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Crit Rev Toxicol. 2009;39(10):799-864. doi: 10.3109/10408440903307333.

Fungal spores: a critical review of the toxicological and epidemiological evidence as a basis for occupational exposure limit setting.

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National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, Norway.


Fungal spores are ubiquitous in the environment. However, exposure levels in workplaces where mouldy materials are handled are much higher than in common indoor and outdoor environments. Spores of all tested species induced inflammation in experimental studies. The response to mycotoxin-producing and pathogenic species was much stronger. In animal studies, nonallergic responses dominated after a single dose. Allergic responses also occurred, especially to mycotoxin-producing and pathogenic species, and after repeated exposures. Inhalation of a single spore dose by subjects with sick building syndrome indicated no observed effect levels of 4 x 10(3) Trichoderma harzianum spores/m(3) and 8 x 10(3) Penicillium chrysogenum spores/m(3) for lung function, respiratory symptoms, and inflammatory cells in the blood. In asthmatic patients allergic to Penicillium sp. or Alternaria alternata, lowest observed effect levels (LOELs) for reduced airway conductance were 1 x 10(4) and 2 x 10(4) spores/m(3), respectively. In epidemiological studies of highly exposed working populations lung function decline, respiratory symptoms and airway inflammation began to appear at exposure levels of 10(5) spores/m(3). Thus, human challenge and epidemiological studies support fairly consistent LOELs of approximately 10(5) spores/m(3) for diverse fungal species in nonsensitised populations. Mycotoxin-producing and pathogenic species have to be detected specifically, however, because of their higher toxicity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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