How to Look for Mold, Where to Test for Mold Contamination in Buildings
- MOLD in BUILDINGS - CONTENTS: How to look & where to test for mold in buildings. Where to look, where to collect mold samples, mold testing or sampling mistakes to avoid, proper use of a flashlight finds "hidden" mold, what mold looks like in different areas or on different surfaces
- POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about where mold contamination occurs in buildings, how to find building mold contamination reservoirs & when & how to test for mold.
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How to find mold contamination in buildings: This is a 'how to' photo and text primer on finding and testing for mold in buildings using simple clear adhesive tape on suspect or visibly moldy surfaces.
Choosing the Right Spot for Mold Testing Makes an Enormous Difference in Mold Test Results - here we start with a discussion of surface sampling of visible mold, settled dust, or any other dust, debris, or surface to be tested for particle identificvation.
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How to Choose the Right Mold Test Sample Location:
Choosing the Right Spot for Mold Testing Makes an Enormous Difference in Mold Test Results - here we discuss Where to Collect Tape Samples of Surfaces
This document describes how to find mold and test for mold in buildings, including how and where to collect mold samples using adhesive tape - an easy,
inexpensive, low-tech but very effective mold testing method.
This procedure helps identify the presence of or locate the probable sources of mold reservoirs in buildings, and helps decide which of these need more
invasive, exhaustive inspection and testing.
Separately at AIR TEST FOR MOLD: ACCURACY we describe similarly critical decisions about where & how air tests for dust, mold, other particles may be conducted.
People collect surface samples of visible mold or of settled dust to be screened for mold testing using clear adhesive tape to identify a visible mold on a surface,
to screen settled dust for mold/allergens, or to test the cleanliness of a surface after mold cleanup.
Regardless of the reason, the adhesive tape mold test method can be very effective, in fact more reliable than spot checks
of airborne particles (which vary widely minute by minute) and far more reliable than culture samples (which only grow
a small percentage of all possible molds).
But everything depends on the selection
of the sample location - "where you stick the tape."
This document explains where and where not to "stick the tape"
when sampling for mold.
Random mold samples, tape sampling of arbitrary surfaces, or sampling the obvious "black mold" when
investigating a building are practices which increase the risk of a serious error - missing what's important
and finding what's not very important. The result of these errors is the waste of time and money as well as
the possible failure to find and address the real problem, leaving a health or cost risk in a Building to be handled
again, and again, until it's addressed properly.
Mold is everywhere. You can't eliminate it. If you could we'd all be in trouble as nothing would ever decay and
we'd all be so buried in junk and debris that nothing could grow on the earth. But we don't much like to see mold
indoors and certainly not on our walls, ceilings, or furniture.
There we remove it or clean it off. This paper describes the detection of mold in buildings by visual inspection of
mold-suspect surfaces. A thorough building investigation for problematic mold
needs to address hidden mold reservoirs, for which our approach is to complete a detailed inspection and
building (leak) history as well as to record occupant observations and complaints.
Knowing what molds are likely to be present indoors on building surfaces or in building materials, what they look like,
and what they like to eat, in other words, knowing some mycology, can make a significant difference in what a building inspection for
mold actually turns up.
See MOLD GROWTH on SURFACES for an index of what mold genera/species are frequently found on various building surfaces and materials.
Most common mold testing errors: the difference between what molds are found in buildings and what molds commonly grow on various building surfaces is that most mold tests and mold reports involve samples collected by people who are not expert at recognizing and sampling mold in buildings.
So easy-to-see molds are over-reported and hard-to-see molds are under-reported in many consumer-generated mold tests and samples. This reporting error also confounds attempts to correlate mold related illness and sick building complaints with specific genera or species of indoor mold.
Simple "mold screening methods" which omit the inspection, and "test only" sampling methods, such as air and culture methods
can produce very unreliable results when used quantitatively - as we discuss at IAQ Methods and at other articles at this website.
See TEST KITS for DUST, MOLD, PARTICLE TESTS for added about how to use clear adhesive tape to collect surface samples of mold or dust or other materials.
