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The Truth about Mold Air Testing in your Home

  
  
  

Often times, I get a chance to ask a potential customer of mine on the phone what some of the other companies may be offering for services and/or prices. It's a great way to stay competitive. It's also a great way to keep abreast of what's going on. When it comes to Mold Inspection and Mold Testing, there are some interesting schemes being presented to customers from some vendors.

Often times, one such testing plan offered to clients is individual air sampling for mold spores performed in each and every room in the house. Although there is a protocol out there that suggests this method, I disagree with it - and find that in probably all cases, it is not necessary. Over my years of testing, I have found that in the majority of cases in a typical home setting, where a homeowner may or may not be aware of a potential mold-related problem - as few as one air sample (including no outdoor air sample)  is all that is necessary!

In a typical residential environment, the most significant component of a good mold investigation is the visual observation.

Be extremely wary of the investigation company who recommends or requires an air sample in each and every room of your home:

-          Many of the leading mold industry standards, including the CDC, EPA, and NYDOH explicitly discourage random air sampling. The New York City Department of Health (NYCDOH) states, "Air sampling for mold  should not be part of a routine assessment. This is because decisions about appropriate remediation strategies can usually be made on the basis of a visual inspection"

-          The air in an indoor environment very rapidly becomes equalized by our everyday, ordinary comings and goings - and even more so in the presence of hot air heating and cooling systems. The air in your end bedroom most certainly resembles the air in the kitchen at the other end of the hall. This can be very easily demonstrated with handheld measuring instruments.

-          Sampling the air inside one room will not prove/disprove the presence of, or locate reservoirs of mold hiding under carpets or behind walls. In most cases, it will only introduce more variables into your results - most likely resulting in more confusion for you. More confusion for you leads me into my final, and unfortunately, most relevant point.

-          You've heard it before: it's all about the money, folks. A good lab will turn an air sample report for a vendor for as little as $25-30 each. If your potential investigator is charging you $80-125 per sample, then that can be as much as $100 times the number of rooms in your house/samples for data that is simply not of any real value! Ask your investigator how much each sample costs you and why they recommend that number of samples!

I have had potential customers of mine tell me that other companies were looking to charge $750 or more for a simple investigation that included a multitude of air samples. A detailed and full mold investigation on a typical home even in a scenario when the customer has no idea of a specific problem or problems should require 0-2 mold air samples in total in almost all cases. Larger numbers of samples are for large-scale remediation projects that require professional mold remediation companies and significant repairs or renovations. Be sure to keep these facts in mind when hiring a Massachusetts black mold toxic Mold Inspection company.

 

The CDC's Position on Mold, Dampness, and your Health

  
  
  

Below is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC - http://www.cdc.gov/) Official statement on Mold, Dampness, and your Health. I have added my own comments in regards to this statement at the bottom:

Facts about Mold and Dampness

Mold and Your Health

Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects, or none at all. Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, molds can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation. People with mold allergies may have more severe reactions. Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may get serious infections in their lungs when they are exposed to mold. These people should stay away from areas that are likely to have mold, such as compost piles, cut grass, and wooded areas.

In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition. The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.

In addition, in 2004 the IOM found sufficient evidence to link exposure to damp indoor environments in general to upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people and with asthma symptoms in people with asthma. The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking exposure to damp indoor environments in general to shortness of breath, to respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children and to potential development of asthma in susceptible individuals. In 2009, the World Health Organization issued additional guidance, the WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and MouldExternal Web Site Icon [PDF, 2.52 MB].

A link between other adverse health effects, such as acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants, memory loss, or lethargy, and molds, including the mold Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), has not been proven. Further studies are needed to find out what causes acute idiopathic hemorrhage and other adverse health effects.

(end of article)

In spite of the recent media hype over the presence of mould (mold) in residences and the workplace, there is virtually no scientific or medical data that supports the level of fear and concern generated by misleading and sensationalized news reports.

Please note that the CDC makes prefaces the article with "that there is always some mold everywhere", and, specifically, that exposure to such environments may cause some symptoms, "or none at all".

The next section of the article describes various symptoms that are most typically associated with common allergic reactions (or "allergies") - "nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation".  This sentence is followed by indicating that people with existing or known mold allergies, as well as those that have weakened immune systems (due to illness or age) are at a higher chance of being affected, perhaps seriously. Please note that in no place does the article directly associate the risk of lung infection/disease and mold exposure with ordinary healthy adult individuals.

The next two paragraphs summarize studies done by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2004. Once again, the studies link allergic type reactions to primarily healthy individuals, and greater symptoms to asthmatics and those with compromised or limited immmune systems, such as the ill, the elderly, and children.

The last paragraph addresses the disassociation between mold exposure, including, specifically, Stachybotrys chartarum, the mold species most commonly misidentified as "black mold" and/or "toxic mold" and symptoms such as acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants, memory loss, or lethargy (fatigue).

Although I am no expert, in summary I find the CDC's position well in line with the standard position taken by other credible sources in the industry, and associated textbooks on the subject. Furthermore, the statements are supported by my relatively limited number of samples and clients. I am in full agreement with the CDC's position!

In closing, I urge all of you to do your homework and research the subject in detail prior to making any rash judgments, or furthermore spending large sums of money on unneeded or useless remediation techniques provided by unscrupulous or unknowledgable companies. Buried underneath all the hype, scare tactics, and misinformation is the truth.

 

10 Common Myths about Mold and your health

  
  
  

moldy ceilingMedia reports have linked indoor mold exposure to everything from asthma to headaches. So what’s the real scientific evidence that exposure to mold in your home actually can cause physical symptoms? A recent review of scientific literature about mold-related diseases found that many common claims just don’t hold up under scrutiny.

#1: The term "Toxic mold" - popular reports about the health effects of mold are likely to include the near-famous term “toxic mold.” But that term can be misleading, the experts say. Only certain mold spores produce toxins, and only under certain circumstances - just because a particular mold can produce toxins doesn’t mean it will. Lastly, even if a mold is producing toxins, a person must breathe in a sufficient, and in most cases, large, dose to be affected. It is highly unlikely that anyone could inhale enough mold in their home or office to receive a toxic dose.

#2: The term "Black mold" - the equally infamous cousin to 'toxic mold', this term, technically, does not exist. In actuality, there are a lots of molds that are black (or look black). In fact, many molds classified by frightened homeowners are actually a very dark green. The type of black mold that made the news years ago, associated with a lot of ill health effects, is called Stachybotrys. However, most molds that appear 'black' are fairly common and generally not of concern. The take-home message here is that 'black' molds do not always equal 'bad'.

#3: Mold causes asthma - While allergic responses to inhaling mold are a recognized factor in lower airway disease such as asthma, studies show that outdoor mold is much more likely to cause problems for asthmatics than indoor molds.

#4: Mold causes allergies - The link between mold and allergies is even weaker, the experts say. Current research doesn’t provide a persuasive case that exposure to mold in the outdoor air plays a role in allergies, and studies linking indoor molds to upper airway allergy are even less compelling.

#5: Mold causes skin rashes - Exposure to molds doesn’t contribute to atopic dermatitis, or rashes.

#6: Mold causes sinusitis - There’s no clear-cut evidence that sensitivity to mold causes chronic sinusitis, nor are there conclusive data to show that mold-killing antifungal drugs such as amphotericin, applied to the nasal passages, are an effective treatment for sinusitis.

#7: Mold causes infection. Superficial fungal infections, such as toenail fungus or jock itch, generally result from fungi that develop inside the warm, moist environments found in shoes or tight garments. Thrush can develop inside the mouths of people with weakened immune systems, such as those who have AIDS or cancer. These infections generally are not the result of exposure to mold in the home or workplace.

#8: Mold causes irritation. Mold found indoors, even inside damp buildings, is not likely to cause irritation of the eyes or throat -- and if it does, the effects are short-lived. Symptoms or signs persisting weeks after exposure and those accompanied by complaints related to the nervous system, brain, or whole body (such as those attributed to chronic fatigue) can’t be pinned on the irritant effects of mold exposure.

#9: Mold causes immune system damage. There is no credible evidence to suggest that environmental exposure to mold damages the immune system. The experts warn against immune-based tests given to look for intolerance to mold and other substances in the environment—so-called multiple chemical sensitivity. The authors specifically advise against using blood tests that look for a wide range of non-specific changes in the immune system. They also discourage using tests of autoantibodies, which are abnormal antibodies that the body sometimes produces in reaction against its own tissues. These tests are expensive and do not provide useful information that will help to diagnose or manage diseases related to mold, they say.

#10: Mold causes hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This uncommon inflammation of the lungs, an example of which is Farmer’s Lung, is caused by exposure to an allergen, usually organic dust that may come from animal dander, molds, or plants. A person generally develops this condition only after high-dose or prolonged exposure, or both, to mold or other allergens.

 

Much of the hoopla over mold exposure came in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the experts note in their report, which appeared in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The flood-ravaged areas of the Gulf Coast, sadly, have provided a natural laboratory, which enables medical researchers to address lingering questions about the health effects of mold testing ma.

The research cited in this article was provided by: Bush RK, Portnoy JM, Saxon A, Terr AI, Wood RA The medical effects of mold exposure.
J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006 Feb;117(2):326-33. Review. Erratum in: J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006 Jun;117(6):1373.
PMID: 16514772 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

 

 

Mold Testing, Remediation, and Prevention - Why You Need an Expert

  
  
  

We've all heard about the health dangers of mold in residential and commercial buildings. Having measures in place to prevent or control the growth of mold is of course prudent, and mold remediation is a necessary and often difficult task. For mold testing, control, and remediation, it is best to rely upon an expert in the field.

Preventing & Controlling the Growth of Mold
Mold prevention is necessary because mold has the potential to cause a number of health problems, including allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and lung inflammation. Mold growth occurs when there is a buildup of water or excessive moisture in an area within a structure. This can often be prevented by making sure that plumbing does not leak, and that the humidity inside a building is kept at a level between 30-50%.

Humidity and moisture buildup can be prevented by ensuring that the ventilation system is sufficient and working properly, and that air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and exhaust fans are used in areas prone to high humidity, such as the bathroom, or in the kitchen when cooking or cleaning. Insulation will also help to control the buildup of moisture. If there is water damage within a home or building, water damaged materials need to be discarded and replaced, and dehumidifiers need to be used to dry the area quickly.

Why Mold Remediation Experts Are Necessary
Walls or ceilings that show a discoloration, and the presence of a musty smell are signs that there may be water damage. Buildings are especially susceptible after heavy storms, or if there is a plumbing leak. A mold remediation expert should be called if there is suspected water damage or mold contamination. The expert can identify and assess the water damage and the potential for mold, and determine what needs to be done, as well as recommend improvements for the future prevention of mold.

Only a mold remediation expert will possess the skills, experience, and the specialized equipment necessary to thoroughly check a structure for mold, such as a moisture meter, which can detect moisture in building materials. Mold remediation experts also possess the proper disinfectants needed to fight and destroy mold spores, as well as the recommended respirators, goggles, and other protective clothing. Mold remediation should never be attempted by anyone who is not an expert and does not possess the proper equipment, or you are exposing yourself to significant health risks.

Hey, what about my Granite Countertops… and mold?

  
  
  

So with all the recent hype regarding granite countertops and radon gas emissions, I thought I'd combine granite countertops with one of my other ‘hot topic' specialties: mold investigation.

On the scale of hygiene, the typical granite countertop falls somewhere below Stainless and Corian, well ahead of ordinary laminates, and relatively even with quartz (aka "engineered stone"). A special variation of engineered quartz called "Silestone" exists that is advertised as having built-in anti-microbial properties. This is due to the addition of a special chemical compound during its manufacture.

Unlike engineered stone however, granite benefits greatly from the addition of a sealer. Left unsealed, granite can absorb small amounts of liquid, which may lead to staining. Similarly, open pores in granite surfaces can also harbor small amounts of liquid. These situations may lead to bacterial growth.

The great news about granite however, is its superior ability to be cleaned. In a study by the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management, granite was beaten only by Stainless Steel in a standardized hygiene test. The study showed that washing a granite surface with ordinary yellow dish soap and water reduced E.Coli bacteria levels by 36,000 times. If the dish soap was followed up by a 10% solution of household vinegar, the reduction of E. Coli increased to 80,000,000 times! Because caustics like vinegar can damage some sealers, its best to just stick with the dish soap.

So here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Granite should be initially sealed and then reapplied following the manufacturers recommendations
Avoid cutting raw food directly on a granite surface - use a cutting board.
Wipe up any spills immediately and wash down when completed.
Avoid using bleach or other caustics as this can damage the sealer
Avoid placing hot objects directly on the surface as this may also damage the sealer.
Follow these quick tips and keep your surface dry and clean - and you can be sure mold won't be hiding in the depths!


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