Mycotoxins are the primary pathogenic element responsible for mold infections. Given that, on average, we have 50,000 mold spores per cubic meter of space, mycotoxins are naturally concentrated in the air. As air purifiers trap airborne contaminants, one might question if they can remove mycotoxins from the air.
Air purifiers with activated charcoal, titanium dioxide (TiO2) filters, or ozone generators can eliminate airborne mycotoxins. However, purifiers with HEPA filtration, UV bulbs, ionizers, or electrostatic chambers can remove mold spores and colonies, thus, minimizing mycotoxin production.
This article gives a comprehensive overview of mycotoxins, their types, health effects, and common sources at home. We then discuss whether air purifiers can protect against mycotoxins and how.
Mycotoxins are fungal products mainly produced from mold species.
They are toxic to plants, animals, and humans alike.
Molds are microscopic, multicellular organisms found across all ecosystems. They mostly occur as airborne spores, measuring 3 to 40 microns. In adequate conditions, i.e., relative humidity above 55% and temperature at 65 degrees, the spores sprout to form yellowish or black, powdery mold colonies.
As of yet, we don’t know if mycotoxins are essential for mold growth or metabolism. However, it is speculated that the chemical might serve as a virulence factor (enable the mold to invade cells and cause infections) and defense mechanism for molds.
While mold spores trigger respiratory distress, mycotoxins are the main threat of mold exposure.
Consuming contaminated food is the most common source of mycotoxins in the home.
Molds grow on crops and can be a part of packaged cereals. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts several tests on food before allowing it on the market to prevent mycotoxin contamination. This means you can reduce mycotoxin exposure by buying agricultural commodities from high-end, FDA-approved brands.
The real problem arises from mold spores in homes. These spores are lightweight and microscopic and can easily spoil food items at home.
Vegetables often develop greenish mold patches. If it is firm, it means mold hasn’t penetrated, and you can typically cook the vegetable after cutting the moldy part off, and washing the rest thoroughly.
However, if the vegetable goes soft due to mold, it is generally considered unsafe to eat.
Other than that, inhaled spores can release mycotoxins into the body, leading to adverse health effects.
Over 300 mycotoxins have been identified, but according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the following six types are of particular concern:
|Mycotoxin||Produced By||Food Sources|
|Aflatoxin||Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasticus||Maize, peanuts, cottonseed, tree nuts|
|Ochratoxin||Aspergillus and Penicillium||Cereal grains like barley, rye, wheat, corn, and oats|
|Patulin||Aspergillus, Byssochlamys, and Penicillium||Juices, jams, and ciders|
|Fumonisin||Fusarium||Cereals and corn|
|Zearalenone||Fusarium||Rice, sorghum, corn, and hay|
|Deoxynivalenol||Fusarium||Corn, wheat, barley, rice|
Mycotoxins cause several mild to severe side effects in humans:
- Nephropathy (kidney disease)
- Cancers (especially liver cancer)
- Alimentary toxic aleukia (characterized by nausea, diarrhea, hemorrhage, skin inflammation and even death)
- Weak immune system
- Neurological disturbances
They are also responsible for a variety of animal diseases. Mycotoxins are known to reduce growth rate, increase susceptibility to infections, and interfere with the natural resistance mechanisms of animals.
How Air Purifiers Can Remove Mycotoxins
Air purifiers are appliances that sanitize and sterilize air by extracting harmful airborne contaminants and trapping them into filters. A rotating fan draws polluted air inside the unit, which is then passed through a series of filters. The clean air is then blown out into the room.
The filtration system defines the efficiency of the unit and determines whether it can remove mycotoxins or not. Multiple air filters are used in air purifiers, each of which captures a different type of contaminant.
The pre-filter is a generic filter with large pores. Almost all modern air purifiers have a pre-filter. Because of their pore size, most of the contaminants pass through them, including mycotoxins. It is only useful for capturing some large-sized particulate matter and primarily serves to prolong the optimal life of the succeeding (following) filters.
A HEPA or ‘High-Efficiency Particulate Air’ filter is one of the most efficient filtration systems. Theoretically, it can remove over 99.97% dust, debris, pollen, other particles, and germs (mold, bacteria, and viruses), measuring 0.3 microns or larger.
However, HEPA filters cannot remove mycotoxins, gases, VOCs, and many other chemicals because they are gaseous or far smaller than the filter’s pore size.
When pure carbon is heated and oxidized, it turns into a highly-porous substance called activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal is not only porous but also adhesive. It reacts with gases and VOCs in the air and adsorbs them on the surface. These chemicals are then absorbed into the pores.
The pore size can vary from 2 nm to 50 nm. Since mycotoxins measure up to 0.1 microns, an activated charcoal filter can remove mycotoxins from the air.
An ionizer is a device that produces negative ions into the system. The resulting static electricity charges the particulate matter in the air, causing them to fall and settle on nearby surfaces.
Dust, debris, pollen, pet dander, hair, mold spores, etc., can all be removed by the process.
