Fungi damage wood, crops and other resources, and can cause serious illnesses in humans. When food or other products are contaminated by fungi, the products are typically destroyed.
Fungi is the cause of mold in homes and buildings. Indoor mold typically develops in areas where water is present, and can cause serious damage to homes and buildings. Mold remediation is often time-consuming and costly, and may require significant repairs to structures, particularly after floods.
Exposure to indoor mold can cause illnesses that range from mild symptoms, such as irritation of the respiratory system, but other types of fungi can cause serious disease in humans and animals. For instance, those with compromised immune systems may develop a life-threatening illness after being exposed to some types of fungi, such as Histoplasma spores.
Indoor molds cause a wide variety of symptoms including sinus irritation, difficulty breathing, headaches and skin irritations. In the very young, elderly and other vulnerable populations, research links mold to cancer, bleeding disorders and neurotoxicity. However, the clinical relevance of exposure requires more research, and acceptable levels of exposure require further definition, as of 2015.
Aspergillus causes Aspergillosis. The fungus is common in rotting leaves, compost piles, stored grains and the leaves of marijuana plants. While rare in healthy individuals, Aspergillosis often occurs in people who suffer damage to their lungs from other diseases.
When food crops are contaminated with fungi, the crops must be discarded to prevent disease or illness in humans and animals. Agricultural contamination can occur at any stage of production, but fungal contamination is most common when foods are improperly stored after harvest. Cheese, grains, nuts and fresh fruits and vegetables can be damaged or destroyed by fungi. Fungi can also damage lumber or paper when the material is improperly stored.