Mycotoxins, as Defined by OSHA

Mycotoxins are metabolic by-products produced by some molds that can cause toxic reactions in humans or animals.

Some mycotoxins are concentrated on or within mold spores.

Mycotoxins may be hazardous through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact. The most well-known and studied mycotoxin is aflatoxin.

…Aflatoxin is one of the most potent liver carcinogens known and has been found on contaminated peanuts, grains, and other human and animal foodstuffs.

A wide variety of molds, even some of the most commonly found molds that are generally considered harmless, are capable of producing mycotoxins. Some molds can produce several mycotoxins.

Mycotoxin production varies widely depending on the species and growth conditions, such as availability of nutrients, the suitability of the surface on which growth can take place, environmental factors (e.g., relative humidity, temperature, light, oxygen, and carbon dioxide), the season, maturity of the fungal colony, and competition with other microorganisms.

The presence of mycotoxin-producing mold in a building does not necessarily mean that mycotoxins are present or that building occupants have been exposed to mycotoxins.

Mycotoxins are generally not volatile (i.e., do not become airborne easily), and according to recent studies, mycotoxins have not been shown to cause health problems for occupants at concentrations usually seen in residential or commercial buildings.

Adverse health effects that may be due in part to mycotoxins have been reported to occur among agricultural workers. However, these effects are due to the inhalation of very high levels of molds (e.g., in silage and spoiled grain products) that are orders of magnitude greater than the typical exposures that might be seen when mold is found growing in the indoor environment.

This definition is as provided and published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

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