- Toxins from household fungi can easily become airborne.
- They can cause health problems, related to “sick building syndrome.”
- Researchers said the area is understudied.
Toxins from household fungi can easily become airborne and cause health problems, a new study has found.
A group of researchers found that three types of fungus that can grow on ordinary household wallpaper can spread into the air. They said the effects of the airborne transmission on human health are understudied.
Fungal toxins, also called mycotoxins, should be taken seriously as a source of indoor air pollution, and so-called sick building syndrome, the researchers said.
“We demonstrated that mycotoxins could be transferred from a moldy material to air, under conditions that may be encountered in buildings,” said study co-author Jean-Denis Bailly, a professor of food hygiene at the National Veterinary School of Toulouse in France, in a release. “Thus, mycotoxins can be inhaled and should be investigated as parameters of indoor air quality, especially in homes with visible fungal contamination.”
They published the results Friday in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
The researchers said far less research exists on the dangers of airborne fungal toxins than on fungal toxins in foods.
Thus, they focused on three fungi commonly found in contaminated food: Penicillium brevicompactum, Aspergillus versicolor and Stachybotrys chartarum.
The team created a flowing stream of air over a piece of wallpaper contaminated with the three fungi and analyzed samples of the air.
They found that some toxins were present on tiny particles of dust, that people or animals could easily inhale. They also found the different species sent different amounts of fungal toxins into the air, which might allow future researchers to prioritize efforts.
Very little research has been done on the effect of such toxins once they have been inhaled, the researchers said in the release.
Scientists have highlighted the dangers of indoor air pollution before. While much attention is focused on airborne pollutants from car emissions, factories and power plants, others such as household mold, chemical fumes and smoke can pose dangers within the home.
Bailly said energy efficiency efforts may even be exacerbating the problem, as houses are increasingly insulated to save on heating and cooling. These kinds of environments may worsen the development of fungus in moist areas, such as in bathrooms, or appliances that use water, like coffee makers.
“The presence of mycotoxins in indoors should be taken into consideration as an important parameter of air quality,” Bailly said.
Article Source: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/23/fungal-toxins-in-the-home-can-easily-become-airborne-and-be-inhaled-says-study.html
Residents living in newly built homes in Parkland are complaining of mold, and at least two big builders have taken steps to fix the problem.
Sowande Johnson, director of development services for Parkland, said WCI Communities Inc. and Standard Pacific of Florida have been approved for permits to complete work that they hope will eliminate the fungus.
A third builder, Toll Brothers, has said it also plans to apply for a permit, Johnson said.
Those companies, along with Lennar Homes, are building hundreds of high-end homes in Parkland, the last available area for large-scale residential construction in Broward County. Johnson said he hasn’t heard of any problems with the Lennar properties.
Johnson said the city has received a few complaints, and he doesn’t have “even the slightest idea” how many homes may be affected.
WCI’s permit application outlines plans to install a dehumidifier, while Standard Pacific is using spray foam insulation. Johnson said it may take a few months to determine whether the proposed fixes will work.
“We’ll have to wait until things heat up [in the summer] to find out if it’s a true solution,” Johnson said. “If not, they’ll have to come back with another solution to remedy the problem.”
Jon Rapaport, division president for WCI, said the Bonita Springs-based builder received a “couple of dozen complaints” but not all of those homeowners had mold.
Still, out of an abundance of caution, WCI made modifications in more than 100 Heron Bay homes at no charge to the owners, he said.
Rapaport attributed the mold to a design issue. WCI sealed openings and made changes to ventilation that lets moisture leave attics. In addition, WCI is offering the dehumidifiers to homeowners, he said.
“We wanted to do the right thing,” Rapaport said. “Now we seem to not have a problem at all.”
WCI, expected to soon merge with Lennar as part of a $643 million deal, has built the vast majority of the nearly 3,000 homes in Heron Bay over the past two decades. The master-planned development, off the Sawgrass Expressway at Coral Ridge Drive, is one of the largest in the region.
Standard Pacific, which builds in the Watercrest at Parkland community, did not respond to requests for comment. In 2015, the company combined with Ryland Homes to form CalAtlantic Group of Irvine, Calif.
Horsham, Pa.-based Toll Brothers builds in the Parkland Golf & Country Club. A publicist for Toll said officials were not available to comment, but she released a statement from the company.