UV-light bulbs emit ultraviolet light (generally UV-C with the wavelength of 256 nm) of germicidal wavelength to kill germs. The light penetrates germs like mold and breaks and inactivates their DNA.
The TiO2 filter is coated with titanium dioxide. It is a photolytic substance, i.e., in the presence of light, it breaks down organic compounds, gases, and VOCs.
Research on the effectiveness of TiO2 filters against aflatoxin (a type of mycotoxin) is underway, and the collected data shows positive results.
Electrostatic filters are like ionizers, except that they release both negative and positive ions and, therefore, remove more airborne particulate contaminants.
Ozone or O3 is a highly reactive gas. It is an unstable oxygen compound, O3, that readily gives up the third, nascent oxygen atom to form a stable oxygen molecule (O2).
It is produced artificially by splitting oxygen molecules via UV radiations or electrolysis. The resultant atoms combine with surrounding molecules to form ozone.
This ozone is then used for water and air purification. It reacts with gases and VOCs in the air, changing their chemical composition, thereby reducing or nullifying their toxicity.
Studies have shown that ozone can eliminate mycotoxins. It reacts with aflatoxin and rearranges it to form aldehydes, ketones, and organic acids.
While ozonation may be effective against mycotoxins, ozone is a toxic gas. Exposure to even small concentrations of the gas can land you in severe health complications and might also prove fatal. Therefore, while we have other alternatives (like HEPA filtration), it is better to avoid ozone treatment.
When discussing the removal of mycotoxins from the environment, we need to consider two factors: the direct elimination of the chemical, and the removal of its source, i.e., mold spores.
Fortunately, almost all filters are capable of trapping either mycotoxins or mold spores. Out of the eight major air filters we discussed, the True HEPA filter, UV bulbs, ionizers, and electrostatic filter, can theoretically get rid of mold spores. The same goes for pre-filter with microscopic pore size.
On the other hand, activated charcoal filters, TiO2 filters, and ozone generators can inactivate mycotoxins in the air.
Remember that while mycotoxins can be present in airborne fungal spores, they are primarily found on surfaces and food. In that case, air purifiers will most likely be ineffective in preventing mycotoxicity.
In contrast, mold commonly occurs as lightweight spores that float in the air. Placing an air purifier that removes mold spores and colonies will nip the problem in the bud, i.e., prevent mold and ultimately mycotoxin production.
Ultimately, the best choice of air purifier for mold spores and mycotoxins is one that contains both activated carbon (or TiO2) and HEPA filters.
Here are the eight best air purifiers for mycotoxins and mold elimination:
Enviroklenz Home Air Purifier 1000 sq. ft.
The first item on our list is the Enviroklenz Home air Purifier 1000 sq. ft. This air purifier can effectively remove mycotoxins and mold spores with its patented earth mineral technology air cartridge and HEPA filtration system.
The Enviroklenz air cartridge uses not only TiO2 (titanium dioxide) but also magnesium oxide (MgO) and zinc oxide (ZnO) to remove VOCs, gases and other airborne chemicals.
It also features HEPA filtration that removes mold spores, bacteria, and other particulate pollutants.
This purifier is designed for medium to large-sized spaces. Speaking of a system that delivers premium filtration while adding to the room’s aesthetic appeal, this unit is the perfect pick.
With four different speed options, timers, and other controls, it allows the user to conveniently set up a personalized, comfortable environment.
Alen BreatheSmart 45i
Alen BreatheSmart 45i is one of the most reliable air purifiers out there. It is a combination of modern, sleek design and traditional construct for premium filtration. The four-stage filtration of pre-filter, HEPA filter, activated charcoal filter, and B4 Pure filter is the ultimate setup you need for highly-efficient removal of mold spores, mycotoxins, and other harmful contaminants.
We know how pre-filter and HEPA filters remove particulate matter. The B4 filter is the same and traps dust, dander, allergens, pollen, pet fur, mold spores, bacteria, etc. In contrast, the activated charcoal filter captures mycotoxins, and gases, providing you with a fresh-smelling indoor environment.
The device provides extensive coverage of 800 sq. ft. It has also been tested and certified by SleepScore Labs for the whisper-quiet operation that won’t interrupt your day-to-day working and sleep.
Tracs TM250 Air Purifier
Tracs TM250 Air Purifier is a large room air purifier that covers up to 1875 sq. ft. every hour. It comes with a UVGI technology that saves energy while providing maximum coverage with the highest efficiency.
The HEPA filter removes microscopic substances, while the Merv 8 activated charcoal filter captures gases and chemicals like mycotoxins.
The system has LED indicator lights and other mechanisms that make it convenient to maintain and manage the air purifier.
Pure Enrichment PureZone 3-in-1 Air Purifier
Pure Enrichment is a leading brand in domestic appliances, and their PureZone 3-in-1 Air Purifier is our next product.
It has three-stage filtration consisting of a pre-filter, an activated charcoal filter, and a HEPA filter. Together they remove over 99% of particulate contaminants and chemicals (including mycotoxins).
