This expert-recommended mold test kit is easy, inexpensive, and
accurate *IF* you sample from a representative spot and *IF* you use a competent mold analysis laboratory!How to Perform Dust or Mold Sampling Using Adhesive Tape
Six Easy Steps to Get and Mail a Dust, Particle, or Mold Test Kit to a Mold or Forensic Lab for Analysis and Report
     

  • DUST / MOLD TEST KIT INSTRUCTIONS - CONTENTS: Basic Advice About Collecting a Mold Test Sample
  • How to Make a Careful Building Inspection for Mold. Supplies you will need to have on hand for Mold Sample Collection. Step by step instructions for using adhesive tape to collect settled dust, mold or other particles from any surface.
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to use adhesive tape to collect surface dust or mold samples for laboratory analysis.
  • REFERENCES

InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website.

How to test for mold or dust: a DIY Mold Test Kit materials & procedure.

If you need a dust or mold test or test kit to determine the presence of mold in your home or office or if you need to screen building dust for any particle (such as animal allergens, dust mites, fiberglass, insects, mold, etc) here is a simple and inexpensive procedure recommended by experts in the field of IAQ, mold inspection, public health and industrial hygiene.

This article describes an easy, inexpensive step by step procedure using clear adhesive tape and a plastic bag to collect surface samples of building dust, mold, suspected mold, or other particles for examination by a qualified mold or forensic laboratory.

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2015 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.

Basic Advice About Collecting a Mold Test Sample

The simple, low-tech and inexpensive adhesive adhesive tape procedure described here can be used to collect surface mold, settled dust, or almost any other particles that need to be examined microscopically in order to identify the presence or absence of substances in buildings.

According to virtually every expert, after a visual inspection for mold, the bulk or surface sample collected by the method we describe below is the most preferred starting point in any investigation for toxic mold. Toxic mold might be black, gray, green, brown, or virtually colorless.

But don't panic. Simple allergenic or even totally harmless molds might look just the same. How do you know what you've got? Use this simple collection method, a competent building inspection, and a competent forensic laboratory to identify the particles that you have collected. For a strategy for collecting building dust samples, when, where, how many samples to collect,

see DUST SAMPLING PROCEDURE.

First, should we be testing for mold at all? If you see mold on indoor surfaces, NO mold testing is needed to confirm that mold is present in the building and that cleanup is needed. But if a large remediation project is planned, tests may be needed for project control

see When to identify mold?. See MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ? for a discussion of when it is or is not appropriate, justified, and ethical to hire a mold consultant to inspect, diagnose, and advise about mold contamination in a building.

To hire an experienced mold, indoor air quality, or environmental inspection and testing professional,

see MOLD INSPECTORS & MOLD TESTERS for our online directory of mold inspection and testing experts.

See MOLD CLEANUP COMPANIES for our online directory of mold cleanup companies - mold remediators. For on-site building diagnostic inspections & testing also see the list of inspectors and specialists

at Directory of Professionals to Inspect or Test a Building

FORENSIC LAB SAMPLE PROCESSING AVAILABILITY NOTICE: We are not accepting test samples at our lab except in limited pro-bono cases by prearrangement. We apologize for the inconvenience. The procedure described at TEST KITS for DUST, MOLD, PARTICLE TESTS for tape sampling produces high quality surface samples of building dust, particle samples, mold or mold-suspect material, or other particles for identification by a qualified laboratory. We will continue to be available for email or emergency consultation described at Contact Us.

Follow the simple steps explained here to prepare and mail a mold sample using inexpensive clear Scotch tape

To collect and mail your own mold test sample to a mold test lab, all you need is clear tape and a plastic bag. Follow our instructions below, then send your mold sample to a competent laboratory to identify the mold you found and to find out if what is growing in your building is toxic mold, allergenic mold, or simply a cosmetic problem.

You can use our laboratory if you like. Why don't the national mold home test kit retailers tell you how to use Scotch Tape™ to collect and mail a mold sample? Perhaps because what you need is free or cheap, and not patented. At Tape sampling for mold we include a technical discussion of the interpretation of tape sampling results as a screen for building mold or other particles.

Warning for people at extra risk: if there is a significant amount of mold present, or if you have allergies, suffer from asthma, have a compromised immune system, are elderly, or if infants or if others with those conditions or any other medical risk are in the building, do not attempt to collect or disturb mold. Consult your physician in any case before proceeding.

Do you need an expert? This document describes a fast, low-cost, highly-effective procedure to collect and send a "bulk" or tape mold sample to our mold testing laboratory. Sending a do-it-yourself mold test sample to a laboratory is not a substitute for consulting with or using the services of a qualified professional to inspect your building. An expert is likely to find conditions most people would not recognize.

But if you simply want to know about mold which you see yourself, the procedure below is inexpensive, scientifically sound, and easily within the ability of a typical home owner or tenant.

See MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ? for help in deciding if you need to bring in an expert to inspect or test your building for mold.

See Mold Sampling Methods in the Indoor Environment for a discussion of the validity of various "home test kits" and "toxic mold test kits" on the market.

What about hiring someone to just do an "air test" or "swab" or "culture" for mold: You can NOT rely on air testing, settlement plates, swab testing, or culture plates to accurately and fully characterize the presence of mold in a building.

Such mold test kits are unreliable and are discussed at "Test Methods Critiqued" (link at left). While air testing and culture tests for mold can be useful tools, they are fundamentally inaccurate in characterizing mold risk in a building. Thorough visual building inspection by an experienced building scientist who is also has expertise on mold, aerobiology, and mycology, accompanied appropriate types testing of visible mold are key in any such investigation.

In addition to tape samples (procedure described in this document) our mold testing lab also accepts spore traps such as AllergencoD® and Zefon® air sample cassettes and provides the same rapid turnaround as for tape samples.

Our field inspection and testing service also makes use of Burkard Personal Air Sampler slides, spore traps, Allergenco air sampling equipment, vacuum samples, and bulk material samples as well as smoke testing, air flow examination and measurement, and certain gas measurements such as Carbon dioxide, Carbon monoxide, and Formaldehyde.

Mail-in samples prepared by this or similar equipment are accepted as well but you should call for special mailing and handling instructions if you're using one of these methods. Instructions for sending a simple tape sample continue on this page.

Please do not send to our toxic mold test lab raw material samples such as pieces of wood, drywall, carpeting, etc. without calling to make the necessary arrangements. Unless we make prior arrangement, such samples will simply be discarded as there is risk of lab contamination.

How to Make a Careful Building Inspection for Mold

If you are not experienced in screening a building for mold contamination, base your building inspection and sampling location choices on:

  1. Large areas of visible mold growth or contamination - note that more than one mold genera/species may be present so sample those that by color, texture, growth substrate, are dominant;
  2. Settled dust that represents building airborne debris in spaces where people spend the most time, or on surfaces that represent building air such as air filters, fan blade edges, &c.
  3. Building areas that are most suspect such as where there are occupant complaints
  4. Building cavities that are at highest risk for hidden mold due to building leak history, design, moisture traps, &c.

Review these articles for help in inspecting a building for mold:

How to evaluate the leak and moisture history of your building

  • Overall building risk for mold
    see MOLD EXPOSURE RISK LEVELS, and if there seem to be particularly high risks (building history, what you see, complaints or health risks of occupants) it might be appropriate to hire an expert
  • MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ? helps decide if it’s appropriate to bring in an pro.

SUPPLIES YOU NEED - to have on hand for Mold Sample Collection - what you need to collect and mail a mold test sample to a lab

  • Proper protective clothing, HEPA-filter respirator, gloves, etc. as appropriate for the conditions at the property. Frankly, if you need this level of protection due to property conditions or your own health you should probably not be in the building and should consider using a professional to inspect and collect your mold samples.

    Not all mold is harmful. The words "toxic mold test kit" are used in this document to assist consumers in finding this page describing a proper, effective, and economical method to determine mold species or other allergens present in the indoor environment. Now here are the items in your low-budget, expert-recommended "toxic mold test kit".
  • Clear Scotch® tape - CLEAR, NOT frosted 'invisible' type. We use 3M Scotch® tape: Scotchlok CRYSTAL CLEAR TAPE 3/4" wide, #34-8505-5627-4 or #34-8585-5871-8 or 34-8507-5365-7 "Gloss Finish MultiTask Tape".

