Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 66, Issue 4, pp 367–372 | Cite as

Mycotoxins as harmful indoor air contaminants

  • Bruce B. JarvisEmail author
  • J. David Miller


Fungal metabolites (mycotoxins) that pose a health hazard to humans and animals have long been known to be associated with mold-contaminated food and feed. In recent times, concerns have been raised about exposures to mycotoxin-producing fungi in indoor environments, e.g., damp homes and buildings. The principal mycotoxins that contaminate food and feed (alfatoxins, fumonisins, ochratoxin A, deoxynivalenol, zearalenone) are rarely if ever found in indoor environments, but their toxicological properties provide an insight into the difficulties of assessing the health effects of related mycotoxins produced by indoor molds. Although the Penicillium and Aspergillus genera of fungi are major contaminants of both food and feed products and damp buildings, the particular species and hence the array of mycotoxins are quite different in these environments. The mycotoxins of these indoor species and less common mycotoxins from Stachybotrys and Chaetomium fungi are discussed in terms of their health effects and the need for relevant biomarkers and long-term chronic exposure studies.


Aflatoxin Zearalenone Inhalation Exposure Sterigmatocystin Stachybotrys 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Andersen B, Nielsen KF, Jarvis BB (2002) Characterisation of morphologically, chemically and physiologically different Stachybotrys species from water-damaged buildings. Mycologia 94:392–403Google Scholar
  2. Andersen B, Nielsen KF, Thrane U, Cruse M, Taylor J, Jarvis BB (2003) Stachybotrys chlorohalonata, a new species from water-damaged buildings. Mycologia 95:1228–1237Google Scholar
  3. Beardall JM, Miller JD (1989) Disease in humans with mycotoxins as possible causes. In: Miller JD, Trenholm HL (eds) Mycotoxin in grains. Compounds other than aflatoxins. Eagan, St Paul, pp 487–539Google Scholar
  4. Bennett JW, Klich M (2003) Mycotoxins. Clin Microbiol Rev 16:497–516CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Brunekreef B, Dockery DW, Speizer FE, Ware JH, Spengler JD, Ferris BH (1989) Home dampness and respiratory morbidity in children. Am Rev Respir Dis 140:1363–1367PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bucci T, Hansen DK, LaBorde JB (1996) Leucoencephalomalacia and hemorrhage in the brain of rabbits gavaged with mycotoxin fumonosin B1. Nat Toxins 4:51–52PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Cole RJ, Cox RH (1981) Handbook of toxic fungal metabolites. Academic, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Cole RJ, Schweikert MA, Jarvis BB (2003) Handbook of secondary fungal metabolites (3 vols). Academic, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Croft WA, Jarvis BB, Yatawara CS (1986) Airborne outbreak of trichothecene toxicosis. Atmos Environ 20:449–552Google Scholar
  10. Dales RE, Zwanenburg H, Burnett R, Franklin CA (1991) Respiratory health effects of home dampness and molds among children. Am J Epidemiol 134:196–293PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Dearborn DG, Yike I, Sorenson WG, Miller MJ, Etzel RA (1999) Overview of investigation into pulmonary hemorrhage among infants in Cleveland, Ohio. Environ Health Perspect 107[Suppl 3]:495–499Google Scholar
  12. Engelhart S, Loock A, Skutlarek D, Sagunski H, Lommel A, Farber H, Exner M (2002) Occurrence of toxigenic Aspergillus versicolor isolates and sterigmatocystin in carpet dust from damp indoor environments. Appl Environ Microbiol 68:3886–3890CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Flannigan B, Miller JD (2001) Microorganisms on building materials. In: Flannigan B, Samson R, Miller JD (eds) Microorganisms and indoor work environments. Taylor & Francis, London, pp 35–68Google Scholar
  14. Forgacs J (1972) Stachybotryotoxicosis. In: Kadis S, Ceigler A, Ajl SJ (eds) Microbial toxins, vol 8. Academic, New York, pp 95–128Google Scholar
  15. Frisvad, JC, Samson, RA (1991) Mycotoxins produced by species of Penicillium and Aspergillus occurring in cereals. Dev Food Sci 26:441–476Google Scholar
  16. Gelderblom WCA, Jaskiewicz K, Marasas WFO, Thiel PG (1991) Toxicity and carcinogenicity of the Fusarium moniliforme metabolite, fumonosin B1 in rats. Carcinogenesis 12:1247–1251PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Guengerich FP, Johnson WW, Shimida T, Ueng YF, Yamazaki H, Langouet S (1998) Activation and detoxification of aflatoxin B1. Mutat Res 42:121–128Google Scholar
  18. Harrison LR, Colvin BM, Greene JT, Newman LE, Cole JR Jr (1990) Pulmonary edema and hydrothorax in swine produced byfumonison B1 a toxic metabolite of Fusarium moniliforme. J Vet Diagn Invest 2:217–221PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Health Canada (2004) Fungal contamination in public buildings: health effects and investigation methods. Health Canada, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  20. Horner WE, Helbling A, Salvaggio JE, Lehrer SH (1995) Fungal allergens. Clin Microbiol Rev 8:161–179PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. IARC (1993) Some naturally occurring substances: food items and constituents, heterocyclic amines, and mycotoxins. IARC Monogr 56:489–520Google Scholar
  22. IARC (2002) Traditional herbal meds, mycotoxins, naphthalene, and styrene. (IARC Monogr 82) International Agency for Research on Cancer, ParisGoogle Scholar
