Groundbreaking room air research searches for toxins in mouldy buildings

The effect of toxins on morbidity rates has not been researched much in Finland, and even less so internationally.

Groundbreaking room air research searches for toxins in mouldy buildings

Many Finns have complained of peculiar symptoms while living in or otherwise occupying buildings which have significant moisture damage. The symptoms include shivering, high temperatures, nausea or symptoms related to the nervous system or heart muscle. These symptoms subside when leaving such premises, but return quickly when coming back to them. The symptoms may continue even though the moisture damage has been repaired.

According to Professor Emerita Mirja Salkinoja-Salonen from the University of Helsinki, the symptoms are not caused by any known microbe.

”It is known that the question is not only about mould content. Concentrations inside a building can be high but residents are healthy. Or concentrations can be small but people are still showing symptoms.”

The cause of the symptoms is now being researched from two directions: from toxic compounds in building materials colonized by microbe growth and from toxins discharged into a room’s air by microbes. Five toxin types have been found in buildings with moisture damage and in which people have suffered from serious illness.

”Toxins and the microbes that produce them may enter your body through the respiratory organs, skin contact or the eyes. It depends on factors such as the dosage and the route entered and how fast and effectively the toxin starts to take effect.”

The toxin dosages are collected from room air using equipment developed by the Finnish company Inspectorsec Oy. The toxins collected with the equipment are measured by the biocentre of the University of Helsinki.

“The measurement of a toxin from room air is challenging and has been successful only recently,” says Salkinoja-Salonen.

The targets of the research project were schools and workplaces.

”We researched homes on a small scale with the help of financing from the Academy of Finland. We would be happy to research them even further if we get the financing.

In addition to people with health problems, the research results are interesting to those carrying out renovations. Nowadays, damage is repaired mostly by removing moisture. It does not remove the microbe growth created in the building and so does not remove the health problems.

The research hypothesis of Salkinoja-Salonen is also of interest to the Finnish Work Environment Fund which finances the projects of leading units of the University of Helsinki and the National Public Health Institute with more than EUR 100,000. The first results may be available in the autumn of the next year.

Additional information:
Integrative Photosynthesis and Bioactive Compound Research >>

Text: Susanna Rautio
Photo: University of Helsinki
23.7.2009
www.helsinki.fi/digitalcommunications

Translation: AAC Noodi Oy


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