    Any similar clear tape should be ok. (We accept all kinds of clear tape - but smooth, non-frosted, clear adhesive tapes give best results. If you want to test your adhesive tape for suitability in advance, see HOW to TEST ADHESIVE TAPES for Suitability in this document, then scroll back up to continue reading the instructions.)
  • New, perfectly clean Ziploc™ one quart freezer bags - (Use ZipLok™ or similar stiff freezer bags, not a thin sandwich bag which may be impossible to separate in the lab.) Do not open the bags until the instructions say to do so.

    Watch out: if you do not use a heavy-plastic freezer type bag, depending on the brand of clear adhesive tape you use we may be unable to separate the tape from the bag surface without tearing the plastic and damaging the sample. In such cases a complete and accurate examination of the tape sample may not be possib.e

    Also we do not recommend using Glad™ plastic bags for tape sample mailing because of that product's rough embossed surface texture. The texture imprints on the tape and interferes with microscopic procedures.
  • Mailing information use any convenient note paper, or use our PRINTER-FRIENDLY MAILING INSTRUCTIONS to give us your contact and sampling information; use any convenient mailing envelope for your samples. This is a .pdf file. Use your browser "back" arrow to return here.
  • Scissors (optional) if you're not good at dispensing clear adhesive tape
  • Tweezers (optional to aid in handling tape)
  • Chain of Custody: Optional: use one of our control forms for submitting multiple mold samples or other dust and particle samples to our lab. Each of these is a .pdf file. Use your browser "back" arrow to return here.

      CHAIN of CUSTODY FORM - SINGLE SAMPLE - Printer Friendly

      CHAIN of CUSTODY FORM - MULTIPLE SAMPLES - Printer Friendly
  • Postage sufficient based on weight (typically 3 or 4 stamps will do it)
  • A copy of these instructions (for you to follow, not to mail to us)

Mold or Dust Test Kit Aids

SIX EASY STEPS - to Collect and Mail a Mold Test Sample

Assuming you are testing mold growing on surfaces in your living area please consider using the protective gear described above. Instructions are for right-handed people; reverse hands if you're a Leftie. Follow these steps to collect a mold test sample to send to our 24-hour "toxic mold test kit" laboratory

Step 1 CHOOSE SAMPLE SURFACE - the location to be tested

CHOOSE a representative spot of mold growth on a surface such as a wall, cabinet, ceiling or floor. Collect one tape sample per location; do not use the same tape to sample from multiple locations.

Photograph of tape samples of mold on drywall .There are always multiple mold species present in any environment.

Typically we sample mold which looks different (color, texture), which is growing on different surfaces (drywall, paneling, wood trim, ceiling tiles), or which is growing in widely different areas of the building (basement, living area, inside a wall cavity) as often these will be different species.

Don't collect and send 50 samples. You're looking for 1. the dominant species present and 2. particularly allergenic or toxic species present in your environment.

Our photo (above-left) shows three tape samples being collected from mold on drywall. Each of these mold samples collects surface mold of a different color and texture: most likely each of the samples will identify a different genera/species of mold.

At MOLD LEVEL REPORTING we explain the errors you can expect if you do not choose a properly-representative area of a surface when collecting mold or dust samples and

at MOISTURE GRADIENTS & MOLD we explain why we find different mold genera/species at different locations on moldy drywall.

How to find mold and where to stick the tape: check out the "More Information" links at left. Photographs and text there explain the importance of choosing carefully just where to collect a tape sample. Samples are more accurate when they collect particles which represent the large areas of mold that may be present.

Our advice on how to look for mold reduces that chance that you'll miss important but hard to see toxic or allergenic mold on building surfaces.

See MOLD APPEARANCE - WHAT MOLD LOOKS LIKE

and also MOLD APPEARANCE - STUFF THAT IS NOT MOLD.

Collecting settled dust for a mold or allergen particle screen: if you are preparing a screening sample (as opposed to sampling actual visible mold) the sample area can be just about any horizontal surface that will have settled dust on it. We prefer to screen areas where people spend the most time, such as bedrooms or a family room, or areas of suspected but not visible problems such as basements.

Sample a surface that has at not been cleaned recently so that it represents particle settlement over a longer time interval. Do not sample surfaces that are so dirty that the tape will be thick and opaque with debris.

