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Global Indoor Health Network 

Cross Contamination

Cross Contamination
Cross contamination is an important concept because people who have been exposed to toxic mold can cross-contaminate their homes.  This can occur if you take contaminated personal items from one house to another or if you carry the contaminants on your hair and body from contaminated buildings.

Due to the size and weight of fungi particulates, air currents and vibrations, these contaminants are spread quite easily throughout the structure. In addition to attaching itself to clothing, hair and skin (from normal daily activities), the fungal matter can be transported onto every surface. This includes furniture, electronics, clothing and other household material possessions. 

Computers especially get contaminated as their cooling fans pull in the spores and toxins. 

Vacuuming without a HEPA filter also spreads the contaminants, because the spores are spread through the air.

Another source of cross contamination occurs when mold remediation is done incorrectly.  Quite often, industry guidelines for mold remediation are not followed.  In addition, some "so-called mold remediators" will spread the contamination by blowing the contaminants throughout the structure and the HVAC system by using fans and not following the proper containment procedures.

A key issue that is often overlooked in these situations are the nano particulates. These contain 1, 3-Beta-D-glucans, fungal antigens and mycotoxins. They can usually be found during tests of  the HVAC system and the ventilation ducts.

Dr. Jack Thrasher, PhD toxicologist, states:

The toxins produced by mold are basically free radicals, i.e. they have reactive oxygen radicals that bind to fabrics and can be released with time. Also, not only Stachybotrys, but other dangerous molds release fine particles as well as larger particles, e.g. spores. The fine particles (less than 1 micron) permeate fabrics and are not readily removed. In addition, the mold spores bind to fabrics and can lead to cross-contamination of the new environment.

The following statement is from a 2009 study titled "Size-fractionated (1→3)-β-D-glucan concentrations aerosolized from different moldy building materials" presented in the publication "Science of the Total Environment."

The present study indicates that long-term mold damage in buildings may increase the contribution of submicrometer-sized fungal fragments to the overall mold exposure. The health impact of these particles may be even greater than that of spores, considering the strong association between numbers of fine particles and adverse health effects reported in other studies (Gold et al, 2000; Magari et al, 2001, 2002; Pekkanen et al, 2002).

The Paradigm Change organization found  the following:

Of those individuals who have gone on a mold avoidance sabbatical, the vast majority (80-90%) have reported that their own home and belongings were peculiarly problematic for them upon re-exposure.

Specifically, a very high percentage have reported being much more negatively affected by just the cross-contamination of their belongings than by the vast majority of buildings they have subsequently visited.

In addition, almost all of these individuals have reported that it has been extremely difficult or impossible to clean these particularly affected items to the point where they did not prompt a reaction, regardless of what cleaning methods they tried.

Clothing and plastic items have been frequently reported by these mold avoiders as having been impossible to remediate to their satisfaction.

Metal, glass and ceramic items seem to have somewhat higher of a success rate, but in some cases these have been reported as being non-reclaimable as well.
Cross Contamination of Toxic Mold

Cross contamination and toxic mold


Provided below are excerpts from other peer-reviewed papers highlighting this concern.

Hope J H, Hope BE. A review of diagnosis and treatment of ochratoxin A inhalational exposure associated with human kidney disease including focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. J Environmental Public Health. 2011. Article ID 835059, 10 pages.

Unfortunately, in the case of exposures to mycotoxins including ochratoxin, it is imperative to address issues of cross contamination of items exposed to water-damaged/mold-contaminated environment. Mycotoxins are very difficult to destroy and travel readily on fine, often submicron-sized particles making simple spore testing inadequate for determining the presence of mycotoxins. Thus, a thorough approach is needed to address contamination of items exposed to water-damaged environments to avoid continued exposure to mycotoxins including ochratoxin through these items even if the building is no longer a source of exposure.

Thrasher JD, Crawley S. The biocontaminants and complexity of damp indoor spaces: more than what meets the eyes. Toxicology and Industrial Health 2009; 25(9-10) 583–615.

Colonies of fungi and bacteria shed particulates into the indoor air ranging from nanoparticles to 9 mm or larger. For convenience of this discussion, the particulates will be divided into large and small particle fractions. The larger particles are >2 mm consisting of spores and hyphal fragments. They contain mycotoxins, antigenic material, enzymes, haemolysins and other potentially toxic metabolites with adverse effects on the lungs of mice and rats. Hyphal fragments of S. chartarum and other genera of molds probably caused pulmonary bleeding in infants (Dearborn et al, 2002; Etzel et al, 1998; Flappan et al, 1999; Novotny and Dixit, 2000). S. chartarum was isolated from the lung of a child with pulmonary bleeding and haemosiderosis (Elidemer et al, 1999).

The shedding of fine particles (<2 mm) from fungal and bacterial growth results from human activity, e.g. radio, TV, talking, walking, etc., which creates vibrations at frequencies from 1 to 20 Hz and air movement (Gorny, 2004; Gorny et al, 2002). The vibrations along with air velocity release spores, hyphal fragments, and fine particulates. The fine particles are up to 320 times more numerous than the large particulates, depending upon mold species and velocity of air. Furthermore, the fine particulates also contain biocontaminants (mycotoxins, endotoxins, antigens, haemolysin, etc.) produced by fungi and bacteria (Brasel, et al, 2004, 2005a,b; Van Emon et al, 2003) and are immunogenic (Gorny, 2004).
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