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mold risk

Got Mold? 4 Ways to Assess Your Mold Risk

Mold is a common and necessary part of our world. This type of fungus is useful in decomposing organic material, and is part of nature’s garbage disposal system. It is when mold begins growing in places we do not want it (such as in our homes) that it becomes a serious issue that can negatively impact our health and the longevity and safety of our house. That is why it is important to regularly check and evaluate the mold risk of the place in which we inhabit.

Can You See Mold?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to mold, seeing it is a sure indicator that you have a problem. Visually spotting the mold is the most obvious way to determine if you have mold in your home. If mold is growing on walls, ceilings, in cabinets, etc, you most likely have something going on that is encouraging the mold growth, such as a leak, or a humidity issue. The item that is causing the mold is important to fix, even before you begin to think about how to get rid of the mold, because if you don’t fix the root cause, the mold will inevitably return.

If you have high humidity in your home, you may want to periodically move your furniture to make sure mold isn’t growing on the wall behind it. I have discovered this type of mold issue growing several times when I lived in a very humid and wet climate. Dehumidifiers can be excellent to add to your mold prevention protocol if the issue is high humidity and not a leak.

Can You Smell Mold?

Is there a constant musty smell in your home or in certain areas of your residence? Is there a wall that emanates a scent that just doesn’t seem normal? If so, you may want to test and/or do a little investigation to see if there is some mold hiding somewhere.

When I was pregnant with my third, we were renting an apartment and each day in the summer, when the sun hit our southern wall, which was the wall in the kitchen, a smell that made me feel sicker than my normal morning sickness with the pregnancy began to grow and get stronger as the suns rays heated up that side of our home. I told my husband that there must be mold in that wall (I have had previous experience with mold sickness and was having symptoms again). Finally, he did some investigating behind the dishwasher and found the mold, and a leak from a slice in the plumbing that was continuously pouring in the surrounding wall. Apparently, whomever had been hired to do the plumbing for the apartment had cut the pipe in the wrong spot and then cut in the right spot, but then installed the partially cut pipe that leaked from day one! Always double check your plumbing to make sure there are no leaks that will grow a garden of mold in your home.

Do You Feel Sicker at Home?

Are you constantly feeling sick, and is it worse when you are at home? Do you experience unexplained respiratory issues, headaches, etc? Sick building syndrome is a real issue that many occupants of homes and buildings suffer from. The NCBI characterizes the signs and symptoms of sick building symptoms as: “Headache, dizziness, nausea, eye, nose or throat irritation, dry cough, dry or itching skin, difficulty in concentration, fatigue, sensitivity to odors, hoarseness of voice, allergies, cold, flu-like symptoms, increased incidence of asthma attacks and personality changes.” There can be many factors related to sick building symptom other than mold, and the cause of it is unknown, however, if you constantly feel sicker at home and suspect a possible mold problem, you may want to test your home for that possibility. 

Test Your Home

If you an unsure whether or not your home is infested with mold, or if you are purchasing a home and want to make sure you are not buying a mold headache to deal with, it may be a great idea to test your home for mold. There are many different ways to test your home, whether by hiring a professional to inspect and test, or by performing your own mold test, such as an ERMI dust test. It is a good idea to research which option is the best and most thorough way to test for your budget and situation.

mold test kit

How To Test for Mold in Your Home

When Should You Test For Mold?

It is time to test for mold if you are having persistant health problems without a known cause or smelling unknown things. Chances are, molds are already dominating your living space.

How do you test for mold in your home?

  • Visual Inspection

Because mold cannot live without moisture, sources of moisture should be one of the focal points of your investigation. Have a thorough visual inspection of your structure. This includes the attic, crawl spaces and basement.

  • Examine the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems

    Check out the moisture content of floors, walls and ceilings. Look beneath surfaces and all water-damaged areas. This can be made easier by using a non-invasive moisture meter.
    Test the humidity in the indoor air, using a calibrated meter.

  • Specimen Collection

    A mold inspector does this kind of mold testing. The training they have will ensure that, throughout this portion of the inspection, there is consistency in collection protocols. In the process, minimizing the possibility of sample contamination.

