Fungi comprises approximately one quarter of the biomass of the planetand are the most frequently occurring airborne micro-organismsin both indoor and outdoor environments
Normally, our everyday exposure to air-borne fungi in the outdoor air presents little risk to our health. However the air-borne fungi in the artificial environments of buildings have an altered composition.
Like all living organisms, fungi share the same primary metabolism however, fungi also produce a secondary metabolism that produces mycotoxins.
One type of mycotoxin is aflatoxin, produced by fungi that rot food stuffs (Aspergillius). Aflatoxins are among the most potent carcinogens known to humans and have been implicated in liver cancer. Human exposure to airborne fungal spores, hyphal fragments and metabolites can result in a variety of adverse health effects. Reactions to exposure include:
- Allergic and irritant responses.
- Infectious disease such as histoplasmosis, blastomycosis, and aspergillosis.
- A variety of respiratory diseases including asthma, allergic rhinitis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and bronchial hyperactivity.
- Acute toxicosis.
- Sick Building Syndrome symptoms
- Cancer from exposure to the mycotoxins.
Business owners that have visible mould in their coolrooms should be made aware of the risks and health implications of the exposure. All food service facilities have a legal responsibility to ensure the food they serve is safe for consumption.
This responsibility is more onerous on businesses that serve food to the immunologically compromised (Vulnerable Population) that are particularly susceptible to some food borne pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria bacteria are widespread and commonly found in soil, silage and sewage.
They have also been found in coolroom fan unit drip trays and condensate outlet pipes. For this reason, correct and thorough cleaning and sanitising of coolroom fan units is imperative to prevent an outbreak on Listeria infection or Listeriosis.
What can be done about mould?
It is possible to prevent mould growing - but this takes awareness and effort, and will often involve professional mould remediation projects to be implemented. Mould can grow almost everywhere and on any surface as long as moisture is present.
Reducing indoor moisture will reduce the possibility of indoor mould. Moisture, however, is a fact of life in almost all buildings and especially coolrooms so effective cleaning strategies need to be implemented to control or eliminate the visible and invisible mould in the safest and most cost-effective way.