Should I have my home tested for mold?
This is a question I get asked a lot and I find myself often posting about the subject. To clarify its not that I don’t feel that mold should be adressed, its just that I don’t believe that the flavor of the mold will change anything that takes place regarding the removal of the mold and the necessary repairs to stop the mold from growing.
I believe you should have the mold in your home assessed to determine what steps should be taken to safely remove the mold to ensure thit it wont return. When the mold inspector has completed his inspection and assessment he should be able to tell you what is causing the mold growth, how extensive the growth is, whether or not you will need a protocol, and whether or not you should contain what is there to stop the immediate exposure to you and your family until the more permanent repairs and remediation can take place.
I do believe that there are times when you should test for mold and I probably test more than these post imply but I lean much more on my visual inspection and test much less than the majority of the mold inspectors that I meet and even less than the majority of IAQ professionals that I meet. Maybe this is due to my ackground as a home builder, regardless I just don’t feel the need to depend or rely on a lab test to tell me if there is something hidden. I simply look.
I will give you a very real world example of my issues with over testing. Bear in mind that this really did happen and it happens often.
I received a call from a home buyer that had hired a mold inspector to determine if an occupied home had a mold problem. The mold inspector showed up collected two air samples in the home, one in the living room and one in the master bedroom. He also collected another air sample outside.
So far according to many this is a typical inspection for mold and most feel we are looking good. We just need to see what the results are and wala we are done. Right?
The results came back and the mold inspector told his client that the living room and master bedroom had high mold spore counts with the living room being “really high”. He wasn’t sure where the mold was growing so he wanted to return and re-sample. This time he wanted to sample every room in the home at a substantial cost. The mold inspector informed the home buyer that this sampling would determine once and for all where and in which room of the home the “hidden” mold was growing.
Again, so far a typical inspection for mold. We just need to see what the results are and wala we are done and we will know where the “hidden” mold is growing. Right?
The results came back and the mold inspector told the home buyer that the results showed nothing at all. No high spore counts and nothing inside that wasn’t outside. He then told the home buyer that he had done everything he could to help the buyer but he just didn’t know what else to do and suggest the home buyer hire a professional air quality expert.
What? Isn’t that what the home buyer hired when he hired the mold inspector?
I can tell you the home buyer told me he did in fact think he was hiring a professional mold and indoor air quality professional because that is exactly what is said on the mold inspectors website and business card.
The home buyer and now my Client sent me everything to review until I could get to the home the next day for an assessment. I received everything the mold inspector provided my Client which consisted of two laboratory reports and nothing else. Not a single photo, not a single measurement of temperature or humidity. No moisture scans of the plumbing areas of the home, no client interview, and no history of the home. Nice……..
When I got to the home I found a nice well maintained home that was occupied by a retired couple and one small dog. They had lived in the home since it was built and had never had a water intrusion event either from a typical Florida storm or from a pluming leak. No elevated particulate matter, no elevated humidity.
This was a recent inspection and there have been some real cold weeks here in Florida.
The wife had a wonderful hobby. She loved her plants. When I conducted my “Visual Inspection” I found nothing out of the ordinary with only one exception. Remember I had no idea of the conditions during the mold inspector’s inspection (sample collection) of the home.
So I asked the home owners and the home buyer if the mold inspection was during the freezing weather we had just experienced? They informed me that it actually was. I then asked if all of the plants just outside the 12 foot wide sliding glass door and inside the large screened in pool enclosure were moved inside to keep them from freezing.
The wife proudly told me she had in fact moved all of her prized plants inside including the ones in rather large pots, and she proudly informed me that she lost none to the freeze. Good for her!
I asked, to clarify, if the plants were right here in the living room during the mold inspection? The answer was yes.
The hunt for the “hidden” mold was over and the home closed with a happy seller and a happy buyer.
Cost of the first mold inspection $275
The cost of the sampling of every room in the home $1250
A good visual inspection with no sampling……… Priceless!
As far as whether or not I would want to know what type of mold I am dealing with to make some of the decisions I claim can be done visually.
I will simply quote the EPA, NYCDH, CDC, FDH, and the AIHA.
New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Sampling can be expensive. The results are also difficult to interpret partially because we have very limited information about what level of mold exposure is associated with health effects. In some cases, knowing the type of mold that is present can be helpful, but for most cases, sampling is unnecessary. Overall, the best practice regardless of the type or amount of mold is to promptly clean up any mold growth in your home and to correct the water problem that caused it.
Any extensive indoor mold growth should be treated as a potential health concern and removed as soon as practical no matter what species of mold is present. Identify and correct the source of moisture so that mold will not grow back. http://www.health.state.ny.us/environmental/indoors/air/mold.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Generally, it is not necessary to identify the species of mold growing in a residence, and CDC does not recommend routine sampling for molds. Current evidence indicates that allergies are the type of diseases most often associated with molds. Since the susceptibility of individuals can vary greatly either because of the amount or type ofmold, sampling and culturing are not reliable in determining your health risk. If you are susceptible to mold and mold is seen or smelled, there is a potential health risk; therefore, no mold what type of mold is present, you should arrange for its removal. http://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm
Florida Department of Health Indoor mold growth can usually be seen or smelled. In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is not needed. There are no health or exposure-based standards that you can use to evaluate a mold sampling result. The Florida Department of Health does not recommend mold testing or sampling to see if you have a mold problem, or to see what kind of mold might be growing. http://www.doh.state.fl.us/ENVIRONMENT/COMMUNITY/indoor-air/mold.htm
American Industrial Hygiene Association Should I test my home for mold? Probably not. Looking for evidence of water damage and visible mold growth should be your first step. Testing for mold is expensive, and you should have a clear reason for doing so. In addition, there are no standards for “acceptable” levels of mold in the indoor environment. When testing is done, it is usually to compare the levels and types of mold spores found inside the home with those found outdoors. If you know you have a mold problem, it is more important to spend time and resources getting rid of the mold and solving the moisture problem causing the moldy conditions.
John P. Lapotaire, CIEC Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant Microshield Environmental Services, LLC www.Microshield-ES.com
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