The specialized equipment used for mold testing allows them to collect specimens from:

  • Indoor air

    Primarily, these samples test and determine airborne mold spore counts. Proximate outdoor air is also tested. In special cases where the species of mold needs to be identified, a collection plate with a growth medium is placed in a viable impactor, or microbial particle sampler, in which one hour of spore settling time is replicated in five minutes.

  • Wall interior air

    Moisture meter readings of an elevated moisture content of the wall material make it a candidate for this type of testing. The paper covering, drywall, is vulnerable to consumption from mold growth. Air sampling pumps set at 15 liters per minute, draw air from the wall cavity for two minutes and for a total of 30 liters.

  • Carpeting

    Carpet samples are collected with a system developed as a sampling and analysis technology for the enumeration and identification of both total and viable fungal spores in dust. The system involves sweeping carpeting with a vacuum. The collected dust can be analyzed for total and viable fungal spores, as well as allergens.

  • Small pieces of contaminated material

    Sometimes it is necessary to remove and test a small portion of the material affected. These are collected without marring appearances, whenever possible.

  • Water from drain pans or cooling towers

    This will be an indicator if there is mold contamination in the immediate water source or if it is from the main source.

What Do I Do with My Collected Mold Samples?

After the collection procedure is accomplished, the right samples should be microscopically examined by a certified laboratory, allowing testing of the kind of mold sampled.

This is necessary because unmagnified appearances may not be reliable indicators. Certain colors may suggest the presence of a toxic mold. For example, the purple and green sheen sometimes associated with Stachybotrys. Note that many varieties may not always exhibit the same colors.

Black mold, white mold, green mold and any other kinds all require scrutiny along with scientific methodology to ascertain if the sampled mold is a genus known to produce mycotoxins.

If you are budget wise and conscious of the money spent on mold testing, don’t be alarmed. You only pay an analysis fee for the samples sent to the laboratory. There is no charge for those not sent.

Those that are not sent would be placed in a special culturing area. Their mold growth progress will be noted visually and documented to serve as reference for any future mold problems.

For the mold samples to be tested in the laboratory, a “chain of custody” form should be completed by the mold inspector. The specimen media will then be carefully be packaged and sent.

Three days after the laboratory receives the samples, the microscopy technician will send a written report about the findings and results of the testing done. This report will be immediately forwarded to you.

Having finished the testing, you will then know for sure if you have mold growing in your home. You can then take the necessary steps needed in removing them.

Further Recommended Reading

mold test

Are Do-it-yourself Mold Tests Better than Professionals?

Development of Mold Symptoms

Holly Kestinis was worried about her 8 yr old son because of his recently developed head aches. After a series of consecutive complaints about his head hurting, Holly found that she too was beginning to have severe pain head aches which she had never had before.

Ask a Mold Specialist

Realizing she had to do something about the newly devoloped , Holly called the local mold inspector to have her house examined.

Within the next couple of days Tim Glisson arrived to do a routine check. After a couple of red flags were sent up, he decided to run a few tests to see if the mold found was extremely harmful.

Testing for Mold

Tim collected a few samples and then was asked to compare the Do-it-yourself tests to a professional mold inspection. Tim agreed and followed the directions. Setting out the plate in the mold affected area to wait, Tim finished his tests within a few hours and took them back to the lab. Meanwhile, the do-it-yourself test would take a full 48 hours to finish.

Compare Test Results

Two weeks later Tim was back with his results and the do-it-yourself results to compare. The do-it-yourself detected two mold breeds while the professional lab detected three.

Do-It-Yourself Mold Tests or Professional Tests?

So while the kit detected only two breeds of mold and Tim’s tests found three, both agreed that Holly’s mold was not toxic… yet. To deal with the issue at hand, Tim gave Holly the instructions to have her ducts cleaned, and replace the drywall ceiling in the bathroom. He also advised her to add a ventilation vent in the bathroom.

In this case, Professionally done mold inspections work the best by being faster, and more efficient, detecting all breeds of mold, not just two, though they both agreed none of the mold was toxic.

Further Recommended Reading

Source : Tampa Bay’s 10 News

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