Author Archive

Fungal Data Interpretation – Part II – Effects of Tossing a Moldy Apple Pie into the Trash Before Mold Air Sampling

Moldy Apple Pie

This post is the second blog posting in a series based on information presented in a webinar by Dave Gallup, co-founder of EMLab P&K.  The topic of the webinar was Fungal Data Interpretation.  The two-hour presentation covered many interesting topics that are relevant to mold inspection and testing companies as well as the general public that are facing mold problems in their home or business.

One of the first points that Mr. Gallup made is the interpretation of the sample data that EMLab P&K provides must be combined with the on site mold inspection information.  Trying to interpret fungal sample data from a mold inspection and testing project without also having field inspection information from a qualified mold inspector is highly problematic.  In this blog entry I will focus on the second of several normal household scenarios that can drastically impact fungal sample data and could lead to incorrect interpretation of that data.

Scenario – “Effects of Tossing a Moldy Apple Pie into the Trash”

A group of EMLab P&K scientists studied the impact on fungal distribution in a normal home after the occupants tossed a mold apple pie into the kitchen trash.  Here is the data set:

  • The first air sample was collected in the home before tossing the moldy pie.
    • The air sample contained numerous types of mold spores.  I will focus on just one type, Penicillium/Aspergillus types (Pen/Asp).
    • The spore counts of Pen/Asp found in this first air sample were within “normal tolerances” — they were lower than the corresponding spore counts found in the outdoor baseline sample.
  • The second air sample was collected during the act of tossing the moldy pie
    • The spore counts of Pen/Asp were significantly elevated compared to both the outdoor control sample and the first sample collected before the toss.
    • This is how the data looked:
      • Pen/Asp types: before tossing ~13 spores/cubic meter | during tossing ~ 1,000,000 spores/cubic meter!

If the on site inspector did not notice that there was moldy food in the trashcan (apple pie in this case) or had not asked the homeowner if they had recently performed any housekeeping activities such as cleaning out the refrigerator of moldy food, incorrect conclusions could have been made with respect to this project.  For example the airborne Pen/Asp types prior to tossing were ~13 spores/cubic meter.  After tossing the moldy pie into the trash, the spore counts of Pen/Asp were drastically elevated (over one million spores/cubic meter!).  If the inspector did not know about the moldy food, these air sample results would be cause for real concern and unnecessary steps would likely follow (more testing, invasive exploration for mold, and the like).  Armed with the knowledge that the client recently threw away moldy food, the inspector could either take that into consideration when analyzing the sample data or, better, not collect the sample for several hours after.

Many people place too much emphasis on the mold sampling aspect of our business.  It is a useful tool, but it is only truly valuable in conjunction with the on site, visual inspection data.

Michael Bains

by Michael Bains, President, Mold Inspection Sciences

October 23, 2012 at 8:59 am 1 comment

Fungal Data Interpretation – Part I – Effects of Vacuuming Carpets Before Mold Air Sampling

Girl Vacuuming Carpet

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a webinar presented by Dave Gallup, co-founder of EMLab P&K.  The topic of the webinar was Fungal Data Interpretation.  The two-hour presentation covered many interesting topics that are relevant to mold inspection and testing companies as well as the general public that are facing mold problems in their home or business.

One of the first points that Mr. Gallup made is the interpretation of the sample data that EMLab P&K provides must be combined with the on site mold inspection information.  Trying to interpret fungal sample data from a mold inspection and testing project without also having field inspection information from a qualified mold inspector is highly problematic.  In this blog entry I will focus on the first of several normal household scenarios that can drastically impact fungal sample data and could lead to incorrect interpretation of that data.

Scenario – “Effects of Vacuuming”

A group of EMLab P&K scientists studied the impact on fungal distribution in a normal home after the occupants vacuumed their carpets.  Here is the data set:

  • The first air sample was collected in the home before vacuuming the carpet.
    • The air sample contained numerous types of mold spores.  I will focus on three types: Basidiospores, Cladosporium, and Penicillium/Aspergillus types.
    • All of the spores counts found in this first air sample were within “normal tolerances” — they were all lower than the corresponding spore counts found in the outdoor baseline sample.
  • The second air sample was collected during the act of vacuuming the carpet
    • All of the spore counts were significantly elevated compared to both the outdoor control sample and the first sample collected before vacuuming.
    • This is how the data looked:
      • Basidiospores: before vacuuming ~70 spores/cubic meter | during vacuuming ~ 800 spores/cubic meter.
      • Cladosporium: before vacuuming ~80 spores/cubic meter | during vacuuming ~ 1,000 spores/cubic meter.
      • Penicillium/Aspergillus types: before vacuuming ~110 spores/cubic meter | during vacuuming ~ 1,100 spores/cubic meter.
  • The third air sample was collected in the home 30 minutes after vacuuming.
    • All of the spore counts were still elevated as compared to both the sample collected prior to vacuuming and the outdoor control sample, though not quite as high (about 50% as high as the during vacuuming sample) as the sample collected during vacuuming.