Collecting dust or debris from an air filter or from a return air register inlet grille is another useful way to perform a rough qualitative analysis of what particles and debris have been present in the building's indoor air.

Have ready tape, scissors, and new clean plastic ZipLok® type bags. (Heavy-weight quart size freezer-type is best but any will do).

Step 2 GET TAPE READY

  • PULL OUT 1 to 2" of tape. Use CLEAR TAPE *NOT* the FROSTED, *NOT* the INVISIBLE type.
    DO NOT TEAR it off yet!
  • MAKE A TAB: FOLD the tape under against itself, sticky-side to sticky-side to form a "non-stick tab" that you can hold. We need this tab later in the lab to pull the tape back off of the plastic bag.
  • HOLDing the "TAB" that you've made, now
  • PULL OUT and TEAR off 2 to 3" of tape.

Including the "non-stick tab" the total tape length will be 2 1/2 to 3".

If the tape flops over and sticks to itself throw it away and start over with a shorter piece or use tweezers to keep the free end out of trouble.

If you are not sure if your adhesive tape is good for dust, surface, or particle sampling,
review HOW to TEST ADHESIVE TAPES just below.

Otherwise continue with Step 3 PUSH TAPE ON SURFACE.

How to Test Adhesive Tapes for Suitability for Mold, Dust, or Particle & Debris Sampling

Try this test of your clear adhesive tape:

  1. Get a plastic bag: Select one of the plastic baggies onto the outside of which you intend to place one or more tape samples.
  2. Pull out and prepare a few inches of your tape using the method we describe starting
    at Step 2 GET TAPE READY above.
  3. Stick your test-tape onto the plastic bag as we describe
    at Step 4 STICK TAPE ON BAG (yes we are skipping step 3 which describes using tape to actually collect mold or dust.) Press the tape onto the bag surface along its length. Just smooth it down with your finger.
  4. Now try to pull the tape off of the baggie using the folded-to-itself tape tab.
    • Good mold sampling tape: If you can completely remove the test-strip of adhesive tape and it does NOT leave any of its adhesive stuck to the baggie, this is a good type of tape to use for surface and particle sampling.
    • Bad mold sampling tape: If when you pull off the tape from the plastic baggie it comes away but leaves some or all of its adhesive stuck to the plastic bag, then this is not a great tape to use for sampling.
    • Bad plastic bag: If when you pull off the tape it tears the baggie and leaves plastic stuck to the tape, either your plastic bag is too thin and weak to use, or the tape adhesive is too strong

We work with whatever tape and samples people send to our lab. But if the sampling tape won't separate from the plastic bag in the lab, or if the tape pulls away leaving its adhesive stuck to the bag, then preparing good microscope slides from the sample is difficult, hydrating the particles with our lab chemicals may be impossible, and the process of particle identification will be less thorough.

Step 3 PUSH TAPE ON SURFACE - to be tested

  • HOLD the tape by the "tab" in your right hand, ONLY by one end - don't put your fingers all over it. Using a finger from your left hand and touching only the non-sticky side of the tape,
  • COLLECT THE SAMPLE: PRESS the sticky side of the tape gently ONTO THE MOLD or area of settled DUST to be sampled, using a finger (or a Q-tip) to press gently to imbed the mold sample onto it.

    HOW HARD TO PRESS: Press the tape into the mold hard enough to get a good visible amount of mold on the tape, but do not press so hard that everything is squashed into a solid gooey mass as that will obscure important identifying characteristics of the mold structure in the sample. If you're not sure, prepare two or more samples of increasing amounts of mold on each tape.
  • Still holding the end of the tape in your right hand, gently
  • PEEL away the tape from the moldy or dusty test surface WITHOUT TOUCHING the sticky side of the tape containing the mold. (If you accidentally touch the tape just at the free end you can snip that end off before storing the tape on the ZipLok bag.) You can use tweezers if necessary to help control the tape.

ONE TAPE SAMPLE PER SAMPLE LOCATION please.

