Mold Testing and Mold Inspection
Toxic Mold & Black Mold:
What is "black mold" or "toxic mold"?
You have probably heard a great deal about black mold or toxic mold. It is usually associated with Stachybotrys chartarum, a greenish-black mold that is often found after there has been persistent water damage. The known health effects from exposure to Stachybotrys are similar to other common molds and may cause illness in individuals with a sensitivity to "mycotoxins" (chemicals produced by certain molds), to people who are immunocompromised, or to individuals who have become sensitive after prolonged exposure.
Is the mold growing on my bathroom ceiling toxic?
Most Web sites (and newspaper articles) speak of "toxic mold", sometimes "toxic black mold". This is largely a marketing strategy, a scare tactic to make you more willing to part with your hard-earned cash. In fact, most molds are toxic to some extent and most are black because of spore production. But there is one of special concern, Stachybotrys chartarum. About 30% of the strains of this species produce abundant mycotoxins of several varieties, more so than other types of mold, though a few species/strains of Aspergillus and occasionally others are nearly as bad. The problem here is that, although poisoning is plausible, and there are antidotes, none has been shown reliably to come from indoor exposure to this mold. It's a matter of amount: you just can't breathe in enough except under most unusual circumstances. However, ingesting mold has been well shown to poison people and sometimes cause cancer (never eat moldy food). So, if you have young children, crawling and putting everything in their mouths (this is something real those Web sites rarely mention), you should be worried about any surface mold growth, especially if it's Stachybotrys.
Why should I ask to have an inspection done?
There may be many reasons why you may want to have your home or place of business tested. A few of these may be:
1. If you smell mold but do not see it anywhere. An experienced Mold Inspector will sample for hidden mold sources. This will help to determine if remediation is required.
2. You are about to purchase a home or place of business and want to identify if mold is an issue. Remediation is expensive and if required, should be known before the sale is completed.
3. Mold remediation work has been performed and you want to make sure the mold is gone before the remediators close walls, replace carpets or say their work is finished. Mold may not be visible but still may exist . "Clearance testing" may help you avoid future problems and additional work.
Do I have to have a professional come or can I test mold myself?
Only professionals who have experience with mold issues and are familiar with current guidelines should test for mold. Since mold is everywhere, only an experienced person will be capable of identifying if the levels in your home or place of business are irregular.
In addition, mold testing should only be performed by a laboratory that is "independent" of the remediation process. This assures the results will be free of bias as future income is not dependent on current test outcomes. Gordon Mycology Laboratory, Inc. does not perform any remediation services. We will however recommend companies that we have found, over the years, to perform good work.
Mold Allergies & Health Affects:
How can I be exposed to mold?
When moldy material becomes damaged or disturbed, spores can be released into the air. Exposure can occur if you inhale the spores, directly handle moldy materials, or accidentally ingest the mold. Certain molds produce chemicals called mycotoxins (myco = fungus, toxin = harmful or poisonous substance) and mold volatile organic compounds (irritating chemicals easily released into the air). These may cause illness in individuals sensitive to the chemicals or who are immunocompromised, or who have become sensitive after long-term exposure to mold.
How can mold affect my health?
Under normal circumstances, most mold types and levels are not harmful to healthy individuals. However, when molds grow indoors, their numbers increase to levels that can become harmful. Long-term exposure to mold or developed sensitivity to certain types of mold may cause or worsen conditions such as asthma, hay fever, or other allergies. The most common symptoms of mold exposure are cough, chest or sinus congestion, runny nose, eye irritations, and aggravation of asthma. Depending on the exposure level and your sensitivity to the mold, more serious health effects may result.
How should I deal with mold contamination in my house or building?
The first step is to find the source of moisture that led to the mold growth and have it repaired. Mold contamination should be removed as soon as it is discovered. If visible mold is seen on walls or ceilings, it might be necessary to collect old samples inside the wall/ceiling cavities to identify the extent of contamination and narrow the scope of remediation work. When surfaces containing mold contamination are disrupted millions of spores may be spread through the air. Small patches of mold growth may be carefully and properly removed without professional assistance. Extensive and/or recurring mold growth might be an indication of a larger problem and will most likely require a skilled mold remediation contractor using proper containment and removal equipment.
Different levels of contamination require varying degrees of remediation. Remediation can range from disinfecting a small area affected by mold to "gutting" a room that has had chronic moisture intrusion and severe mold growth.
If the mold returns after remediation has been completed, it indicates that a moisture problem still exists or that the contamination was not completely removed.
Should I see my doctor if I am exposed to mold?
If you believe that you or someone in your family/house has symptoms that you suspect might be linked to mold exposure, you should consult a physician. If mold testing was performed in the house or building, bring a copy of the report, including any accompanying data tables to your doctor. Keep in mind that many symptoms associated with mold exposure may also be caused by other illnesses. Tell your doctor about the symptoms, when they started, and the period of time you think you were exposed to mold. If you do not get better or symptoms worsen with time, an indoor investigation will be helpful in finding the mold and suggesting how to solve the problem.
My attic sheathing is black with mold. Do I need a new roof, or what should I do?
It depends on how extensive the mold is, and sometimes on what you are willing to pay for. Often the mold is just in a few areas, requiring limited structural replacement, or just cleaning. Obviously, any roof leaks -- shingles, flashing, etc. -- must be fixed to prevent future mold growth. Also, attics rarely visited don't need to be as clean as living spaces.
If there is mold growth on attic plywood, does the winter cold kill it?
Generally, if conditions are favorable for mold to have grown in the attic and the mold is still alive, cold winter temperatures will slow or stop the mold from growing. However, molds produce spores with resilient outer coatings that allow many of them to remain alive through harsh conditions including long dry spells and cold temperatures. Thus, when the attic warms up again, and sufficient moisture is present, growth resumes. This cycle will continue until the mold has been removed and favorable growth conditions remedied.
