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Health Effects of Mycotoxins in Indoor Air: A Critical Review

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Pages 773-784 | Published online: 30 Nov 2010
 

Industrial hygienists (IHs) are called upon to investigate exposures to mold in indoor environments, both residential and commercial. Because exposure standards for molds or mycotoxins do not exist, it is important for the industrial hygienist to have a broad knowledge of the potential for exposure and health effects associated with mold in the indoor environment. This review focuses on the toxic effects of molds associated with the production of mycotoxins, and the putative association between health effects due to mycotoxin exposure in the indoor environment. This article contains background information on molds and mycotoxins, and a brief summary and review of animal exposure studies, case reports, and epidemiological studies from the primary literature concerning inhalation of mycotoxins or potentially toxin-producing molds. The relevance of the findings in the reviewed articles to exposures to mold in indoor, non-agricultural environments is discussed. Although evidence was found of a relationship between high levels of inhalation exposure or direct contact to mycotoxin-containing molds or mycotoxins, and demonstrable effects in animals and health effects in humans, the current literature does not provide compelling evidence that exposure at levels expected in most mold-contaminated indoor environments is likely to result in measurable health effects. Even though there is general agreement that active mold growth in indoor environments is unsanitary and must be corrected, the point at which mold contamination becomes a threat to health is unknown. Research and systematic field investigation are needed to provide an understanding of the health implications of mycotoxin exposures in indoor environments.

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