FIND MOLD, ESSENTIAL STEPS - CONTENTS: How to find hidden or less obvious mold contamination sources in buildings. Mistakes to Avoid when Locating Mold for a Mold Cleanup Project. What a Mold Inspector and Mold Test Consultant Need to Know. Essential Steps to Follow When Screening or Testing a Building for Mold
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How to find indoor mold contamination sources: This document is the starting point of our mold guide that describes the essential steps needed when searching for problematic mold in buildings. This article provides an easy to understand step-by-step guide for
dealing with toxic or allergenic indoor mold and other indoor contaminants: what to do about mold.
The steps in this document will be sufficient for many building owners who want
to do their own mold investigation, mold testing, mold cleanup, and mold prevention in their home or office.
Extensive, technically detailed in-depth articles are also organized at our Mold Information Center.
HOW TO FIND MOLD: How to Inspect Homes and Other buildings for Mold - the Basics of How to Find Problem Mold Indoors
Mold Testing & Cleanup Mistakes to Avoid
Much too often we are contacted by a property owner who has just paid a substantial sum to "remove black toxic mold" from a building only to learn that conditions in the property are no better, sometimes worse, than before. What went wrong with the mold cleanup project?
Incomplete mold cleanup projects: The owner or mold remediator was quick to address a visible mold problem without first making sure that all of the important mold reservoirs in the building had been found and listed for cleanup as needed.
The result unfortunately is that another cleanup may be needed. Worse, we sometimes find people addressing the wrong mold problem in a building, for example scrubbing off cosmetic black mold that was harmless while leaving a real problem with mold-contaminated building insulation that looked "ok" to the eye.
In-valid mold testing: relying on a quick air test, swab, or culture to locate the problem mold or to pass a post-mold-cleanup clearance test without including a decent inspection of the premises, the remediation containment system, checks for cross contamination, etc.
Sometimes this happens because the same people are providing the mold assessment, the mold cleanup, and the post-cleanup inspection and testing. These conflicting interests are risky for everyone concerned.
Questionable mold cleanup procedures: were followed such as inadequate dust containment, or reliance on simple biocide sprays where physical cleaning or removal of moldy materials was needed.
What does an Effective Mold Investigator Need to Know?
Building science: where do leaks and moisture problems occur in buildings, how do air and moisture move in a building
Mycology: what molds are harmful, which are cosmetic, how, when, where, and why does problem mold grow n a building
Industrial Hygiene or Sampling Methods: what sampling and test methods are sound and produce valid results, and which are magic and speculative.
Field Investigation & Mold Test Lab Experience: Where do problems occur in buildings, how do we find them, what test methods are valid, what do labs do with mold samples, what do lab results mean, how do we interpret "mold counts" or other measures of moldiness in buildings?
Listening & looking skills, writing skills: listen to the experience and concerns of the occupants, owners, clients; look carefully everywhere at the site. Write down mold investigation findings and recommendations that are sound, clear, and easy to follow.
Essential Steps in Screening a Building for Harmful Mold Contamination:
If you don't see water stains don't assume there was never a flood or a leak.
If a building has had flooding, plumbing leaks, roof leaks, A/C condensate leaks, hidden mold may be at serious levels.
Check HVAC equipment and duct work for presence of mold or other allergens. Pay close attention to duct work downstream from air filters and blowers;
check blower compartments and duct work for contamination (including dead mice), and check other areas where condensate may have accumulated in duct
lines, supporting mold growth. Clean ducts in one area don't assure clean ducts everywhere; a "clean" air test does *not* guarantee no
duct contamination either as variations in temperature, moisture, and mechanical disturbance can suddenly release mold spores into the building air.
If you don't see mold don't assume a severe mold infection can't be present (behind walls, under carpets, under insulation, in HVAC equipment.) I've found serious toxic mold colonies in walls which showed no external
moisture stains nor external mold growth - the clue was other evidence of a history of leaks into the subfloor, confirmed by an
impaction air sampler result.
Small changes in building conditions can themselves make huge changes in the detected level of airborne mold, from not-detected to severely contaminated. Mold may be present at problem-levels in house air depending on variations in
humidity, temperature, season, air movement, and physical activity. Not
finding it at a given moment is not an excuse for visual and in some cases
A home inspection is not an environmental check for unhealthy mold or other bioaerosols
or allergens. But if you see moldy conditions, or if there is evidence of a history of building leaks, plumbing backups, moisture problems, or visible mold, further more expert investigation is probably warranted.
An industrial hygienist or mycologist may not know enough about how buildings work to complete a reliable building inspection and test. Industrial hygiene is not residential hygiene. Mycology is not building science.
Do not be hasty to assert that a specific illness or complaint is caused by mold. The
four tests (proposed by Burge, Harvard School of Public Health) are
stringent beyond your means as an inspector. Mold at high levels may
cause and almost certainly aggravates or contributes to a wide variety of
complaints. If a significant reservoir of problematic mold is found in a building it should be removed, independent of any efforts to approve causation between the problem mold and occupant health complaints.
