TAAIS Position Statement: Toxic Mold
Despite the sensational stories in the press over past few years, both the lay and the scientific community should carefully examine the scientific literature and weigh all factors before concluding that toxic reactions to mold is a pervasive problem.
There is no doubt that mold causes human disease and, in fact, many individuals have allergies to a multitude of molds and there are some fungi which have the potential to be a cause of infection. But the issue of illness secondary to the mycotoxin from Stachybotrys is less well-established.
According to many experts reporting in the medical literature, Stachybotrys has not been proven to cause verifiable disease in any individual, including those whose immune systems are suppressed such as transplant recipients, patients on chemotherapy and AIDS patients.
It is important to examine publications that address the Stachybotrys mold issue. Harriet A. Burge, PhD from the Harvard School of Public Health published a medical review entitled, "Fungi: Toxic Killers or Unavoidable Nuisances?" (Ann Allergy, Asthma & Immunol, Dec 2001, Vol 87, number 6, supplement, 52-56). Dr. Burge states that her "review yielded many studies of the role of fungi in allergic disease, but none that systematically documented a role for mycotoxins or fungal volatiles." Her review concluded that the primary result from fungal exposure is allergic disease, and that the evidence for inhalation disease resulting from mycotoxin exposure is "extremely weak." Abba I. Terr, MD from Stanford University wrote a review in the same journal entitled, "Stachybotrys: Relevance to Human Disease." Dr. Terr states in his review that "published reports fail to establish inhalation of Stachybotrys spores as a cause of human disease even in water-damaged buildings" although he does concede that ingestion of food prepared from Stachybotrys-contaminated grains may cause a toxic gastroenteritis.
It is the recommendation of the Texas Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Society that the scientific community should systematically answer the following questions to prevent the public, insurance companies, and the legal profession from over-reacting to this issue that most likely does not pose a significant public health risk, but has the potential to cost society millions of dollars in remediation costs and legal fees.
It is the opinion of the Texas Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Society that the following questions need to be better answered using the objective illumination of science rather than the hysteria of misguided public opinion:
- - What scientific data are there to incriminate environmental exposure to fungal toxins in the home, in the workplace, and in the schools as a cause of human disease?
- - What are the areas in which there are not sufficient scientific data to make an objective assessment?
- - What are the psychological factors which might contribute to the perception of this being a problem (e.g. mass hysteria, secondary gain and even primary gain)?
- - What is the economic impact resulting from a perceived community problem with "toxic mold"?
- - What course of action should the responsible scientific community take to address this issue?
The Texas Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Society (TAAIS) is a group of more than 220 board-certified Allergists/Immunologists in Texas.
An Allergist/Immunologist is a physician, usually an Internist or Pediatrician, who has had special training and experience in the field of Allergy and Immunology and who is considered to be an expert in the diagnosis and management of immune system disorders such as asthma, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), eczema, urticaria (hives), drug reactions, food allergies, immune deficiencies, and all general aspects of anaphylaxis.
A Board Certified Allergist/Immunologist is a physician who has passed the certifying examination of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. A list of Board Certified Allergists can be found here. Those with “ABAI” under Board Certification are Board Certified Allergists/Immunologist.