Fungus-related Sick Building Syndrome

Remember the days that people in Victorian England suffered and frequently died from toxins in wallpapers. These wallpapers contained copious amounts of toxic arsenic. Copper arsenite created a vivid green pigment.

Nowadays the situation is very different and …
No, the situaton hasn't changed so very much because scientist have found that toxins produced by three different species of fungus growing indoors on wallpaper may become aerosolized, and easily inhaled. The findings, which likely have implications for Sick Building Syndrome, were recently published[1].

The researchers demonstrated that mycotoxins could be transferred from a moldy material to air, under conditions that may be encountered in buildings. Part of the toxic load was found on very small particles — dust or tiny fragments of wallpaper, that could be easily inhaled. Thus, mycotoxins can be easily inhaled and should be investigated as parameters of indoor air quality, especially in homes with visible fungal contamination.

The research was done with three fungal species: Penicillium brevicompactum, Aspergillus versicolor and Stachybotrys chartarum. These species, long studied as sources of food contaminants, also are frequent indoor contaminants.

Increasingly energy efficient homes may aggravate the problem of mycotoxins indoors. Such homes are strongly isolated from the outside to save energy, but various water-using appliances such as coffee makers could lead to favorable conditions for fungal growth and might be the cause of several respiratory illnesses.

[1] Aleksic et al: Aerosolization of mycotoxins after growth of toxinogenic fungi on wallpaper in Applied and Environmental Microbiology – 2017

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