Step 4 STICK TAPE ON the OUTSIDE of the BAG - on the outside of a plastic freezer bag

  • Still holding the end of the tape in your right hand, using a finger of your left hand,
  • PUT THE TAPE ONTO THE OUTSIDE OF A PLASTIC BAG: PRESS the tape, sticky-moldy-side down, onto the OUTSIDE of the CENTER of a NEW, UNOPENED, SMALL clear ZipLok™ bag. Freezer bags work best as they are a bit thicker and will keep the tape flat.

    As you press the tape onto the bag, stick down first the free end that you didn't touch (or snip off that part if you touched it), then press down the rest of the tape onto the bag by pressing on the non-sticky side of the tape.

How to provide a good tape sample of mold or dust particles:
Do NOT cut off the adhesive tape "tab" as we need it later to assist in removing your tape from the plastic bag surface.
Do NOT turn the bag inside out;
Do NOT put the tape sample inside the bag.
Do NOT stick the sample onto the white-inked write-on label that might be present on one side of the bag - the ink may ruin the sample.
Do NOT stick the moldy (sticky) side of the tape to itself as we won't be able to get it back apart to prepare the lab slide.

We repeat because people do weird things with tape and ZipLok™ bags: please just stick the TAPE sample onto the CENTER of the OUTSIDE OF THE BAG on the side of the bag that has no printing on it.

You now have 1-2" of moldy tape stuck mold-side-down onto the center of the outside of a ZipLok bag.

Step 5 FOLD BAG INTO 2nd BAG - put the bag with the tape into a second bag

FOLD the small ZipLok™ BAG in half or depending on where you put the tape, fold the bag sides over to cover the tape sample and

PUT that folded sample BAG containing the sample INSIDE a second (larger or same size bag is ok) NEW ZipLok™ BAG. If you have multiple tape samples and you've kept your sampling bags clean, it's fine to place all of your individual tape sample bags into just one outer plastic bag for mailing, provided you have identified each individual sample.

GET THE AIR OUT: Press gently on the outer bag to expel air and close and SEAL the outer bag - usually this is done just by pressing the closing edges of the bag top together or by "zipping" the bag closing mechanism over. .

WASH YOUR HANDS if you got unknown mold or debris on your self and if you were not wearing disposable gloves.

Step 6 MAIL THE SAMPLE - Write down and include this data with your sample(s)

FORENSIC LAB SAMPLE PROCESSING AVAILABILITY NOTICE: We are not accepting test samples at our lab except in limited pro-bono cases by prearrangement. We apologize for the inconvenience. The procedure described at TEST KITS for DUST, MOLD, PARTICLE TESTS for tape sampling produces high quality surface samples of building dust, particle samples, mold or mold-suspect material, or other particles for identification by a qualified laboratory. We will continue to be available for email or emergency consultation described at Contact Us.

Single Sample Mold or Other Particle Chain of Custody Form

Mail this Chain of Custody form with your Sample to:
Daniel Friedman - Personal,
Vassar College Box 419, 124 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie NY - 12604


Name
Mailing Address
Telephone (1)
Email (2)
Sampling Address
Identity & address of building / Sample Date-Time
Sampling Area Description
General description of building conditions
Sample Name or Description
More than one sample?
use this
Chain of Custody Form - Multi-Sample- Form
Health Complaints
Sample Collection Date
Payment Method
by Prior Agreement

  1. Your telephone number for voice contact in the event that we need to call you.
  2. Your email address to receive an emailed-copy of your report.
    We will also mail a printed copy to the mailing address you provide.

Our Mold Test Lab Fees, to Whom you Make Check Payable, and the Lab Mailing Instructions are given below.

  • Mailing Instructions Printer friendly version of mold sample mailing instructions
  • Chain of Custody Form Printer friendly chain of custody form for identifying & submitting multiple samples
  • PLEASE DO NOT REQUIRE A SIGNATURE on packages sent to the lab -- If using Express Mail sign the box used for Waiver of Signature. Failure to follow this suggestion will delay processing of your sample and may result in the sample being returned to you without processing. If you are using the U.S. Post Office's Express Mail be sure to check and sign the signature waiver box on the mailing label.

FORENSIC LAB SAMPLE PROCESSING AVAILABILITY NOTICE: We are not accepting test samples at our lab except in limited pro-bono cases by prearrangement. We apologize for the inconvenience. The procedure described at TEST KITS for DUST, MOLD, PARTICLE TESTS for tape sampling produces high quality surface samples of building dust, particle samples, mold or mold-suspect material, or other particles for identification by a qualified laboratory. We will continue to be available for email or emergency consultation described at Contact Us.

