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Mycotoxin Testing: Power Up Your Health & Combat Toxic Mold

Three photos of the different mycotoxin testing categories

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In this article, we will delve into the importance of testing for mycotoxins to ensure our well-being, peace of mind, and protection from the chemical byproducts of mold. Mycotoxin testing can be divided into three categories: environmental (air and surface), biological (urine and blood), and agricultural (food and feed). We will explore the benefits, drawbacks, and practical applications of each type of mycotoxin test. By utilizing these identification tools, you can pinpoint the source of mycotoxin-related illnesses, enabling you to seek the appropriate treatments for recovery.

What are Mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are chemical byproducts produced by molds and fungi as a defense mechanism against competing organisms vying for resources. These chemical substances can contaminate air quality, surfaces, and various food items like grains, nuts, and spices. Both humans and animals are susceptible to the effects of mycotoxins which can lead to a range of health issues from poisoning to long-term repercussions. They have been classified as known carcinogens and have a reputation for causing neurological and neuropsychiatric signs and symptoms.

Black mold fungi Aspergillus which produce aflatoxins and cause pulmonary infection aspergillosis isolated on white background. 3D illustration
Dr_Microbe. “Fungi Aspergillus, black mold which produce aflatoxins and cause pulmonary infection aspergillosis, 3D illustration.” Adobe Stock, 02-21-24, #123048503

What is Mycotoxin Testing?

Mycotoxin testing is incredibly important as it involves analyzing air, surfaces, food products, animal feed, and even urine or blood samples to identify the existence of these harmful chemical byproducts produced by molds. This testing plays a role in ensuring the safety of our homes, buildings, food items, and animal feed.

The Significance of Mycotoxin Testing

Mycotoxin testing holds significance in promoting the safety of both our living environment and the food products we consume. In the United States, there are heavy regulations within the food and feed industry to control mycotoxin consumption. The FDA has established standards for the permissible levels of mycotoxins in food items and animal feed to prevent harmful exposure. Accordingly, food producers and farmers must adhere to these regulations to ensure that their products either meet or fall below the FDA’s strict threshold for mycotoxins. However, it’s concerning to note that there are presently no regulations addressing indoor environments containing mycotoxins in the United States. Despite their presence in indoor air and on surfaces, no requirement for testing or monitoring their existence exists. This poses a major concern for public health since exposure to mycotoxins, through inhalation or direct contact, can lead to very serious health complications. Hence it becomes vital to increase awareness regarding the significance of conducting tests for mycotoxins, in air and on surfaces and to advocate for regulations that foster wholesome living environments. 

The Three Categories of Mycotoxin Testing: Environmental, Biological, and Agricultural

Mycotoxin testing can be classified into three categories; environmental, biological, and agricultural. Each testing approach aims to identify risks and help implement measures to minimize exposure to mold-produced mycotoxins. In the sections that follow, we will delve into the distinctions between these three types of mycotoxin testing categories, their specific applications, and their overall objectives. With this information, you can make an educated choice about which method of mycotoxin testing is most aligned with your specific needs to seek the appropriate solutions.

Image of Mycotoxin Testing Equipment Sampling Air for Accurate Results
Jay-Zynism. “Air conditioner blowing cold air in the room.” Getty Images, 02-21-24, https://www.canva.com/photos/MADtNynAzD8/

Environmental Mycotoxin Testing:
Air and Surfaces

Advantages:

  • Environmental mycotoxin testing effectively detects mycotoxins commonly found in the indoor air and on surfaces that pose a threat to human health.
  • By identifying the presence of mycotoxins in a home or building, appropriate measures can be taken to remove the toxic chemical(s) to minimize exposure.
  • This method of mycotoxin testing helps evaluate the effectiveness of the mold/mycotoxin remediation efforts conducted by the environmental professional you work with. It ensures that not only has the mold issue been resolved, but the problem of mycotoxins as well. Please note that mold and mycotoxins are two separate entities that require specific treatment and remediation.
  • To ensure the safety of the air you breathe, air testing helps detect mycotoxins in your breathing zone to effectively identify your inhalation risk.
  • Testing for environmental mycotoxins can help determine if your home or building is the source of your symptoms, narrowing down the root cause of your mycotoxin exposure
 

Disadvantages: 

  • Environmental testing for mycotoxins can be expensive, particularly if multiple samples need to be taken in a building or home. 
  • Although taking multiple samples can result in added expenses, it can ultimately lower the cost of mycotoxin remediation by identifying areas with high levels.
    Using Respirare Labs AMEA (Airborne Mycotoxin Environmental Analysis) after mycotoxin remediation can ensure the work was done correctly and provide peace of mind that residual mycotoxins are not present
 

Use Case:

A homeowner has been experiencing health problems, such as difficulty breathing, headaches, and fatigue. They notice mold growth in their bathroom and suspect that it might be the cause of their adverse symptoms. Concerned about their well-being and the safety of their loved ones, they decided to hire a company that specializes in environmental mycotoxin testing. The objective is to assess the air and surfaces in their home to determine its current mycotoxin state and quality. The company collected samples from both the air and various surfaces in areas of the house including the bathroom where they spotted mold growth. These samples were then sent to Respirare Labs for analysis, which revealed levels of chemical mold byproducts called mycotoxins in both the air and on different surfaces throughout their home. Armed with this information, the homeowner can now take targeted action to address both the mold issue and the presence of mycotoxins. Additionally, they also chose to conduct post-remediation clearance testing for mycotoxins to ensure that any elevated levels have been completely resolved after remediation measures were taken. Moreover, these laboratory results hold great value as they can help healthcare providers better understand any symptoms experienced by individuals living in a contaminated environment while also determining appropriate treatment options, for the homeowner and their family. To safeguard their well-being and maintain a healthy living space, homeowners should implement measures to detect, remove, and eliminate sources of mycotoxin exposure in their living spaces.

