Blue cheese, yogurt, and yeasty breads are delectable byproducts of fungi, a kingdom of naturally occurring organisms distinct from animals, plants and bacteria. Fungi perform an essential role in nature by decomposing organic matter, but many forms are highly toxic to humans. Researchers at a Turkish University warn that our kitchens can be cooking up real danger.
The study, conducted by Aylin Dogen of Mersin University, involved 177 homes, with particular focus on kitchen and bathroom appliances and fixtures. Researchers collected almost 900 samples using cotton swabs moistened with physiological saline from dishwashers, refrigerators, washing machines, bathroom walls, tubs and showers.
The Turkish study discovered traces of mold everywhere, but dishwashers proved the favored real estate for black yeast-like fungi with 62% of the appliances testing positive. The moist, warm and highly alkaline interior of the appliance provide a perfect habitat for harmful germs to thrive.
Published in the journal Medical Mycology, the study found Exophiala (black yeast) in most of the tested dishwashers, followed by Rhodotorula (red yeast) and Candida parapsilosis (white yeast).
The study said that Exophiala species are known to cause systemic disease in people and can colonize in the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis.
Separately, the World Health Organization warned that “exposure to mycotoxins can produce both acute and chronic toxicities ranging from death to deleterious effects on the central nervous, cardiovascular and pulmonary systems.” Mycotoxins are troublesome byproducts of mold.
Fungi can break down manufactured materials and buildings, as seen in Green Prophet’s report on a Sharjah apartment eaten by mold. It can also become a significant pathogen in pets.
We’ve harnessed fungi for food products, for fermenting alcohol and soy sauce, for producing antibiotics, and, more recently, extracted specific fungi enzymes for use as biological pesticides to control weeds and insects. Some fruiting structures (the mushroom-like blooms) of fungi species are consumed recreationally or in traditional spiritual ceremonies, due to the hallucinogenic affects of their psychotropic compounds.
Amazingly versatile, but unleashed, they can wreak havoc on human health. Look around your own home. See anything suspect? Check out this excellent guide (link here) from the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Try some of their DIY tips, or call in your building manager or a mold specialist. And consider a return to hand-washing your dishes.
Image of a dishwasher interior from Shutterstock