Fungi and Disease

Some Topics

Economics and Politics of Mold

Concern about mold-related illness in homes and offices has increased well beyond the scientific knowledge. Molds are found everywhere. The abundance and variety of molds pose difficulties both for the understanding of mold presence and for the evaluation of the risk of disease. Often mold contamination of buildings leads to expensive attempts to restore buildings, insurance claims and court battles

There are unresolved issues. For example:

1. Airborne fungal diseases are difficult to diagnose and it is reasonable to believe that many suffer and even die of fungal allergy and infections without the benefit of proper diagnosis and treatment.

2. Buildings are often poorly ventilated, poorly constructed or infiltrated by water and support mold growth.

3. Ill defined illnesses are often blamed on molds without an understanding of the ubiquity of mold growth. Medical doctors have little or no ability to evaluate indoor mold-related symptoms. Insurance claims and court hearings cannot be resolved with medical evidence and environmental assessments are seldom definitive.

Montanaro reported: The potential human effects of mold exposure have led to a new legal industry with devastating impact on the insurance industry... claims for mold-related problems has tremendous impact on the insurance industry, with more than 1.3 billion dollars spent in 2002 to settle lawsuits and mold-related damages. Unfortunately, the response from the insurance industry has clearly been to settle cases and to attempt to no longer put themselves at risk of covering potential mold-related damages. Recently, the State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company has attempted to eliminate coverage from mold-related damages in 33 states. “

Some molds receive a lot publicity such as Stachybotyrs or “ toxic black mold."This mold is found everywhere and half of all blood donors have antibodies to it. When air samples are cultured for mold growth, spore densities in home often range from 400 to 1000. On farms, mold spore density can be in the millions per cubic meter of air In hospitals up to 48 pathogenic species were identified with an average fungal density of 124 to 485per cubic meter.

The most common airborne fungi, both indoors and outdoors were Cladosporium, Penicillium, nonsporulating fungi, and Aspergillus. Stachybotrys chartarum was identified in the indoor air in 6% of the buildings studied and in the outdoor air around 1% of the buildings studied.

See Fungal Contamination of Buildings

Fungi Everywhere

A profusion of fungi exists in the environment. Some fungi are able to cause an invasive infection in otherwise healthy individuals. Other fungi are opportunistic fungi that become invasive when immune defenses are compromised. Diagnosis of fungal infection is difficult. There are many problems when you try to connect a test result to a disease. Fungi are so abundant and there are so many varieties in every environment that it is seldom easy to pick just one cause among many. Fungi are inhaled and ingested. Foods always contain fungal spores and actively growing molds. Attempts to culture fungi often fail; only a small number grow in the culture media commonly used. Some new methods of detecting fungal DNA may be useful but development of reliable tests is slow and expensive.

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