Many people see reports in the news about “Toxic Mold” and “Black Mold” and think they may be suffering from mold toxicity. It is important to understand what a mold toxin (mycotoxin) is and what its effects can be on an indoor environment. The mold growing in buildings can be divided into three kinds—Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary colonizers. Each group of mold is categorized by its ability to grow at certain moisture levels.
It may be difficult to identify mycotoxin production by indoor molds due to many variables—some may be masked as derivatives and some produce different metabolites on different building materials. In some cases, mycotoxins in indoor environments are produced by Alternaria, Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys.
Stachybotrys contains a higher number of mycotoxins than other molds grown indoors and has been associated with allergies and sinusitis. The infestation of Stachybotrys in buildings containing sheetrock, as well as on ceiling tiles, is very common and has recently become a well-recognized problem. When sheetrock has been repeatedly introduced to moisture, S. chartarum grows.
The potential negative health effects of mycotoxins are dependent upon the amount of mold present, the duration of exposure, and an individual’s mold sensitivities. Fortunately, concentrations experienced in a normal home, office setting, or school are often too low to trigger a health response in occupants.