Continue reading at MOLD APPEARANCE - WHAT MOLD LOOKS LIKE or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
Or see MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ?
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MOLD in BUILDINGS at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.
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Technical Reviewers & References
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Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
- 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.
- Environmental Health & Investigation Bibliography - our technical library on indoor air quality inspection, testing, laboratory procedures, forensic microscopy, etc.
- Adkins and Adkins Dictionary of Roman Religion discusses Robigus, the Roman god of crop protection and the legendary progenitor of wheat rust fungus.
- Kansas State University, department of plant pathology, extension plant pathology web page on wheat rust fungus: see http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/path-ext/factSheets/Wheat/Wheat%20Leaf%20Rust.asp
- "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
Allergies, Allergens, Allergy Testing in Buildings - References & Products
- Air Conditioning System Blower Fans & Filters Cascading for Optimum Indoor Air Quality
- 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.
- Atlas of Mold Related Illness Symptoms & Complaints - long list of both documented, studied mold related illness, and complaints ascribed to mold contamination or allergens in buildings
- Cat Dander: how to inspect and test a building for past or current presence of cats, cat hair, cat dander, and cat allergens
- Clinical Atlas of Mold Toxicity - An Online Description of Toxic, Pathogenic, Allergenic Fungi, Fungal Diseases
- Fiberglass Insulation Contains Mold© 2005 comments about a field study in process, & more about health hazards from fiberglass insulation
- Humidity: What indoor humidity should we maintain in order to avoid a mold problem?
- Mold Action Guide detailed guide on finding, removing, and preventing indoor mold contamination
- Odors, Odor Detection, Smells, & Gases how to find and identify sources of noxious or toxic odors and gases
- Other environmental risks, Our much longer list: Asbestos, carbon monoxide, electromagnetic fields, etc.
- Ozone: The Use of Ozone Indoors for Control of Odors and Mold
Removal in Buildings: A Summary of Hazards and False Claims.
- Pollen Allergens: identification, plant pollen and indoor air quality
- Products to Reduce Mold & Allergy Problems to reduce indoor mold or allergen levels: air cleaners, air purifiers, dust mite covers, vacuum cleaners, crawl space vents
- 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
- Sewage and Septic backup contamination in Buildings: inspection, testing, remediation, & references to expert sources
- Action Guide: What to do about mold, mildew, and other indoor allergens
Mold Contamination Testing, Cleanup, Prevention: references & products
- The Mold Information Center: What to Do About Mold in Buildings, When and How
to Inspect for Mold, Clean Up Mold, or Avoid Mold Problems
- Aerobiology, Building Science, Microscopy, & Laboratory References, an extensive technical bibliography
- Allergens: what they look like in buildings
- 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
- Atlas of Mold Related Illness: Index of Symptoms and health, physical, neurological, psychological, and other complaint which people suspect may be mold or building-related.
- Atlas of Indoor Mold, Online Clinical Mold Atlas, Toxins, Pathogens, Allergens and Other Indoor Particles - Medical Health Effects of Mold (separate online document)
- Black Mold that is Harmless Photos of recognizable, usually harmless black mold on wood, bluestain, ceratocystis, ophistoma
- Building Floods: quick steps after a building flood or plumbing leak can prevent costly mold contamination
- Classes of Mold: what types of cosmetic, allergenic, or toxic mold are a problem? Can mold be cleaned-up successfully?
- Clinical Mold References - Detailed bibliography of mold reference texts
- "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 Program for Certain Vegetable Crops," David B. Langston, Jr., Extension Plant Pathologist - Vegetables, University of Georgia (PDF document) original source: www.reeis.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/209797.html
- "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
- "Management of Powdery Mildew, Leveillula taurica, in Greenhouse Peppers," Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, British Columbia - Original source: www.agf.gov.bc.ca/cropprot/peppermildew.htm
- Environmental Health & Investigation Bibliography - our own technical library on indoor air quality inspection, testing, laboratory procedures, forensic microscopy, etc.