Urine analysis cup for mycotoxin testing - Accurate and reliable results
Olive, Edward. “Urine Sample Test Cup.” Canva, 02-21-24, https://www.canva.com/photos/MADIr3wROJY/

Biological Mycotoxin Testing: Urine and Blood

Advantages:

  • Performing tests to detect mycotoxins in the body is a method for determining if these harmful substances are present. This testing can be valuable in identifying health-related concerns and supporting the healing process.
  • Urine and blood tests are commonly utilized when there is suspicion of dietary mycotoxin exposure from food consumption by the individual. This makes them a crucial tool for diagnosing and managing cases effectively.
  • Healthcare professionals can evaluate the extent of mycotoxin exposure and create treatment plans for affected individuals by detecting these toxins in biological samples.

 

Disadvantages:

  • Unfortunately, biological mycotoxin testing can be quite costly and time-consuming making it less accessible for individuals who may not have the means or convenient access to it.
  • It’s important to note that biological mycotoxin testing only provides information about the levels of exposure to these toxins in the body. It cannot determine whether this exposure resulted from indoor environmental factors or dietary intake.
  • While this type of testing assists in identifying the presence of mycotoxins within the body it may not always pinpoint the source of exposure. As a result, targeted preventive measures can be challenging to implement.
  • Mycotoxin exposure is more likely to come from the environment, and urine sampling only shows what the body is expelling, not necessarily the extent of exposure.
  • It is important to note that urine mycotoxin tests are not approved by the FDA for accuracy or for clinical use.

 

Use Case:

A homeowner has been experiencing adverse health symptoms like headaches and respiratory issues and suspects that their indoor environment might be the cause. To investigate further, they decide to conduct an air and surface test within their home. However, all results come back indicating below detectable levels. Consequently, they contact their healthcare provider to discuss their symptoms in detail. The healthcare provider suggests conducting a blood and urine test to determine if mycotoxins are a resulting factor for their symptoms. The test reveals elevated levels of mycotoxins present in their system. The healthcare provider makes an informed decision and creates a treatment plan that involves making changes to the homeowner’s diet and providing supplements to assist with healing and recovery. Taking these steps to determine the source of mycotoxin exposure can quickly aid and elevate an individual recovery.

Image of corn with mold on it, highlighting the importance of mycotoxin testing for food safety and quality control.
Jay-Zynism. “corn rot,The fungi A. flavus and A. parasiticus producer of mycotoxin in corn used for food and animal feed in storage.” Canva, 02-21-24, https://www.canva.com/photos/MAD6SvRIuUM/

Agricultural Mycotoxin Testing:
Food and Feed

Advantages:

  • Agricultural mycotoxin testing in food and feed samples is a way to ensure the safety of products that are meant to be consumed. 
  • By detecting these chemical poisons, we can take precautions to reduce the risk of dietary exposure to mycotoxins produced by molds. 
  • This kind of testing also plays a vital role in meeting FDA regulations and maintaining trust among consumers within the food and agriculture industry.

 

Disadvantages:

  • The mycotoxin testing process can be time-consuming potentially delaying the release of food products into the market.

 

Use Case:

To ensure the safety of their products before they hit the market a food manufacturer is required to conduct mycotoxin testing. This testing helps them identify and measure the levels of mycotoxins in their food and feed samples. Taking this step not only prevents consumers from consuming contaminated products but also ensures compliance with FDA regulations. If they do not meet regulatory standards, their crops and products are destroyed. While testing may require time and incur costs, the advantages it brings in terms of safety and adherence outweigh any drawbacks.

Conclusion

In summary, it is crucial to conduct mycotoxin testing to ensure the safety of indoor environments and the food products we consume. Each mycotoxin testing approach aims to recognize risks and implement measures that minimize our exposure levels to mycotoxins. Although each type of testing has its advantages, disadvantages, and purpose, the ultimate objective is to safeguard individuals’ well-being and detect any health-related concerns associated with toxic mold. By adopting and understanding the different mycotoxin testing tools, taking informed action, and pinpointing the source of mycotoxin exposure, we can establish a healthier lifestyle for ourselves and our loved ones.

References

  1. Kawamoto M, Page E; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Notes from the field: Use of unvalidated urine mycotoxin tests for the clinical diagnosis of illness–United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015 Feb 20;64(6):157-8. PMID: 25695323; PMCID: PMC4584707.
  2. Nutrition, C. for F. S. and A. (2022). Mycotoxins. FDA. https://www.fda.gov/food/natural-toxins-food/mycotoxins
  3. Mycotoxins. (2018, May 9). www.who.int. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mycotoxins#:~:text=Mycotoxins%20ar%20naturally%20occurring%20toxins 
  4. Pleadin J, Frece J, Markov K. Mycotoxins in food and feed. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2019;89:297-345. doi: 10.1016/bs.afnr.2019.02.007. Epub 2019 Mar 6. PMID: 31351529.

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