What are Mycotoxins
Mycotoxins are toxins produced by some species of mold (myco means fungal). These mycotoxins are some of the most toxic substances in existence.
Types of Mycotoxins
Some of the different types of mycotoxins are:
- Aflatoxins (produced by Aspergillus) – includes Aflatoxin B1, B2, G1, G2, M1 and M2
- Ochratoxin – includes Ochratoxin A, B, and C
- Trichothecene (produced by Stachybotrys) – includes Satratoxin-H, Vomitoxin and T-2 mycotoxins
- Fumonisins – includes Fumonisin B1 and B2
Mycotoxins aren’t actually alive like mold spores. So when we talk about “killing mycotoxins” it really means breaking down mycotoxins and their toxicity so they are no longer dangerous to humans. Bleach with 5% sodium hypochlorite kills trichothecene mycotoxins as well as other mycotoxins including aflatoxin. t takes fire at 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 degrees Celsius) for half an hour or fire at 900 degrees Fahrenheit (482 degrees Celsius) for 10 minutes to destroy trichothecene mycotoxins.
Ozone is supposed to kill most or all mycotoxins. However the level of ozone you need to kill mycotoxins is not safe for humans. So if you use an ozone generator there must be no one in the house.
HEPA air filters are not effective at removing mycotoxins. Activated carbon filters can remove mycotoxins from the air however.
Mycotoxins do eventually break down and lose their toxicity after some time. Some types of mycotoxins can take several years though, for example trichothecene mycotoxins which are among the most resilient.
Size of Mycotoxins
Like mold spores, mycotoxins are too small for us to see with the naked eye. Mycotoxins are as small as 0.1 microns. Mold spores are between 1 and 20 microns. Human hair, for comparison, is about 100 microns thick.
How Mycotoxins Enter the Human Body
When people are around toxic mold they are usually exposed to airborne mycotoxins by breathing them in. These mycotoxins end up in the lungs and cause breathing problems and other severe symptoms.
The symptoms caused by Stachybotrys (often called toxic black mold) are at theToxic Black Mold Symptoms page.
Mycotoxins in the air can also enter through a person’s eyes. Trichothecene mycotoxins can be absorbed through the skin as well.
Another way mycotoxins get into a person’s body is by the person eating food with mycotoxins in it. This can happen if toxic mold has been growing on crops.
Many mycotoxins, for example trichothecene, remain toxic even after being cooked. This is one reason why mycotoxins are a big problem in agriculture. A binding agent is used on crops such as grain after harvesting to remove mycotoxins.
During 2004 in Kenya, 125 people died after eating maize contaminated with aflatoxin mycotoxins. There have been many cases of pets dying from eating pet food with mycotoxins in it as well.
How Long Mycotoxins are Toxic
According to experts, trichothecene mycotoxins can remain toxic for several years.
Trichothecenes are probably the most long lasting mycotoxin. Things like ultraviolet light or freezing temperatures do not have much effect on trichothecene mycotoxins.
Stephen Vesper of the Environmental Protection Agency says: “The trichothecene toxins are very stable. Again the environment matters, if stored dry, there is little loss of activity for a year.
Mycotoxin Treatment and Decontamination
Bioterrorism experts advise that a person exposed to mycotoxins should shower for a long period of time, washing himself thoroughly with soap and water. The person should also shampoo their hair as often as possible since hair can hold a large amount of mycotoxins. Ideally the person should cut their hair, the shorter the better.
Of course before you do these things you need to remove yourself from the environment where you were exposed to mycotoxins (eg. move from the house where toxic black mold is growing) and not return unless the problem has been remediated.
The Toxic Black Mold Removal page talks about removing Stachybotrys and other toxic molds from the home.
Safe Levels of Mycotoxins
In the United States the government has not yet set maximum levels for mycotoxins in the air of buildings, however some European countries have set limits.
Also the health issues that mold and toxic molds can cause are not yet officially recognized everywhere medically and many doctors are unaware of the symptoms mold can cause. However the Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged that mold growing in homes is harmful to humans and that it should be removed.
Removing Mycotoxins from Carpet
Most mycotoxins from toxic mold in houses usually end up embedded in the carpet. When you walk on the carpet you stir up many of the mycotoxin particles into the air, along with other spores and allergens. There is no way to remove all mycotoxins from carpet and the only option is for the carpet to be removed and replaced.
Vacuuming the carpet, even with a HEPA filtered vacuum, will not suck up all of the mycotoxins embedded in the carpet. And even though HEPA vacuum cleaners can trap mold spores, the smaller mycotoxins will pass through the vacuum cleaner and out the exhaust, increasing the amount of mycotoxins in the air and hence worsening your toxic reaction.
Central vacuuming systems may help to remove some mycotoxins if the air from the vacuum is exhausted outside the home, but again it will still not be able to pick up all the mycotoxins embedded in the carpet.