Pro-bono professional assistance pro-bono consulting may be provided to elderly, disabled, limited-income individuals, veterans, victims of disasters, or for religious institutions. Just contact us by email and explain your pro-bono request. We also provide limited pro-bono forensic laboratory services such as mold testing and dust particle analysis for the same cases.

Unique in this field, our lab services and report include (when appropriate) emergency response with email or telephone notification, and always include explanatory text summarizing known health or other concerns which have been reported for the species identified. Photo-documentation of the sample contents is also normally provided with the printed report.

MOLD SAMPLE PROCESSING TIME: sample processing turnaround time: is normally 24-hours or less from time of receipt of the sample at our lab.

PAYMENT - Instructions for Payment of Mold Test Lab Fees

Pro-bono professional assistance pro-bono consulting may be provided to elderly, disabled, limited-income individuals, veterans, victims of disasters, or for religious institutions. Just contact us by email and explain your pro-bono request. We also provide limited pro-bono forensic laboratory services such as mold testing and dust particle analysis for the same cases.

MAILING INSTRUCTIONS - Instructions for Mailing Mold Test Samples

FORENSIC LAB SAMPLE PROCESSING AVAILABILITY NOTICE: We are not accepting test samples at our lab except in limited pro-bono cases by prearrangement. We apologize for the inconvenience. The procedure described at TEST KITS for DUST, MOLD, PARTICLE TESTS for tape sampling produces high quality surface samples of building dust, particle samples, mold or mold-suspect material, or other particles for identification by a qualified laboratory. We will continue to be available for email or emergency consultation described at Contact Us.

Mailing Instructions - Printer Friendly

PROVIDED THAT YOU HAVE PREVIOUSLY CONTACTED US BY EMAIL and that we have AGREED to PROCESS PRO-BONO Environmental Samples you can MAIL SAMPLES & DOCUMENTATION TO

Daniel Friedman
Vassar College Box 419
124 Raymond Ave.
Poughkeepsie NY 12604

UPS / FEDEX / US Post Office EXPRESS MAIL Deliveries are accepted but -

PLEASE DO NOT REQUIRE A SIGNATURE on packages sent to our forensic laboratory -- If using Express Mail sign the box used for Waiver of Signature. Failure to follow this suggestion will delay processing of your sample and may result in the sample being returned to you without processing. If you are using the U.S. Post Office's Express Mail be sure to check and sign the signature waiver box on the mailing label. Otherwise the postal carrier will not leave your sample at our lab drop box.

What We will Do With Your Mold (or other particle) Sample: Lab Analysis to Identify Mold, Pollen, Allergens, Bioaerosols

On receipt of your sample the lab will prepare one or more treated slides using your material samples. We will examine them for airborne bioaerosols, mold, etc. and will perform identification using any of several low power stereoscopic and high-power light microscopes in our lab.

Mold culturing for speciation, as well as other specialized particle identification techniques are available in our laboratory and can be special-ordered by telephone or email consultation.

Genera/species identifications are made based on experience, education, reference texts and keys, and by comparison with our very extensive library of known particle samples.

While certain molds are well documented and may be identifiable some are not so we do not guarantee that we will identify all components found on the tape. There are more than 80,000 mold species which have been identified and an estimated 1.4 million remaining to be identified. However it's quite possible to identify a number of species of particular concern and which have received considerable media attention lately (such as Stachybotrys and Penicillium/Aspergillus.)

Clients should also understand that there are multiple potential health hazards in buildings and that a client-selected remote-lab analyzed sample is absolutely not comprehensive. Other hazards may be present.

Ordinarily a written lab report will be provided within 24 hours of sample receipt. In a few cases (lab closed for cleaning, holidays, complicated samples needing more analysis) we need more time to complete the analysis.

If we recognize a dangerous material we will also notify you immediately. Our report will include an identification of particles and a statement about mold or other particle allergenicity or toxicity.

If you have questions about the best mold test or building dust particle sample collection procedure for your situation, Contact Us by email.

 

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