There also is a fourth component, the UV-C bulb, that enhances filtration quality. It kills Aspergillus niger (the most abundant indoor mold) by 88.2%. Other than that, it also kills 99% of viruses and bacteria like E.Coli and Staph albus by 99.6%.
It features three different fan speeds that you can switch between at any time to adjust the rate of air purification. You can also set a timer that regulates the operation and automatically shuts off the system after the preset time to conserve energy.
The package includes a 5-year warranty and replacement filters. Given the reputed customer service, warranty, and easy maintenance, this air purifier is surely a great purchase.
Afloia Mage air purifier comes with three filters; a pre-filter, a medical grade 13 HEPA filter, and an activated charcoal filter to effectively remove mycotoxins
The three filters together remove more than 99.97% of airborne pollutants, including not only toxic mycotoxins but also mold spores. You also get to benefit from the adjustable controls that allow you to set the fan to a comfortable speed to accelerate or slow down the rate of air purification.
Afloia air purifier range also features some combo units with dehumidifiers and humidifiers, which you can choose depending on the climate you live in.
TotalClean 5-in-1 Tower Air Purifier
Homedics TotalClean 5-in-1 Tower Air Purifier features a pre-filter, a True HEPA filter, an activated charcoal filter, UV-C bulb and an ionizer. It covers 90 sq. ft. of space and is a perfect choice for small to mid-sized rooms.
While the pre-filter protects the system, the HEPA filter removes 99% of contaminants, including dust, dander, pet hair, and microscopic pathogens, including mold spores. At the same time, the activated charcoal filter traps mycotoxin, airborne chemicals, gases, and VOCs, making air safe to breathe.
Next comes a UV bulb that emits germicidal UV-C radiation. It kills pathogens and inactivates mycotoxins. Note that UV-C light is safe for humans and does not pose a risk of ozone production or toxicity.
One of the standout features of Homedics TotalClean 4-in-1 Portable Air Purifier is its whisper-quiet operation. Even at the highest fan speed, this unit won’t make noise, ensuring a good night’s sleep.
This model can also function as a diffuser. The package comes with essential oil pads that can be inserted into the air purifier. As a result, the fragrance is dispersed as microscopic droplets into the room with sterilized air.
hOmeLabs x POPULAR SCIENCE Air Purifier
hOmeLabs is a renowned and trusted company, and for mycotoxin removal, we recommend hOmeLabs x POPULAR SCIENCE Air Purifier. Living up to its name, this unit is an all-rounder and serves to remove particulate matter, germs, chemicals, and gases with over 99% efficiency.
It comes with a three-stage filtration; a pre-filter, a True HEPA filter, and an activated charcoal filter.
The original airstream first encounters pre-filter. It removes dust and debris from the air. Next is the medical grade 13 HEPA filter, which captures 99.97% of mold spores, mold, bacteria, dust, dander, pollen, etc.
After HEPA filtration, the activated charcoal filter absorbs odor, smoke, and chemicals like mycotoxin from the air.
The unit comes with versatile controls. Users can decide the fan speed, which ultimately controls the rate of air purification. Given the high-quality pre-filter and premium components of the device, it can last more than 2100 hours (with 24/7 operation).
On top of this, the warranty and excellent customer service are other plus points that make this air purifier worth considering.
Vremi Premium True HEPA Air Purifier
Next up, we have Vremi Premium True HEPA Air Purifier. It has a three-tier filtration system comprising a pre-filter, a True HEPA filter, and an activated charcoal filter.
The perfect combination of HEPA filter and activated charcoal implies that this unit will eliminate mold spores as well as mycotoxin and other chemical by-products. True HEPA is highly efficient and ensures over 99% removal of mold, bacteria, dust, debris, and other contaminants.
The activated charcoal traps and inactivates chemicals, VOCs, smoke, and odorous gases, making your room smell fresh.
On the other hand, the pre-filter serves to improve the quality of the system. It captures major pollutants, enabling the unit to last over 180 days (4320 hours of runtime).
One of the best features of this appliance is that it is low maintenance. The carbon and HEPA filters do not require cleaning. This means that you can make the air purifier last long just by regularly vacuuming the pre-filter.
Additional features of this device include a monitor that detects and displays air quality index (AQI) on the main screen.
Placing air purifiers, and controlling indoor humidity (ideally between 30 to 50%), can get rid of mycotoxins and mold infestations. Professional sterilization techniques like sodium hypochlorite remedial therapy can also eliminate mycotoxins from home.
The physical mold components must be removed from any surfaces around the home to prevent the mold from re-establishing.
Fifty thousand mold spores can exist in a cubic meter of space, and even the best air purifiers cannot remove 100% of the mold. As a result, we are frequently exposed to mycotoxins. However, the formation of mold colonies or frequent incidences of mold-related allergies can indicate dangerous levels of mycotoxins at home.
Do Activated Carbon Filter Absorb Mycotoxins?
Activated carbon filters adsorbs mycotoxins present in the air. The chemical is absorbed into the filter pores. Titanium dioxide filters can also effectively remove mycotoxins from the air.