List of Detailed Articles on Finding Mold in buildings
If you are looking for evidence of a mold problem in a building you should review these articles.
ENVIRONMENTAL TEST ERROR TYPES explains the classes of testing or statistical errors and how they appy to mold or other environmental inspection, testing, lab and reporting procedures. Type 1 and Type 2 errors are defined
List of Articles on In-depth information on mold investigation in buildings
Mold Investigation Tips for Home Inspectors how to find mold, where to look, what is likely to be important. Advice to building inspectors intending to inspect or test for toxic or problematic mold indoors, mold inspection methods, and mold test methods which are valid or invalid
Mold Testing Methods - Brief Tutorial: Toxic Mold and Toxic Gas Testing Methods Compared -
valid vs. invalid tests, recommendations. Lists mold testing methods and protocols, links to longer articles describing air tests for mold, surface tape or bulk mold tests, and gas testing such as MVOC's or toxic gases. Longer articles explain the shortcomings and discuss mold testing protocols.
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"A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home",
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency US EPA - includes basic advice for building owners, occupants, and mold cleanup operations. See http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.htm
US EPA - Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Building [Copy on file at /sickhouse/EPA_Mold_Remediation_in_Schools.pdf ] - US EPA
US EPA - Una Breva Guia a Moho - Hongo [Copy on file as /sickhouse/EPA_Moho_Guia_sp.pdf - en Espanol
"A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home", U.S. Environmental Protection Agency US EPA - includes basic advice for building owners, occupants, and mold cleanup operations. See http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.htm
"Disease Prevention in Home Vegetable Gardens,"
Department of Plant Microbiology and Pathology,
Department of Horticulture, University of Missouri Extension - extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G6202
Fifth Kingdom, Bryce Kendrick, ISBN13: 9781585100224, is available from the InspectAPedia online bookstore - we recommend the CD-ROM version of this book. This 3rd/edition is a compact but comprehensive encyclopedia of all things mycological. Every aspect of the fungi, from aflatoxin to zppspores, with an accessible blend of verve and wit. The 24 chapters are filled with up-to-date information of classification, yeast, lichens, spore dispersal, allergies, ecology, genetics, plant pathology, predatory fungi, biological control, mutualistic symbioses with animals and plants, fungi as food, food spoilage and mycotoxins.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto, have provided us with (and we recommend) Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates' Technical Reference Guide to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Allergen Tests in buildings advice about how to test, what to look for, in evaluating the level of dog, cat, or other animal allergens in a building
"IgG Food Allergy Testing by ELISA/EIA, What do they really tell us?" Sheryl B. Miller, MT (ASCP), PhD, Clinical Laboratory Director, Bastyr University Natural Health Clinic - ELISA testing accuracy: Here is an example of Miller's critique of ELISA
http://www.betterhealthusa.com/public/282.cfm - Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients
The critique included in that article raises compelling questions about IgG testing assays, which prompts our interest in actually screening for the presence of high levels of particles that could carry allergens - dog dander or cat dander in the case at hand.
http://www.tldp.com/issue/174/IgG%20Food%20Allergy.html contains similar criticism in another venue but interestingly by the same author, Sheryl Miller. Sheryl Miller, MT (ASCP), PhD, is an Immunologist and Associate Professor of Basic and Medical Sciences at Bastyr University in Bothell, Washington. She is also the Laboratory Director of the Bastyr Natural Health Clinic Laboratory.
Allergens: Testing for the level of exposure to animal allergens is discussed at http://www.animalhealthchannel.com/animalallergy/diagnosis.shtml (lab animal exposure study is interesting because it involves a higher exposure level in some cases
Allergens: WebMD discusses allergy tests for humans at webmd.com/allergies/allergy-tests
Animal Allergens: Dog, Cat, and Other Animal Dander - Cleanup & Prevention Information for Asthmatics and regarding Indoor Air Quality.
Recognizing Allergens: What various indoor allergens look like - identification photos to help identify pollen, dust mites, animal dander, toxic or allergenic mold - Common Mold and other Allergens, Irritants, Remedies & Advice
Rodent control issues, including dander, fecal, and urine contamination of buildings and Building insulation are discussed at our
Associations: Sick House, Sick Building, SBS - Air Quality, Government, Private Associations and Information Resources
Atlas of Clinical Fungi, 2nd Ed., GS deHoog, J Guarro, J Gene, & MJ Figueras, Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures, Universitat Rovira I Virgili, 2000, ISBN 90-70351-43-9 (you can buy this book at Amazon) - The Atlas of Clinical Fungi is also available on CD ROM
MOLD in BUILDINGS Procedure: what mold is often found where in buildings - simple technical presentation