There is a great deal of controversy surrounding toxic mold syndrome, most notably how to diagnose it. A study of 65 patients who claimed to have toxic mold syndrome reported symptoms of rhinitis, cough, headache, respiratory symptoms, central nervous system symptoms and fatigue. The range of patients who had these symptoms was 23%-62%. Only 53% of these patients were allergy skin reactive to a panel of fungi that were performed by an allergist. Another study of 32 mold exposed patients using questionnaires and medical record reviews found only a few had fungal allergy, although a number of them had asthma symptoms. Exposures were to Stachybotrys, Aspergillus and Penicillium mold.
Controversy regard toxic mold syndrome revolves around exposure to Stachybotrys charatrum, the so called toxic mold or black mold. This mold grows on water damaged areas and is a marker for damp environments. In animal models, it shows a change in respiratory epithelium, especially in developing lungs. A review of this fungus in the buildings concluded that the amount of exposure to the humans was insufficient to cause significant health effects.
Fungal exposure has been the subject of much litigation and speculation often involving ill defined illness. The Institute of Medicine issued a statement regarding damp spaces and reported health effects, “insufficient evidence to determine an association between mycotoxin (fungal) exposure and a number of other reported health effects, including gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, neuro-psychiatric symptoms and skin problems. The World Health Organization also agreed with this conclusion.
Fungi clearly can cause clinical allergy. Skin tests and blood tests can identify those patients that are usually performed by allergy doctor’s. The known health effects of fungal exposure include the increased risk of developing asthma in young children. Interventions include reducing indoor moisture, removing contaminated materials and reducing reservoirs that grow fungus. Although there are still controversies that surround toxic mold syndrome, there has been insufficient evidence for an association between fungal exposure and adverse health effects.