Tampa 10/26/2011 12:08:08 AM
News / Green

Trichothecene Mycotoxin: A Health Hazard in the Indoor Environment

Production of mycotoxins are also highly influenced by the environmental factors especially growth substrate, temperature, pH and others. Some of the mycotoxins are volatile in nature where as others may be non-volatile.

Mycotoxins are chemical substance produced by the fungal metabolic process. As a matter of fact, these compounds are the secondary metabolites of fungal metabolism. Due to the absence of common molecular feature, the chemical category of these compounds is still not very certain. Commonly, the fungi producing such chemicals are categories as toxigenic fungi. Mycotoxin plays a pivotal role in regulating competition with other microorganism besides helping the parasitic fungi in invading the host tissues. These compounds may also effects human health adversely. The kind and amount of mycotoxin produced by a fungus depend on the fungal strain, the substrate it is metabolizing, and possibly the presence and absence of other organisms.

Production of mycotoxins are also highly influenced by the environmental factors especially growth substrate, temperature, pH and others. Some of the mycotoxins are volatile in nature where as others may be non-volatile. Scientists have identified over 400 mycotoxins and list is increasing day by day. Conversely, a single fungal species may produce a number of mycotoxins. Over two hundred other mycotoxins produced by Stachybotrys chartarum as well as several other fungi like Acremonium, Fusarium, Trichoderma and Trichothecium etc. Trichothecene is one of the most important mycotoxin reported from indoor environment and very complex in nature. It includes compounds like satratoxin, roridins, verucarins. Therefore, it is essential to have an understanding about the trichothecene mycotoxin in order to effectively evaluate a building for its indoor environmental quality.

Mycotoxin and Indoor Environment:

Fungal of toxic nature in indoor environment is growing concern among the general public due to its health effect. Since, past several years’ emphasis has been placed on evaluating the role of toxic fungi in indoor environments. An array of reference is available about the toxigenic mold/fungi of indoor environment and their health effects. The main cause of mold growth in a building environment is poor or nonexistent maintenance commonly called deferred maintenance beside moisture and water intrusion. The requirements for mold growth vary by type of fungi. However, a general condition includes:

  • Temperatures from 23°F to 140°F
  • Greater than 60% humidity
  • A fairly wide range of pH (mold does not grow well with extreme pH)
  • A suitable organic substrate 

Due to the small size we cannot see the mold causing fungi until the mycelium mass is developed. Though, the accumulation of mycotoxin starts in the spores, mycelia and growth substrates on various stages of life cycle of fungi depending on the fungal species and stain beside environmental factors. Subsequently, exposure to mycotoxin in the building occupants occurs due to aerosolization of spores, mycelial fragments, and contact with these toxic materials or even due to ingested colonized substrate.

Now, more than ever, the potential health effects of mycotoxin produced by various fungi growing into the indoor environmental site are being given serious consideration due to its potential health hazards. Mycotoxins affect occupants in buildings primarily through inhalation. These chemical substances are cytotoxins that cause cell disruption and interfere with essential cellular process. Some mycotoxin are potent carcinogenic, some are vasoactive, and some penetrate the blood-brain barrier to cause Central Nervous System (CNS) effect. The assessment of the extent of mycotoxin contamination is the essential step in reducing exposure

to such toxin and their affects.

Some common fungi associated with trichothecene production include:

  • Acremonium
  • Cylindrocarpon
  • Fusarium
  • Myrothecium
  • Phomopsis
  • Stachybotrys
  • Trichoderma
  • Trichothecium

Detection and Estimation:

Detection and estimation of mycotoxin are not an essay task because of its variable nature. Toxin production may also be influenced by several environmental conditions such as medium, temperature and competition with other microbes. This task is more complicated due to nonuniform distribution, uncertainties in sampling and analysis of mycotoxin. Some time even one fungi are capable of producing more than one type of mycotoxin including many that remain uncharacterized.

A number of techniques can detect and estimate mycotoxin. Some of the prominent techniques include thin layer chromatography (TLC), high performance liquid chromatography (HPCL) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometer (GC-MS), Immunosorbent assay (ELISA), capillary electrophoresis (CE) etc. However, analytical techniques for mycotoxin analysis are improving day by day. Specially, due to growing concern of indoor air quality and building related problems. It is necessary to find a technique that can provide rapid, reliable and authentic information about the quality and quantity of the mycotoxin.

The Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory at Pure Air Control Services provides an ELISA based technique (Limit of Detection is 0.14 parts per billion) for the rapid screening of trichothecene mycotoxin.  Environmental samples such as dry wall, carpet, office supplies, air filter, dust and other like wise sample obtained from various test sites like schools, homes, hospitals, work places and other indoor environmental site are acceptable for trichothecene mycotoxin evaluation. Also the portion of same sample can be use for testing mold/fungi by performing addition tests.

A do-it-yourself screen test called Trichothecene Mycotoxin Check (TMC) is available at www.IndoorAirTest.com or call 800-422-7873

About Pure Air Control Services/EDLab:

Alan Wozniak founded Pure Air Control Services, Inc. in 1984 as a small mechanical contracting firm and today sets the industry standard for indoor environmental quality diagnosis and remediation.

Pure Air Control Services  is a national provider of the following IAQ services: Building Sciences Evaluation; Building Health Check;  Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab) an AIHA accredited micro laboratory; Environmental Project Management; HVAC System Cleaning and Mold Remediation Services, among other indoor environmental services.

The company’s expanding client roster includes the General Services Administration (GSA); Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Allstate Insurance; Carrier Air Conditioning; Naval Air Warfare Center, Orlando; and Naval Air Station - King's Bay, Georgia, and many other Fortune 500 companies, school boards, and city, state, and county governments, making Pure Air Control Services the reliable industry leader.

For official information on sampling protocol please contact EDLab.

Dr. Rajiv Sahay, FIAS, CIAQP

Laboratory Director

Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab)

 (800) 422-7873 ext. 304

Email: laboratory@pureaircontrols.com