- Fiberglass: Mold in Fiberglass Insulation© 2005 comments about a field study in process, & more about health hazards from fiberglass insulation - DJF
- 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.
- Fungi, Identifying Filamentous, A Clinical Laboratory Handbook, Guy St-Germain, Richard Summerbell, Star Publishing, 1996, ISBN 0-89863-177-7 (English) (buy at Amazon)
- MOLD in BUILDINGS Procedure: what mold is often found where in buildings - simple technical presentation
- Meruliporia: the house eating fungus or "poria"
- MOLD ACTION GUIDE Step-by-Step Instructions, What to do about mold, mildew, and other indoor allergens
- MOLD APPEARANCE - WHAT MOLD LOOKS LIKE Photos of what mold looks like in buildings
- MOLD APPEARANCE - STUFF THAT IS NOT MOLD Photos of NOT-mold material that is sometimes mistaken for mold
- MOLD ATLAS & PARTICLES INDEX, Pathogens, Allergens and Other Indoor Particles - Medical Health Effects of Mold (separate online document)
- MOLD BY MICROSCOPE Mold under the microscope - photo identification of the most common indoor molds found in buildings
- Mold FAQs Answers to Most Questions about Indoor Mold, Mold Related Illness, Mold Cleanup, Mold Prevention
- US EPA: Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Building [Copy on file at /sickhouse/EPA_Mold_Remediation_in_Schools.pdf ] - US EPA
- Mold spores in the Home - a Photo ID Library for detection and identification of mold allergens
- Mold Test Kits - How to Collect and Send Your Own Mold Sample to our mold testing lab or to any mold lab you wish
- Most Common Indoor Molds Found in Buildings, A Table of
- Mycology, Fundamentals of Diagnostic, Fran Fisher, Norma B. Cook, W.B. Saunders Co. 1998, ISBN 0-7216-5006-6 (buy this book at Amazon)
- Ozone Warnings - Use of Ozone as a "mold" remedy is ineffective and may be dangerous.
- Rot concerns in buildings-some building mold such as Meruliporia incrassata "Poria" risks serious rot and hidden structural damage
- US EPA: Una Breva Guia a Moho - Hongo [Copy on file as /sickhouse/EPA_Moho_Guia_sp.pdf - en Espanol
OTHER IAQ ISSUES: How To Find and Address Other Indoor Air or Indoor Environment Contaminants Besides Mold
Mold or allergens may not be the only or even the main indoor environmental contaminant. Don't let media attention to mold
cause so much enviro-scare fear that other, possibly more urgent hazards go un-addressed.
- Fiberglass building insulation and HVAC duct work insulation hazards
- Sewage and Septic backup contamination in buildings: inspection, testing, remediation, & references to expert sources
- Other environmental risks: Asbestos, carbon monoxide,
electromagnetic fields, environmental illness, fiberglass, MCS - multiple chemical sensitivity, toxic gases, etc
- Indoor Gas Sampling Plan
for Residential Buildings lists a number of toxic indoor gases which we test for, depending on the building
complaint and building conditions
- Ozone Warnings - Use of Ozone as a "mold"
remedy is ineffective and may be dangerous.
- Pet control - if you can't say goodbye to your bird, cat, dog, guinea pig, hamster, tropical fish, then limit the
areas they occupy and limit the airflow from that area to sleeping or other areas of the building, use allergenic
bedding, eliminate wall-to-wall carpeting, improve housecleaning including use of a HEPA-rated vacuum cleaner. For more details
see our article Dog, Cat, and Other Animal Dander - Information for Asthmatics and Indoor Air Quality
- Rodents, Mice, Squirrel Control - I find high levels of mouse and rodent dander, fecal dust, and urine-contaminated dust in some buildings,
and high levels of these materials in building insulation in those locations. If you have a mouse problem, particularly if mice and their waste (fecals or urine) are contaminating
the building HVAC or building insulation, may need both steps to clean up or remove infected materials and steps to stop an ongoing
rodent problem. If squirrels are a problem, the cleanup needs to include closing off entry openings into the building. Get some
help from a licensed pest control expert.