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Mold contamination occurrences in fiberglass insulation: this article explains the cause, detection, and hazards of mold growth in fiberglass insulation in residential and light-commercial buildings. We illustrate how to find or test for moldy insulation in buildings, the probable cause of mold contamination in building insulation, and how to recognize conditions that make that problem likely in a particular case.
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Clean-looking Fiberglass Insulation may be Mold Contaminated if Exposed to Wet Conditions or A Secondary Airborne Mold Source
Except for some superficial "dust staining" that is often simply thermal tracking by house dust, the pink fiberglass insulation shown below (left) looked clean. Unlike our black insulation mold photo above, there was no visible mold on the pink fiberglass insulation shown at below left. But vacuuming the center (most clean-looking area) of that mold and lab examination of the vacuum dust sample contents showed the long Penicillium/Aspergillus spore chains (below right) consistent with local problematic mold growth.
High levels of mold may be present in fiberglass insulation: We have measured very high levels of airborne problematic mold spores which were traced to a building reservoir of moldy fiberglass insulation.
Recapping, the pair of photographs (above) shows fairly clean-looking fiberglass insulation over a crawl space which in fact had been subjected to flooding. While the insulation itself did not appear to have been flooded, and while there was no mold visible on or in this fiberglass insulation, a simple vacuum test demonstrated that the insulation was severely contaminated with Aspergillus sp. mold.
BASEMENT MOLD includes examples of moldy fiberglass insulation found in basements
Supplementary text continuing below introduces discussion about moldy fiberglass insulation that can be found in more detail at the insulation mold topic links listed just above this sentence.
The presence of both mold spore chains and conidiophores of Aspergillus sp. in the insulation test samples whose photos are shown above confirmed that not only was the crawl space ceiling fiberglass insulation moldy, but it was supporting active fungal growth.
Our screening samples confirmed that this mold was present in other building areas, most-likely emanating from this mold reservoir of mold-contaminated fiberglass insulation. In some of cases, non-visible mold contamination in fiberglass insulation has been enough to cause IAQ, health, or other mold-related complaints by building occupants, and in some cases
In the partially-opened basement wall shown here at left, the water track stains on the cavity side of the exposed drywall (shown after a test cut was made) indicate that water passed in this wall from above.
In this circumstance, even when the fiberglass insulation looks clean, I often find high levels of Penicillium sp. or Aspergillus sp. in this material. Comparison tests of fiberglass which is new at a building supply store or in homes where the insulation has not been wet nor infested with rodents or other pests, mold is rarely a problem.
The photo at above right shows a very dense presence of Pen/Asp spores and spore chains as well as a portion of a conidiophore (lower left) in this insulation test sample, indicating that mold appeared to be growing in the insulation, not simply accumulated there from another building mold reservoir.
For buildings which do not have other known mold reservoirs, special attention needs to be given to inspecting and testing for problematic mold in
We do not recommend routine testing of building fiberglass for mold in non-suspect cases. "Spot checks" by "mold testing" in buildings, if conducted without an expert diagnostic visual inspection and history gathering, are simply not reliable and thus not cost-justified.
See When to test insulation for mold for detailed advice about when where how and why to test building insulation for mold contamination.
See When to hire a professional to investigate a building for toxic mold for more detailed advice on deciding when it is appropriate to hire a professional or to perform further mold testing in a building.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.
Fiberglass in buildings: hazards, testing, cleanup, prevention: references & products
For more information about fiberglass as an indoor air quality concern see: