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Mold Testing and Inspection Questions

-----Original Message-----

From: David R ABC:dabc@uoregon.edu]

Sent: Sunday, February 05, 2012 8:47 PM

To: darylwatters@abc.net

Subject: Mold Testing


My name is David
and I am a business student at the University of Oregon. My
honors class is doing a research project on mold testing and removal. I was
wondering if you could answer a couple of questions for me. A few of
the main questions we are trying to answer are:

1. What is the purpose of testing for mold?  (Why
not just remove it)


Why mold testing?

If you think testing mold in the air before remediation
is often a waist of my client’s time and money you just might be partially correct.
Testing is not always needed, and all the most important and respected
guidelines from the Institute of inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration
certification, from the New Your City Mold Removal Guidelines, and from the EPA
guidelines, all do not require sampling if mold is obvious. The guidelines also
do not support the idea of testing to identity toxic molds.

Later in this article I will explain that MOLD TESTING is
not always important, in fact it is sometimes a use of time and resources that
could be better applied elsewhere to benefit the client, but MOLD INSPECTIONS
are almost always very important.

I have tried many times to convince clients from West Palm Beach to Miami that testing
is not important in some specific instances, but I have learned that most
clients will not let reason, logic, and science stand in the way of their
pre-conceived notions of the importance of testing mold.

Sometimes testing AKA sampling is important because it
keeps the client from asking “where are the sample results”. As a result I
sample with care on each and every inspection.

Testing does have its benefits and sometimes it is very
important. For example testing inside a wall can identify a severe mold problem
that may go unnoticed with air testing and mold inspections alone. Even if the
spores are trapped in the wall chemicals known as Microbial volatile organic
compounds escape through wall outlets etc. These odorous chemicals can and do
appear to cause lots of allergy and asthma according to scientific studies and
according to my observations. So in some cases sampling, especially inner wall
sampling is very important.

Testing is important to determine if mold has been
properly remediated. Any remediator can easily remove visible mold, but it
takes a skilled remediator to remove mold without stirring up a big mess and
contaminated the air. The only way to know if spore levels are low after
remediation is to TEST THE AIR. One sample inside the enclosed remediated area,
one just outside this area, and one outside the building is often adequate.

There are other benefits to testing, for example, the
presence of Chaetomium spores, Fusarium, Stachybotrys spores and a few others
are indicative of water, Penicillium chrysogenum is more indicative of humidity
in my experience, and Cladosporium can be from water but is often from
condensation or from the interior of AC units. There are other benefits of



Let’s not ignore a very important point that most people
neglect to notice, that point is that testing and inspections are two
completely different things.

Testing is sometimes important, inspections for mold are
very important and cannot be overrated.

The purpose of the inspection is to determine:

1)    The cause and origins of mold, if done correctly an inspection can in about 99% of the cases
determine to a very helpful degree of certainty the cause and origin of the
moisture that caused mold. Without determination of the root cause the root
problem will not be addresses and the problem will return. A remediator will
not always take the time out to determine the cause if it is not obvious, the
remediator just wants to do a quick visual inspection and write a quote for
mold removal without finding the root cause. Sampling alone cannot determine
the cause. You may think the cause of mold is always as obvious a leaky kitchen
sink. In reality the cause of mold can go undetermined for years. Most of my
inspections involve issues where the client has no clue as the cause,
especially if the cause is humidity. Many people even AC service persons who
sometimes create humidity problems that cause mold are clueless as the root
cause they themselves created. Determination of the roof cause is why a mold
inspector gets paid; it is why I feel my work is of benefit to others. Without
determination of the root cause the problem will return. And As I stated the
root cause is not always obvious.

2)    A mold inspector writes a report that document in a legally defensible way what was
observed, where it was, and why it happened.
Insurance companies, remediators, and lawyers often need such info from
a mold inspector. Landlords and tenants who have disputes as to who caused mold
also need such reports.

4) The inspection aids the inspector in the preparation
of a remediation protocol that tells the remediator where and how much to
remove. A remediator should not be in charge of removal alone because the
temptation to over state what needs to be removed is too great for many remediators.
In Florida where we are licensed inspectors it is illegal for the remediator to do testing, inspections, and
removal on the same property in the same year.

2. How are mold tests conducted?
a. Air/Physical


Though I seem to put down samples above, I take samples
on every inspection. Mostly air samples are taken because they show how many
spores are in the air you are breathing. Not very helpful when the doctor and
the government cannot tell you how many spores are safe to breath. Each persons
sensitivity to mold is different, but knowing the numbers of spores in the air
is better than not knowing.

If a moldy surface is going to be remediated then testing
the mold on it is kind of pointless, but I very often take one or two tape
samples because it lets the client know what kind of mold is on the surface and
the client is often curious about the presence or absence of so called “toxic

How is the mold
transported to a laboratory? (Petri Dish/Vial/Swab.

Samples are mailed to the lab in the small plastic sample
cassettes that they were taken with.

Does it need to go to a laboratory?

If the inspector is certified and knows what they are
doing then they can do their own analysis. I think a few inspectors in each
state do this. Mold inspectors are not somehow inferior to lab workers.
Inspectors can get certified to analyze spores just like lab analysts.

4. What type of sample does a laboratory need to conduct a test?

Many types of samples can be analyzed, Bio-Sys, Micro-5,
Cyclex, Cyclex D Allergenco D, Air-O-Cell.

They are all small plastic traps hooked up to a pump, all
involve trapping spores on silicone grease that is on a tiny square microscope
cover glass, or on a larger rectangular microscope slide inside the sampling
cassette. Slides are analyzed at around 600X to 1000X magnification.

Samples involving Petri dishes are rare, because it takes
about 10 days to get the results back. Petri dish based viable samples cannot
grow dead spores into actual colonies, thus dead spores or dormant spores, or
slow growing spores go un reported. Even dead spores can trigger allergy and

5. How expensive is the mold testing process.

You can test mold yourself with a Petri dish from the
local hardware store, the cost is about $40.00 if you send it back to the lab
for analyses. You will learn the scientific names of the spores and probably
the number of colonies. Go do this and you will see how useless testing alone

A mold inspection with testing, cause and origin
determination, remediation protocol, detailed documentation, and sample
results, all in a legally defensible report is about $500.00. It is worth it if
helps resolve a years old reoccurring mold problem that caused illness in you
or your family.

I hope my answers will benefit you.

If you could
provide any sort of answer to some of these questions it

Would be extremely
helpful in our research. If you have any other questions I can be
contacted either e-mail or telephone.

Thank you very
much for your time,