  23. Jarvis BB (2003) Stachybotrys chartarum: a fungus for our time. Phytochemistry 64:53–60CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Jarvis BB, Sorenson WG, Hintikka E-L, Nikulin M, Zhou Y, Jiang J, Wang S, Hinkley S, Etzel RA, Dearborn D (1998) Study of toxin production by isolates of Stachybotrys chartarum and Memnoniella echinata isolated during a study of pulmonary hemosiderosis in infants. Appl Environ Microbiol 64:3620–3625PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. JECFA (2002) Evaluation of certain mycotoxins in food. (Joint FAO/WHO expert committee on food additives report 56) WHO Tech Rep 906Google Scholar
  26. Johanning E (1995) Health problems related to fungal exposue—the example of toxigenic Stachybotrys chartarum (atra). In: Johanning E, Yang CS (eds) Fungi and bacteria in indoor air environments. Eastern New York Occupational Health Program, Latham, pp 169–182Google Scholar
  27. Kuiper-Goodman T, Scott PM (1989) Risk assessment of the mycotoxin ochratoxin A. Biomed Environ Sci 2:179–228PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Kurtz HJ, Mirocha J (1978) Zearalenone (F2)induced estrogenic syndrome in swine. In: Wyllie TD, Morehouse LG (eds) Mycotoxic fungi, mycotoxins, mycotoxicoses, vol 2. Dekker, New York, pp 1256–1264Google Scholar
  29. Marasas WFO, Kellerman TS, Gelderblom WCA, Coetzer JAW, Thiel PG, Van Der Lugt JJ (1988) Leucoencephalomalacia in hose induced by fumonosin B1 isolated from Fusarium moniliforme. Onderstepoort J Vet Res 55:197–203PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Meky FA, Turner PC, Ashcroft AE, Miller JD, Qiao YL, Roth ML, Wild CP (2002) Development of a urinary biomarker of human exposure to deoxynivalenol. Food Chem Toxicol 41:265–273Google Scholar
  31. Miller JD (1995) Fungi and mycotoxins in grain: implications for stored product research. J Stored Prod Res 31:1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Miller JD (1999) Mycotoxins. In: Francis FJ (ed) Encyclopedia of food science and technology. Wiley, New York, pp 1698–1706Google Scholar
  33. Miller JD, Day JD (1997) Indoor mold exposure: epidemiology, consequences and immunothapy. Can J Allergy Clin Immunol 2:25–32Google Scholar
  34. Miller JD, Jarvis BB, Rand TG (2003) Stachybotrys chartarum: cause of human disease or media darling? Med Mycol 41:271–291CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Montana E, Etzel R, Allan T, Horgan T, Dearborn D (1997) Environmental risk factors associated with pediatric idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage and hemosiderosis in a Cleveland community. Pediatrics 99:e5, Scholar
  36. National Academy of Sciences (2004) Damp indoor spaces and health. National Academies, Washington, D.C., http://www.nap.eduGoogle Scholar
  37. Nielsen KF (2002) Mold growth on building materials. Secondary metabolites, mycotoxins and biomarkers. PhD thesis, Technical University of Denmark, BioCentrum-DTU,
  38. Nielsen KF (2003) Mycotoxin production by indoor molds. Fungal Genet Biol 39:103–198CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Nielsen KF, Holm G, Uttrup LP, Nielsen PA (2004) Mould growth on building materials under low water activities. Influence of humidity and temperature on fungal growth and secondary metabolism. Internat Biodeter Biodegrad (in press)Google Scholar
  40. Nolard N (1997) Moulds and respiratory allergies. Expressions 5:7–9Google Scholar
  41. Ross RK, Yuan JM, Yu MC, Wogan GN, Qian GS, Tu JT, Groopman J, Gao YT, Henderson BE (1992) Urinary aflatoxin biomarkers and risk of heptocellular carcinoma. Lancet 339:1413–1414Google Scholar
  42. Rotter BA, Prelusky DB, Pestka JJ (1996) J Toxicol Environ Health 48:1–34CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Rylander R, Lin RH (2000) (1-3)-β-d-Glucan—relationship to indoor air-related symptoms, allergy and asthma. Toxicology 152:47–52CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Samson RA (1999) Ecology, detection and identification problems of moulds in indoor environments. In: Johanning E, Yang CS (eds) Bioaerosols, fungi, and mycotoxins: health effects, assessment, prevention, and control. Boyd, Albany, pp 33–37Google Scholar
  45. Sheldon BG, Kirkland KH, Flanders WD, Morris GK (2002) Profiles of airborne fungi in buildings and outdoor environments in the United States. Appl Environ Microbiol 68:1743–1753CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Spengler JD, Neas L, Nakai S, Dockery D, Speizer F, Ware J, Raizenne M (1994) Respiratory symptoms and housing characteristics. Indoor Air 4:72–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sydenham EW, Shephard GS, Thiel PG, Marasas, WFO, Stockenstrom S (1991) Fumonision contamination of commercial corn-based human foodstuffs. J Agric Food Chem 39:2014–2018Google Scholar
  48. Thorn J, Beijer L, Rylander R (2001) Effects after inhalation of (1-3)-β-d-glucan in healthy humans. Mediators Inflamm 10:173–178CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Turner PC, Nikiema P, Wild CP (1999) Fumonisin contamination of food: progress in development of biomarkers to better assess human health risks. Mutat Res 443:81–93CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Willment JA, Gordon S, Brown GD (2001) Characterization of the human beta-glucan receptor and its alternatively spliced isoforms. J Biol Chem 276:43818–43823CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Wilson DM, Mubatanhema W, Jurjevic Z (2002) Biology and ecology of mycotoxigenic Aspergillus species as related to economic and health concerns. Adv Exp Med Biol 504:3–17PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Yabe K, Nakajima H (2004) Enzyme reactions and genes in aflatoxin biosynthesis. Appl Microbiol Biotechol 64:745–755CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and BiochemistryUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations