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.
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
There is always some mold everywhere - in the air and on many surfaces. Molds have been on the Earth for millions of years. Mold grows where there is moisture.
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 Mould [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.
Buying or renting a house or apartment for the first time is often supposed to be one of the most exciting times in your life. Unfortunately, many first time buyers and renters may not be aware of one of the biggest hurdles in the way of a good home and that’s toxins. Potential hazards continue to grow by the day it almost seems and the importance of a home inspector continues to grow.
Being aware and educated on some of the most common household toxins is of major importance to a new buyer. Without any knowledge of problems and the proper inspection services, families may be backing themselves into an unfortunate situation with a new house that has a ton of problems.
Mold is something that many of us are familiar with, but can sometimes slip the mind when looking for a new home. High levels of mold around a home can end up impairing health and having a slow but large effect on people. While the affect that mold can have on health is sometimes in question, there’s no doubt that it should be kept out of houses.
Radon is a household toxin that is continuing to become even more prevalent these days. Many buyers may be unaware of this problem because it is a silent gas. Radon is a gas that can’t be seen, tasted, or smelled at all, but it remains a major risk to houses. It occurs from a breakdown of uranium in water and soil. It then has the possibility of getting into the air you breathe. Radon’s presence in houses often occurs from seeping through cracks in insulation coming up from the ground, often in basements and first level areas.
Asbestos insulation is another thing that can go over the head of a buyer because it’s behind the walls of a home. Asbestos fiber was highly used as an insulation material heavily throughout the mid to late 1900’s in homes and structures. Unfortunately, asbestos exposure was then heavily tied to cases of a dangerous cancer known as mesothelioma. Although this material is banned in most of the country, it’s still being used in the insulation for many older homes.
These are just a few of the invisible toxins that can affect the quality of the home buying process, but they clearly show the importance of being aware. The growing amount of toxins being found only continues to prove that a professional, stringent home inspector can often be the difference between buying the right home and the wrong home.
BONSAI Inspection Company would like to thank Kristy Dawson [firstname.lastname@example.org] for authoring this article. Kristy is a recent college graduate and health and safety advocate. She is an aspiring writer and use my articles to spread awareness of such issues as chronic illnesses and cancer.
One of the questions I hear most in regards to cleaning up mold in the household is: "Should I just use some bleach on it?".
Here's an emphatic answer for you: No!
Household bleach is generally a solution containing 4-6% sodium hypochlorite and 0.01-0.05% sodium hydroxide. It is most frequently used as a disinfectant or a bleaching agent in our clothing. US Government regulations allow food processing equipment and surfaces to be sanitized with solutions containing bleach, provided that the solution is allowed to drain adequately before contact with food, and that the solutions do not exceed 200 ppm. If higher concentrations are used, the surface must be rinsed with potable water after sanitizing. A 1 in 5 dilution of household bleach with water (1 part bleach to 4 parts water) is also effective against many bacteria and some viruses, and is often the disinfectant of choice in cleaning surfaces in hospitals.
However, as a fungicide (or "mold killer") on porous surfaces such as walls, floors, ceilings, and cabinets, it is not effective – in fact, it can actually provide nutrients to the mold and make problems worse. The Clorox ® Company, OSHA, and the US EPA all have determined that bleach should not be used in mold remediation. While bleach appears to kill mold, just the surface mold is affected – the hidden mold underneath the surface remains alive and well.
Bleach can also be extremely dangerous, and in the shadow of the 'green' movement, is not environmentally friendly. Mixing bleach with other cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia can produce highly toxic fumes including cyanide gas. A small percentage of the sodium hypochlorite will also break down into chloroform and carbon tetrachloride. It was estimated in 1992 using market data, that stored household products would have contributed to 12 tons of chloroform and 28 tons of carbon tetrachloride. Chloroform breaks down in the troposphere and it was estimated that about 96,000 tons of carbon tetrachloride are released annually.
