapons used by molds in a sort of microbial warfare to help them compete against bacteria and other molds. Mold spores in residential settings, even if they are potentially toxin producing types and are at high levels, do not necessarily result in toxic effects on humans via inhalation. It takes a lot of inhaled spores to poison a person.
Currently, disagreement exists as to if residential mold spore exposures levels are ever high enough to result in toxic effect on humans. However, toxic effects of mold mycotoxins in humans and farm animals leading to serious illness and even death via accidental ingestion of toxic mold, have been well documented in scientific literature.
According to a Mayo clinic study, sinusitis caused by growth of fungus fibers or balls of fungus fibers in the sinus cavities is not unusual. This is typically caused by common Aspergillus, Fusarium, and Curvularia species. Aspergillosis caused by the growth of aspergillus species in the lungs most commonly A. fumigatus, A. flavus, A. Niger and A. territus species typically occurs in persons with compromised immune systems or a history of lung disease that resulted in past lung damage. Common Candida albicans that causes yeast infections is a major cause of serious nosocomial (hospital acquired) fungal infections. Histoplasma capsulatium and Cryptococcus neoformans are very dangerous yeast like molds that should be assumed to be present in any bird droppings but are primarily a concern when spread to humans via inhalation of particles from accumulations of pigeon, starling, and bat droppings. Coccidioides immitis mold spores are spread from dusty soil in the southwestern United States, it sometimes causes valley fever but at other times the same fungus can be deadly. Nearly any fungi can cause infections in persons with severely compromised immune systems. Detection of infectious fungi such as but not limited to the above listed ones and identification of fungi to determine the species is not part of most mold inspections.
ALLERGY ASTHMA AND HYPERSENSITIVITY DISEASES
An allergic reaction occurs when your body’s immune system mistakes harmless proteins in mold spores or other allergens as if these proteins were harmful microbes trying to infect your body. Your body’s immune system, feeling threatened releases histamines into the blood stream and these histamines are what actually causes coughing, sneeze, and watering of the eyes. Other persons immune systems will not mistake proteins in mold spores as a microbial threat, and thus not develop allergic reactions.
Asthma is a condition where the smooth involuntary muscles lining the airways contract but do not properly relax to allow the lungs to bring in new air. Mold, other bio-allergens, and gases such as nitrogen dioxide and ozone, and even stress are common triggers of asthma. Many people die every year from asthma. Mold- related allergenic and asthmatic conditions in homes are quite common and very serious and should be addressed and not ignored. Many serious hypersensitivity diseases in humans, such as baker’s lung, wood workers lung and others are the result of exposures to molds by persons working in industries that result in long term exposure to elevated spore levels.
Hypersensitivity diseases have long been well documented in science and the medical field. According to Bioaerosols assessment and control hypersensitivity pneumonitis is a hypersensitivity disease that results from the long-term repeated exposure to elevated mold spore levels or other antigens. This condition can occur at in industry or agriculture where spore levels are high. It may also occur in moldy offices or homes, it produces pneumonia like symptoms with fever, cough, tightness of chest, lung infiltrates, and difficulty breathing.
Once sensitized, individuals may react to extremely low, often unmeasurable, concentrations of antigenic materials. Organic dust toxic syndrome is a flu like illness that results from a short-term exposure to very high levels of spores, such as the levels that may be encountered by workers doing large mold remediation jobs without wearing protective respirators. Symptoms show up several hours or a day or so after exposure and symptoms go away after a day or a few days.