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How dangerous is mold in the home?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Mold is an indoor pollutant that's gotten a lot of press lately and perhaps for good reason. While there is much research yet to be done, there is growing concern over mold endotoxins (mold, dust mite or other small and inhalable "body parts") and mycotoxins (biochemical toxins produced by molds to weaken or kill the things they live on or compete with).

While the indoor air quality community debates whether or not "toxic mold" is a real problem or not, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and veterinary doctors everywhere very much worry about the ingestion of mycotoxins by humans and animals. There are a large number of mycotoxins that are proven carcinogens when ingested in quantity and a few most recent studies have shown that when inhaled, these toxins are at least ten times more potent. Perhaps the most sobering fact is that two mycotoxins -- aflatoxin and the Tricothecene T-2, are considered by the U.S. military to be among the most likely biochemical warfare agents to be used by terrorists. A large body of data exists proving that animals when exposed to large quantities of mycotoxin over a short amount of time suffer greatly; however, little data exists concerning the low-dose, long-duration exposure to these particles. It took over 17 years to find that one of these mycrotoxin molds -- aflatoxin that grows on peanut shells -- could cause liver cancer.

These are difficult causes to determine -- for example if the mold that breads on Roquetfort cheese caused cancer in one of 20 people eating a certain level of it 20 years later, it would be difficult to attribute such to that mold. Therefore, the data are still too sparse for us to be able to say clearly how much aging mold and mold toxins cause. I believe we will find this to be a significant source of human disease (including autoimmune disease) and aging. Obviously, indoor mold that is airborne can cause disability and aging. So, you want to ensure that places where you spend a lot of time are free of mold.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.