So what do you use? The object of mold removal is to clean the surface and remove loose moldy material, not to try to sterilize the surface. Certain mold-contaminated materials that cannot be suitably cleaned (drywall, carpeting, and curtains) should simply be discarded. Clothing and bedding linens or towels can be washed or dry-cleaned. For hard, non-porous surfaces, any cleaning method that removes surface mold is fine: warm water and soap are your best choice. Stains that are left behind, such as on framing lumber, are generally harmless, provided that you keep the areas properly dry. If you don't keep the area dry, new mold growth will readily occur on many surfaces regardless of the old stains that were left from the prior mold cleanup.
Remember to always hire a professional when you are unsure, are dealing with a large area, or if anyone in the home is experiencing symptoms. Simply killing mold is not always the answer. Dead airborne mold material can be as equally bothersome as living mold!
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.
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!
It's been a long, cold, and snowy winter here in Massachusetts and over the past months of performing home inspections I have run into numerous instances of ice dam formation and the subsequent questions from prospective buyers and sellers.
Having problems with Ice Dams and/or roof leaks this Winter? BONSAI can help you! Click here for important info!
So what causes ice dams? Simply put, ice dam formation is caused when melting snow runs down the roof and then refreezes at the roof edge. The water runs down the roof slope underneath the blanket of snow and then refreezes into a band of ice at the roof edge creating a "dam". Additional snow melt can then pool against the dam and leak into the building through the roof or roof trim. Ice dams can actually form with as little as 1 or 2 inches of snow accumulation given the right weather circumstances.
The question I receive most often is, "what can I do to prevent ice dams?" The answer, while it may sound contradictory at first, is increased amounts of insulation and increased attic ventilation. In order to understand why, one needs to fully understand the mechanisms of ice dam formation: The upper roof (or attic) surface is typically at a temperature that is above freezing - this is what causes the melting at the upper roof surfaces. The lower part of the roof (or attic) surface (along the eaves) is typically below freezing - this is what causes the refreeze. It is heat lost from inside the house is the source of the melting at the upper roof surfaces! Because the lower roof surfaces (particularly the overhangs) are not warmed by indoor heat-loss, these regions can remain at below freezing temperatures, especially during periods of very cold outdoor temperatures.
Check your home carefully when ice dams form, even when there doesn't appear to be a leak. Get in your attic and look at the underside of the roof sheathing and roof trim to make sure they haven't gotten wet. Check the insulation for dampness. And when leaks inside your home develop, be prepared. Water penetration often follows pathways difficult follow. You may wish to hire an inspector that is equipped with an infrared or thermal imaging camera, as this equipment may be able to spot water penetration that is not readily visible with the naked eye. Ultimately, however, you will want to correct the problem to prevent future occurrences:
Insulation: Houses in this region of the country should have attic insulation of at least R-38, or about 12 inches depth of fiberglass or blown in material. The most notable problem area is at the far eaves, or right above where the exterior wall is.
Ventilation: A ‘ridge/soffit' ventilation system is currently the most effective ventilation system, and is the system found in most new construction. If you have an older home, you may still be using a power fan, static roof vent(s) and/or gable end louvers - these simply aren't as good and will have a more difficult time retarding ice dam formation. Ridge/soffit systems should also include foam or plastic baffles at the far eaves to prevent insulation from blocking the soffit intake vents. If you have soffit baffles currently installed, make sure they are not crushed or displaced - they are relatively flimsy items yet they perform a very important function.
Air Leakage: Although insulation is what primarily keeps warm air in our house, small (or large) holes can allow significant volumes of warm indoor air to pass into attic spaces. Some of these sources can include: pull-down staircases, doorways leading to attic staircases, recessed lighting, bathroom exhaust fans, and various holes for cable TV, internet, etc. Take the appropriate measures to seal up or insulate these areas, it may be the difference maker!
Remember: Always wear personal protective equipment when making repairs of any nature. And when in doubt, always hire a professional. Winter is almost over!
Mike Ciavattieri is a Massachusetts Home Inspector and owner of BONSAI Inspection Company, of Abington, MA