Could Mold Cause Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) published, WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mould, to highlight the potential health problems caused by Water Damaged Buildings (WDB). The WHO concluded:

“When sufficient moisture is available, hundreds of species of bacteria and fungi – particularly mould – pollute indoor air. The most important effects of exposure to these pollutants are the increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms, allergies, and asthma, as well as disturbance of the immune system. Preventing (or minimizing) persistent dampness and microbial growth on interior surfaces and building structures is the most important means of avoiding harmful effects on health.”

In layman’s terms, in this 228 page document, the WHO clearly argues that WDB pose a health threat to occupants. 

According to Kristine Allcroft, Ph.D, the 9 most common causes of mold growth in WDB’s are the following:

  1. Leaking roof causing moisture in the attic.
  2. Improper ventilation in the attic trapping moisture in the eves and insulation.
  3. Poor ventilation in the bathroom trapping moisture allowing mold to grow on the walls.
  4. Leaking seals around windows allowing storm water to be trapped inside the walls.
  5. Leaking plumbing in bathrooms. Sometimes the leaks are so slow that the only indication of a problem is when mold shows up!
  6. Leaking water supply lines to washing machines.
  7. Leaking dishwasher supply lines or drain lines in the kitchen. Leaking ice maker supply lines.
  8. Poor grading from landscaping allowing water to drain toward and into the home instead of away from the home.
  9. One of the most common causes of mold growth happens when a burst pipe causes water damage in the home and it’s not dried quickly enough.

One of the key problems for individuals working or living in a WDB is that they will be exposed to mycotoxins. Mycotoxins, also known as secondary metabolites are chemical compounds that are produced by fungi during their growth cycle. The suffix toxin is used because a great number of these mold-produced chemicals have been proven to be poisonous to both insects and animals—including people.

In 2013, researchers, Joseph H. Brewer, Jack D. Thrasher, David C. Straus, Roberta A. Madison, and Dennis Hooper explored the connection between mycotoxins and CFS, to determine if mold could possibly be the cause. Their study concluded:

Over the past 20 years, exposure to mycotoxin producing mold has been recognized as a significant health risk. Scientific literature has demonstrated mycotoxins as possible causes of human disease in water-damaged buildings (WDB). This study was conducted to determine if selected mycotoxins could be identified in human urine from patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Patients with a prior diagnosis of CFS were evaluated for mold exposure and the presence of mycotoxins in their urine. Urine was tested for aflatoxins (AT), ochratoxin A (OTA) and macrocyclic trichothecenes (MT) using Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISA). Urine specimens from 104 of 112 patients (93%) were positive for at least one mycotoxin (one in the equivocal range). Almost 30% of the cases had more than one mycotoxin present. OTA was the most prevalent mycotoxin detected (83%) with MT as the next most common (44%). Exposure histories indicated current and/or past exposure to WDB in over 90% of cases.

Key conclusions from the study:

  1. 93% of the ME/CFS patients tested had mycotoxins in their bodies. If you have been diagnosed with ME/CFS, you may want to have your urine checked for the presence of mycotoxins
  2. 90% of the ME/CFS patients tested, were exposed to or are currently living in a Water Damaged Building. If you have been diagnosed with ME/CFS and your test proves positive for mycotoxins, then you likely have lived or are living in a WDB.