Providing protective clothing for mold removal seems like a commonsense practice for responsible business professionals. Most industry leaders follow health and safety guidelines with an understanding that to keep valued employees safe, personal protective equipment (PPE) is a necessity.
But an under-diagnosed byproduct of mold growth continues to afflict hard-working community members in the remediation and agricultural sectors. Industry leaders who fully grasp the gravity of “mycotoxins” can make more informed decisions about proper PPE for mold remediation and its danger to agricultural workers.
What are Mycotoxins?
The term “Mycotoxin” refers to a wide range of naturally occurring chemical compounds produced by fungi, usually mold. As mold grows, it creates substances that can negatively impact the health of humans and livestock in residential, agricultural, and food processing environments.
When hazardous mold growth spreads behind walls and under floorboards of residential and commercial buildings, the presence of mycotoxins jeopardizes the health of community members.
Mycotoxins can prove fatal when people inadvertently eat tainted foods, absorb the chemicals through skin contact, or inhale airborne particles. Even a seemingly small amount can result in a poisoning referred to as mycotoxicosis.
What heightens the danger of these hazardous substances stems from the fact they are generally resistant to common removal efforts such as heat and topical cleaning. Mycotoxins have a sticky composition, allowing them to cling to structures and food sources through the supply chain and distribution.
Cleaning and restoration specialists often find mycotoxin removal frustrating because reliable equipment such as a HEPA vacuum struggles to eliminate the health risk. While the presence of mycotoxins places people in the environment at risk, remediation efforts put workers at increased danger of suffering serious health problems.
What are the Health Effects of Mycotoxins?
After infants and young children suffered debilitating mold-related illnesses in Cleveland during the 1990s, public health officials became increasingly aware of the dangers associated with mycotoxins. While some contested that limited reactions stemmed from mold sensitivity, researchers appear to have proven mycotoxins can negatively affect the health of immune-compromised people, those who possess a physical sensitivity, and otherwise perfectly healthy community members.
A study called “Adverse Health Effects of Indoor Molds” indicated the general public — not select individuals — remains at risk when mold and fungi produce mycotoxins. That’s why it’s essential for everyday people, farm workers, and remediation specialists to undergo mycotoxin testing should the following symptoms occur:
- Ongoing Headaches
- Unexplained Sneezing or Runny Nose
- Bloodshot Eyes or Rashes
- Chronic Fatigue
- Difficulty Digesting Proteins
- An Increase in Asthma Attacks
- Irritated Throat or Lung Inflammation
Mycotoxins testing remains a non-invasive procedure that can be conducted at most laboratories. Affected community members typically provide a urine sample or a nasal swab sample. In some cases, doctors may deem it necessary to collect a tissue sample. Those who work in mycotoxin remediation, agriculture, and food processing remain at increased risk. One of the under-diagnosed and problematic conditions associated with mycotoxins involves chronic mold sensitivity.
What is Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome?
Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, often referred to simply as CIRS, involves biotoxins triggering an immune dysfunction response. The condition came to light during the late-1990s when Ritchie Shoemaker, MD, a Maryland physician, published a study indicating biotoxin exposure was a root cause of a “complex, multi-system, multi-symptom illness.” Decades of research support the conclusion that mycotoxins are a driving force in this often-misdiagnosed condition.
People who suffer from CIRS commonly receive a diagnosis involving depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, Lyme Disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, or Parkinsonism.
When sufferers are treated for these or other conditions that carry symptoms consistent with CIRS, their conditions worsen, and continued exposure could prove fatal, particularly for people who work in mycotoxin remediation, agriculture, and food processing.
Another factor that has frustrated the process leading to appropriate CIRS diagnosis and treatment involves genetic predisposition. Research points to upwards of 24 percent of the populations carrying genetic markers that make them more susceptible to mycotoxins prompting an immune dysfunction response.
In practical terms, this means one in four co-workers exposed to biotoxins are likely to experience an immediate adverse reaction. However, genetic predisposition does not exempt others from developing mycotoxin sensitivity from exposure to these dangerous molds, especially with repeated exposure.