After my basement flooded, the carpet was removed, but I still smell a musty odor. Why?
If moisture remains in any material in the basement -- contents such as cardboard boxes, wall studs, concrete, etc. -- then mold will continue to grow and produce the volatile organics comprising 'mold odor'. If, in addition to the flood, moisture is entering slowly through the foundation or floor, then the condition will be chronic unless you stop it, say, by sealing the concrete. And you can't go wrong with a dehumidifier.
Why does the mold odor in a basement usually go away in the winter?
The 'moldy' odor is produced by actively growing molds that are metabolizing (breaking down) a food source (wallboard, wood, cardboard, etc.). While the molds are feeding on the materials, they produce mold volatile organic compounds or mVOC's, which are simply chemicals that travel easily in the air and therefore disperse throughout a house or building. Because basement air continually exchanges with outside air, which is drier in the winter, mold is relatively starved now for moisture and metabolizes more slowly.
Wall Cavity Mold:
Can mold contamination inside a wall cavity be identified?
Yes. After a basement has flooded and the water extracted, the carpeting is generally removed and the floor disinfected. But the moldy odor may still be present and the mold source not easily recognizable. Wallboard, paneling, plaster, and insulation that make up the walls in the basement most likely wicked moisture up into the wall cavity and mold populations became established. Wall cavity samples are collected through 1/4" drilled holes, cultured, and analyzed similarly to traditional ambient air samples. Collection of a control wall cavity sample in a wall that had not been affected by the moisture is recommended for evaluation and planning remediation.
Why do airborne mold samples sometimes not indicate that mold contamination is present, even when there is visible surface mold?
Mold growing on a surface is not necessarily producing airborne spores, especially in an area that has little or no activity in it such as an unfinished basement used primarily for storage. Also, if the surface that the mold is growing on is still damp or wet, the mold spores will not become airborne as easily. GML has found cases of significant amounts of active mold growth on wallboard without the companion air samples showing elevated mold spores.
Homeowners Insurance Coverage For Mold:
What should I know about mold and home owners insurance?
Insurers are dropping homeowners and raising rates. During the early '90s, average premiums were flat at about $420/yr, then rose at the rate of inflation. That changed in 2001 when rates shot up and insurers began scrutinizing credit ratings and houses' histories. Poor credit or unresolved mold problems may adversely affect your coverage or premiums.
In this new environment you need to:
1.Shop Harder - You probably can find a company willing to offer you a policy including mold coverage, but you may have to scout more, and don't forego comparison shopping.
2.Check Prior Claims - Before you buy a new house, ask the sellers for a copy of their Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report from ChoicePoint . Or call 866-527-2600 and ask, or try http://www.choicetrust.com .
3.Check Your Credit - Insurers find that people who pay their bills on time take better care of their homes and file fewer claims. Get your credit score at http://www.myfico.com .
4.Raise Your Deductible - Doubling your deductible from $250 to $500 reduces your premium by 15% (typical example) , while a $1,000 deductible may save 35%. A high deductible also insures that coverage renewal will not be denied because of multiple small claims.
5.Don't Leap and Lapse - Never let your policy lapse before getting a new one. A new insurer can deny coverage for up to 59 days, so don't cancel your old policy until then
Information for Home Owners:
How to begin
The first step is to establish whether the source of poor air quality in your home is mold. Have you had:
1. Recurrent water leaks, burst pipes, HVAC leaks, a wet basement, etc.?
2. Water stains on walls, floors, ceilings, etc.?
3. Dark discolorations on building materials?
4. Musty, moldy odors?
If you answered yes to any of these questions you may Contact Us.
Mold Inspection Report Summary
Introduction: Describes the inspection including the location and purpose.
Methodology: Details all methods used in the inspection including how air, surface, and wall/ceiling cavity samples are collected, the growth medium used, and some general laboratory procedures.
Results: Explains how the data are reported and describes sample locations with the types and levels of molds found at each location. The control sample data are included here as well and are used later in the Discussion section for comparison with data from areas of concern.
Discussion: Explains connections between mold levels and types as well as our on-site observations. We provide easy to understand correlations between the conditions in your home or building and the mold levels and types to help you understand the extent of the mold problem, or the lack of one. There is also a general discussion in this section that details information about mold, general affects of mold exposure, and specific information about the types of molds found.
Recommendations: Provides detailed remediation recommendations. We also offer suggestions to help prevent mold growth from occurring in the future and how to maintain a "healthier" home or building.
Conclusion: Provides a brief summary of the results of the inspection.
Information for Commercial Property Owners / Managers / Tenants:
How to Begin
The first step is to establish whether there may be a mold problem in an indoor environment-workplace, condominium, apartment, warehouse, etc.
Have you had:
1. Tenants complaining of 'musty' or 'moldy' odors?
2. Tenants complaining of illnesses only when at work?
3. Recurrent water damage, flooding, leaky roofs, air conditioning system leak, frozen/burst pipes?
4. Dark discolorations or spots on building materials?
5. Rotting building materials?
6. Damp or humid basements?
7. Forced hot air heating or central air conditioning systems?
8. Water stains on walls, carpeting, ceilings?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should fill out our Contact Us Form. You will be contacted within 24 hours of your phone call, email, or fax correspondence.
What is a Mold Inspection?
A mold inspection includes the following:
1. Detailed documentation of the history of the problem
2. Visual inspection of all areas of concern
3. Quantitative air, cavity (wall, floor, ceiling), and surface sampling
4. In house laboratory analyses means fast results and answers
5. Easy to understand, comprehensive report (see below)
6. Follow-up phone consultation