?Health effects of Stachybotrys chartarum?

Michael J. Black BLACKMJ at UGA.CC.UGA.EDU
Wed Dec 13 16:52:44 EST 1995

>On Tue, 12 Dec 1995, Mike Clark wrote:
>> I am a high school biology teacher seeking any information on the possible
>> health effects of S. chartarum. It has been positively identified in an
>> older middle school where at least two teachers have suffered disabling
>> chronic illnesses. Three species of Aspergillus were also identified at
>> the same location.
Stachybotrys spp. occur uncommonly on cellulosic substrates.  This means
it can potentially grow on ceiling tiles, particle board, paper wrapping,
cellulosic insullation, and storage materials such as boxes. It has a
reputation of being a human health hazard since one or more species
are capable of producing mycotoxins.  This reputation may not necessarily
be warranted.
It has been pretty well documented, primarily from the Balkans, to cause
disease in farm animals that ingest or sleep on hay infested with S. atra.
A few human cases have been documented, but are associated only with contact
of moldy straw, I believe. To the best of my knowledge no human or veterinary
case has been linked to inhalation of this organism's conidia, or spores.
It has been shown that the mycotoxin can occur in the conidia and presumably
this means that the mycotoxin can be inhaled.  It has also been shown that
S. atra can produce the mycotoxin on subtrates as simple as MCE filter paper,
suggesting that common building materials would be suitable substrates for
mycotoxin production.
Sure, Stachybotrys has the potential to be a problematic organism  in
indoor settings, but so little evidence has been collected to support such
assertions that fears of this  critter are probably unwarranted.
Aspergillus would be an unlikely candidate to cause multiple illnesses
in an indoor setting such as a school building and is probably not the
source of your problem, but this is just my opinion.
Many fungi produce volatile compounds which could potentially cause
problems if ventilation within your building is poor. I personally
would recommend that you insist that the ventilation system be properly
inspected to insure an adequate intake of fresh air. Also, inspect your
building for signs of water damage. Repair damaged areas and leaks, and
remove water damaged materials.
Let me know if you need a list of the better references on S. atra.
Michael Black

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