“Toll Brothers stands behind its homes with a comprehensive warranty and we work with our homeowners and provide them with information on operating their home systems efficiently and within their design criteria,” the statement said.
In 2015, Angela Mesa-Taylor moved into a rented home in Heron Bay’s Osprey Lake subdivison. Soon after, she noticed that she and her children were constantly sick, but she just thought it was her young twins bringing home coughs and colds from their play dates.
Then her housekeeper pointed to mold on the ceiling in the master bathroom. Another bathroom had the same problem, she said.
Mesa-Taylor said the builder, WCI, tried to address her concerns, but the mold persisted. Meanwhile, she said she heard similar complaints from neighbors.
Within days of discovering the mold, Mesa-Taylor said she moved her children out of the home and continued to press WCI for answers. Not satisfied with the results, she filed suit last summer in Broward County Circuit Court. The complaint was amended in November.
“Every fix was not a fix,” said Mesa-Taylor, 38. “It seemed to be very, very temporary and superficial.”
The suit, which seeks damages in excess of $15,000, alleges that the mold was caused by design and construction defects and led to chronic health problems.
An attorney for the builder declined to discuss the case. Rapaport, the WCI division president, said he can’t comment on pending litigation.
Scott Gelfand, Mesa-Taylor’s Coral Springs lawyer, said he has spoken to more than 100 owners complaining of mold in Heron Bay homes built within the last several years. Some may be reluctant to discuss the problem publicly because they’re worried about property values, but homes that are properly remediated tend to sell for full market value, he said.
Johnson, the development services director for Parkland, said he suspects mold is occurring in other homes across Florida. But Truly Burton, executive vice president of the Builders Association of South Florida, said she isn’t aware of an ongoing problem statewide.
David Cobb, a former homebuilder and now a regional director for the Metrostudy research firm, agrees that mold is common in a humid climate and often is the result of workmanship issues.
But Cobb also cited another cause: improper home maintenance. He said homeowners should inspect homes annually, caulking around windows and doors and painting every few years to keep mold at bay.
“People who buy new homes say, ‘It’s new, so I don’t have to do anything to it,’ and that is totally incorrect,” Cobb said.
Article Source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/real-estate/fl-parkland-homes-mold-20170113-story.html
PALO ALTO (KPIX) — A deadly water mold called Phytophthora (literally, “plant-destroyer”) is threatening to wipe out native California plants.
Local plants have no immunity to the fungus-like organism, which may have hitch-hiked into the state from other countries on infected plants or pots.
Non-profit Grassroots Ecology is battling Phytophthora at their nursery, which provides plants to the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District and the Valley Water District for wildland-restoration projects. Their first line of defense: no one gets to enter the nursery until they’ve cleaned their shoes.
“Alcohol kills the pathogens,” Deanna Giuliano, with Grassroots Ecology, said.
In addition to shoe-cleaning, the nursery in the Palo Alto hills, has taken all plants off the ground to avoid splash contamination and pasteurizes the soil. Hoses and tools are kept off the ground, as well.
“I feel like all these new protocols are helping. I’ve seen a difference in the plants, they look healthier,” Giuliano remarked.
Those protocols are driving up prices. The cost of native plants coming from nurseries like Giuliano’s has doubled.
“Each of the plants in this shade house will eventually be replanted in the wild by the Open Space Preserve but not one of the plants will leave here without first being tested,” Giuliano said.
These efforts aren’t cheap or easy but they’re essential in conquering Phytophthora, according to Cindy Roessler, with the Mid-Peninsula Opens Space District.
“If we go out and put in new native plants in a preserve and they’re diseased, those plants will die but there is also a chance that their roots will spread the disease from those plants into the natural areas around them,” Roessler said.
Fungi (or mold) fruiting bodies typically grow outdoors. This common mold or shelf fungi (or bracket fungus) will eat the old stump by digesting the wood and add natural features unique to this outdoor garden.
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Mushrooms are common in outdoor environments around our home. As a fungi, molds and mushrooms decompose organic materials. This cluster of mushrooms was found in the yard.“Mushroom” describes a variety of gilled fungi, with or without stems, and the term is used even more generally, to describe both the fleshy fruiting bodies of some Ascomycota and the woody or leathery fruiting bodies of some Basidiomycota, depending upon the context of the word.