Understanding the Risk of Mold Sensitization
Although a quarter of the population generally has an immune dysfunction response, the other three-quarters remain at risk of slow sensitivity or an unanticipated allergic reaction. Following an allergic response to mycotoxin exposure, workers usually suffer lowered resistance.
The body generally cannot process these biotoxins effectively and now-compromised mycotoxin remediation specialists, and those who are exposed in other sectors, are vulnerable to debilitating health conditions.
Equipment and Remediation Strategies for Mycotoxin Control
Mycotoxin remediation specialists and those working in environments prone to these biotoxins require thoughtful mold removal strategies and precision equipment. By leveraging these devices and best practices, worker exposure can be reduced or eliminated.
- Mold Sampling: Checking for non-visible mold concentrations can be accomplished through air and surface testing. Air collection data and swabbing surfaces can reveal contamination levels.
- Ionized Hydrogen: This cleansing agent strips mold spores of elements necessary for their survival.
- Extreme Heat: Bringing a heat source at or above 500 degrees eradicates mycotoxins. This strategy has limited applications in residential environments. However, it can prove successful in terms of post-removal mold elimination.
- Sodium Hypochlorite: This disinfectant has demonstrated success in eliminating hazardous mold growths.
- Particle Counters: The technology employed in particle counters illuminates airborne hazards, then redirects and absorbs them
- Digital Moisture Probe: This device measures the amount of moisture on a given surface. Mold growths flourish in damp, dark environments and often go undetected by home occupants and in commercial spaces.
- Negative Air Machine: This device generates positive or negative pressure to clean air filled with asbestos, lead, or mold. It has been widely deployed on construction sites, factories, medical facilities, and confined spaces used for food storage.
Proper PPE for Mold Remediation and Mycotoxin Exposed Workers
The mainstream media’s coverage of dangerous molds spreading behind walls, in attics, and under flooring resulted in a laser focus on health risks in homes and commercial buildings. The remediation strategies for mycotoxin control published by health and safety organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) detail the proper PPE for mold remediation.
While vigilant remediation strategies for mycotoxin control and exposure minimization are crucial, other industries have not received the attention they may deserve. For instance, the World Health Organization published a guidance on mycotoxins that occur naturally in foods. People who work in the agricultural trades appear less concerned about mold toxicity than other risk factors. Nevertheless, mycotoxins remain prevalent in decaying vegetation, hay, grains, tree nuts, spices, oil seeds, coffee beans, and cereal products that move from farms to processing plants.
Although health dangers in these occupations have not earned splashy headlines, workers in these industries would be well-served to wear proper PPE for mold remediation and exposure, such as the following.
- Breathable Masks: Biotoxins become airborne when remediation crews remove walls and other infected materials. In agricultural settings, sorting out contaminated nuts, fruits, grains, and undergoing farm building cleanup usually results in tiny particles being released. Disposable masks rank among the best ways to filter mycotoxins before they enter the lungs.
- Gloves: The EPA urges workers to always wear protective gloves when handling material laced with potentially hazardous materials. This includes mycotoxin remediation efforts as well as sorting out tainted food items.
- Goggles: Mycotoxin particles can enter the eyes by touch or airborne dust making contact. This may be a primary reason for symptoms such as irritated, bloodshot eyes. The EPA warns that googles remain a necessary protective item for mold removal.
- Coveralls: Reducing the risk of skin contact ranks among the vital workplace protections. Although the CIRS and mycotoxin illnesses have been linked to asthma and lung ailments, the poisons can enter the body through the skin as well as an air passage. Disposable coveralls serve as a substantial deterrent to mycotoxin exposure.
Wearing proper PPE for mold remediation and agricultural tasks calls for maximum protection. Items such as protective hoods, shoe coverings, and others round out the total precautions necessary to prevent allergic reactions, long-term sensitivity, or discover who falls into the 24% of people genetically predisposed to contracting a debilitating condition.
Contact or inhalation of dangerous mold byproducts puts the health of working families in harm’s way. Determined remediation strategies for mycotoxin control and elimination call for workers to always have protective clothing and equipment at their disposal. International Enviroguard produces and distributes a complete line of personal protective clothing that exceeds industry standards.