That’s right. You will find a number of articles out there in journals and on web pages which deny that mold toxicity can make anyone sick. While some just blatantly call you crazy for thinking such non-sense, others attempt a measure of scientific propriety. They walk through examples and mechanisms and a variety of studies to make their case that such a varied group of symptoms could not be caused by one trigger like a mold toxin. One particular article will seem particularly disheartening until you learn that it has at least one Achilles heel or major weakness.
If you happen to be one of the unfortunate persons who becomes sick after an exposure to mold in a water damaged building, you may have an article from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology thrown at you. From the summary abstract, this article claims to provide a “state-of-the-art review” of mold’s role in health. The authors emphasize that they will separate proven from unproven science about the effects of mold on human health.
In order to maintain a semblance of scientific propriety, they summarize the various health conditions affected by mold. These mainstream medicine accepted diseases include eczema, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, and some common fungal infections. They then consider toxicity caused by ingestion or inhalation of mold toxins. The primary Achilles heel is still invisible.
They give a quick mention that ingestion of mycotoxins can be a problem in animal husbandry but that with governmental regulation, that risk is negligible for humans. They then move on to discount the effects of mycotoxin inhalation by saying that the amounts we breathe in a building are insufficient to cause disease. They appeal to the authority of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine to support their own assertion that inhaled mycotoxins do not cause disease.
Having stated in one section that mycotoxins don’t aerosolize, they then admit that molds make some volatile compounds which do aerosolize. They don’t believe the amount is sufficient to cause health issues however. They cite a few supportive studies without much detail. Still this is not their Achilles heel.
They work through their denial that mold toxins can make anyone either immune-suppressed nor cause autoimmune conditions. With their denial, they confidently assert that no testing for immune function should be done on patients claiming mold toxicity symptoms. They follow that up with unsupported opinions that environmental testing should not be performed as the findings do not matter given their prior denials of mold’s health effects.
With all this in mind, there are several weaknesses in their article and one huge flaw. The weaknesses include these points. First, they provide only a few references and ignores dozens, if not hundreds of studies showing health effects from mold toxins in animals and humans. For the supportive studies they cite, they do not explain them sufficiently to know if they truly support their own claims. For their claims that mold toxins do not affect the average person, they do not consider for even a moment that some genetically prone individuals could be adversely affected more so than the average person. For their claims that mold toxins do not aerosolize and thus cannot be inhaled, they completely missed the article by Hooper et al noted below which proved that mold toxins could be found in urine samples from patients exposed to water damaged buildings. These weaknesses are enough to make this a weak paper, but the last issue is still hidden.
What makes this not only an inadequate and misleading paper, but a slight of hand? First, the original article did not list the conflicts of interest for its authors. For any published article, the authors are expected to publicly present potential biases. For example, if a researcher received a large grant from a drug company, there is potential bias to influence them to publish favorable results for that company. In the case of this paper, two authors had major potential biases. Both A. Saxon and A. Terr have served as paid expert witnesses defending against mold related litigation. Yes, an article that will likely be used by other experts to disprove mold toxicity was partially written by two experts who get paid to disprove mold toxicity.
Of course, someone did point this little dirty secret out and the journal did publish a correction. I must say that I am very disappointed in the correction however. As of August 24th, their site still offers reading of the original article for free, but you will only see the corrected listing of the authors’ conflicts of interest by clicking a “linked articles”. Unless you click on that link at the bottom of the page, you will NEVER see this dirty little secret.
What can we learn from this? We can learn to discern by simple critical thinking skills. Don’t be wowed and persuaded by what appears to be scientific propriety. Take the time to study what is said AND who is saying it. There is often more between then lines in an article than in the article itself. Being a functional MD requires this practice of discernment. Being a patient who wants to restore a healthier more abundant life requires this as well.
The medical effects of mold exposure. Bush, Robert K. et al. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 117, Issue 2, 326 – 333. https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(03)02676-9/fulltext#articleInformation. Accessed 8/24/2020.
Correction Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 117, Issue 6, 1373. https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(06)00921-3/fulltext Accessed 8/24/2020
Hooper et al showing mold toxins in exposed persons’ urine:
Hooper, Dennis G et al. “Mycotoxin detection in human samples from patients exposed to environmental molds.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 10,4 1465-75. 1 Apr. 2009, doi:10.3390/ijms10041465
Governmental Studies and Support References from the Article
Committee on Damp Indoor Spaces and Health. Board of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Damp indoor spaces and health. The National Academies Press, Washington (DC)2004
Committee on the Assessment of Asthma and Indoor Air. Division of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Institute of Medicine. Clearing the air: asthma and indoor air exposure. The National Academy Press, Washington (DC)2002
US Department of Labor, OSHA. A brief guide to mold in the work place. Available at: http://www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib101003.html. Accessed December 12, 2005.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.