Are Mycotoxins Affecting You and Your Pets?
What Are Mycotoxins?
Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals that live on the spores of some mold species. These toxins are released into the air or contaminate the object in which the mold growth is infecting. These naturally occurring toxins can be found in a variety of crops when under humid conditions, like that of Southwest Florida. Cereals, nuts, spices, fruits, and even coffee beans can become contaminated with mycotoxins if not correctly treated by the harvesters. Some believe that mycotoxins die during the processing of food products. However, that is not the case. Mycotoxins are considered chemically stable compounds that can survive in harsh conditions, including food processing. The World Health Organization and Food, along with the Agriculture Organization, are the expert committees in charge of evaluating the health risks of these natural toxins.
How Mycotoxins Affect Plants
There are a plethora of species of molds or fungi. With the different species, the risk of mycotoxin contaminates differs. There are several hundred known mycotoxins. Only about a dozen have been given the spotlight due to their health effects on humans and food sources.
Aflatoxins are considered the most toxic of mycotoxins. These toxins grow in hay, soil, and decaying vegetation. These toxins affect crops that are widely ingested by humans. Grains such as corn, rice, and wheat, as well as tree nuts such as almonds, pistachio, walnut, and coconut, are in the broad population affected by Aflatoxins. Spices such as black pepper, chili peppers, ginger, turmeric, and coriander also fall into this category. It is also possible for dairy products to contain these mycotoxins as well, due to the animals that produce the dairy fed contaminated feed.
How Mycotoxins Affect Pets
Ochratoxin is a species of mycotoxins that have been proven detrimental among animal species. Contaminating a large group of food commodities such as cereals, coffee beans, fruit vines, spices, and licorice alike. Ochratoxin forms on fungal spores during the storage of most crops. The most notable damage caused by this toxin is kidney damage, poor effects on fetal development, and immune system harm. The cause of injury to humans is unclear but also thought to cause kidney damage.
When these grains and other foods mentioned above, become infected and placed into pet food, the mycotoxins begin to form before and during storage. Pet food is known to have frequent recalls due to toxins causing severe illness and potentially fatal results. Mycotoxins are a popular culprit for these contaminations and diseases. For this reason, the FDA has begun issuing strict guidance on pet food production and ingredients to help protect the health and life of pets.
Other various species of molds may become airborne and carry mycotoxins on the spores that travel. Pets and humans inhale these types of mold and mycotoxins and will cause respiratory distress.
How Mycotoxins Affect Humans
Ingesting mycotoxin contaminated plants is not the only exposure method to humans. Humans can breathe in contaminated air sources through air vents, or contaminated buildings, and begin down a road of unpleasant side effects.
Mold and Mycotoxins alike have damaging health effects on the human body. When exposed to mycotoxins, the following symptoms can become prevalent:
- Hair loss
- Fatigue or weakness
- Skin irritants or rashes
- Shortness of breath
- Asthma and allergy flare-ups
- Nausea with or without diarrhea
Many inflammatory, neurological, cognitive, and immune responses become triggered with mycotoxin exposure. If you feel you, or your pet, have been exposed to mycotoxins, consult a medical professional for further evaluation. You may also try to avoid the usual mycotoxin containing foods (corn, wheat, barley, peanuts, coffee, and some cheeses). Your family practitioner will be able to evaluate you and decide on the best plan of care.
The next step for dealing with you or your pets’ exposure to mold and mycotoxins is to obtain a mold inspection. A professional mold inspection will evaluate your home as a whole with special consideration on the problem areas of your home to determine the extent of any mold growth. Mold Inspectors of Florida specialize in the Southwest Florida territory. Contact us about setting up a mold inspection today!