If the on site inspector did not notice that the carpet had been recently vacuumed (i.e. seeing the vacuum “tracks” in the carpet or notice the dusty smell or see the vacuum sitting out) or had not asked the homeowner if they had recently performed any housekeeping activities such as dusting or vacuuming, incorrect conclusions could have been made with respect to this project.  For example the airborne Penicillium/Aspergillus types prior to vacuuming were ~80 spores/cubic meter.  A half hour after vacuuming, they were ~500 spores/cubic meter which is approximately 6 times higher.  In absence of the vacuuming, this could indicate a mold problem which would entail further investigation such as invasive investigation and could concern the homeowner.  Armed with the knowledge that the client recently vacuumed, the inspector could either take that into consideration when analyzing the sample data or, better, not collect the sample for several hours after housekeeping activities.

Many people place too much emphasis on the mold sampling aspect of our business.  It is a useful tool, but it is only truly valuable in conjunction with the on site, visual inspection data.

In my next posting related to Fungal Data Interpretation, we’ll see the impact on the airborne fungal distribution when a moldy apple pie is tossed into the trashcan!

Michael Bains

by Michael Bains, President, Mold Inspection Sciences

June 7, 2012 at 9:03 am

I Think I Have a Mold Problem — Where Do I Start? What Do I Do?

I think I have a mold problem what do I do?It’s not everyday that people have to deal with a potential mold problem.  For most people, the thought of a mold problem in the home or workplace is scary and confusing.  There is so much information on the Internet, much of it is conflicting and lots of it is wrong.  Questions that come to people’s mind’s when they believe they may have a mold problem:

  1. Will the mold make me and my family sick?
  2. Do I actually have a mold problem, or is it just “mildew”?
  3. If I have a mold problem, will it be expensive to diagnose or remedy?
  4. Is all mold toxic?
  5. Is all mold dangerous?
  6. What type of company should I use to inspect and test my home?
  7. How do I know who I can trust?
  8. Who is qualified to inspect and test my home?
  9. If I am a renter, who should pay for the mold inspection and testing?

Most of the questions above can be answered by a qualified, mold inspection and testing professional.  One of the first and the most important steps is to find a qualified mold inspection and testing company.  Here is what I suggest if you believe you may have a mold problem.

  1. If you see visible mold-like growth or believe a room has a mold problem, avoid that room if you can.
  2. Find a qualified company to inspect and test your home or workplace.*
  3. Follow the recommendations of the company as stated in their inspection report and perform any mold remediation work that they recommend.

*How do you find a “qualified” company?

  1. Ask friends and colleagues for recommendations.
  2. Search the Internet.  Look for quality company websites that are informative and don’t use scare tactics.
  3. A qualified company will a) have a good record with the Better Business Bureau, b) carry quality certifications from organizations like the American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC), c) carry General Liability Insurance and Professional Liability Insurance (also known as Errors and Omissions insurance).  The latter is the most important and differentiates the true professional companies from “fly by night” organizations., d) have good reviews and testimonials from past clients, and e) utilize an independent, accredited lab for their sample analysis.
  4. Ask to see a sample mold inspection report.  Does the company do good work?  Is the sample report complete, easy to read, and contain color photographs?
  5. Look for referrals from The Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA) or The Amercian Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC)
  6. Does the company answer their phone?  Do they respond to web and email inquiries in a timely manner?
  7. Is the person you speak to on the phone professional?  Are they patient and do they spend time to answer your questions?

Try not to feel overwhelmed.  Take it one step at a time.  The key is finding the right company to help you.

Here are a few places to go to perform research for mold related issues:

Michael Bains

by Michael Bains, President, Mold Inspection Sciences

May 7, 2012 at 10:37 pm

The Best and Most Trusted Mold Inspection and Testing Related Certifications

American Council for Accredited CertificationThe ACAC offers the best, accredited certification programs available for mold inspectors. Many mold inspectors simply have a “training certificate”. There is a difference between “training certificates” and accredited certifications.

Training is vocational schooling. When a student completes a training course, he/she earns a training certificate or diploma. The student owns the training certificate and can add it to his/her curriculum vitae. No further requirements are necessary.

Certifications are affidavits of industry knowledge – knowledge beyond a course curriculum. When an individual demonstrates knowledge, he/she earns a certification designation. The individual does not own the designation, but may renew it after meeting its requirements.

Accredited Certifications are professional credentials qualified and recognized by one of three independent organizations. Certification programs accredited by the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB) must require verifiable field experience. ACAC certifications are accredited by the CESB.

Among other items, the ACAC mold certifications require:

  • Minimum years of verifiable field experience;
  • Difficult certification exams,
  • ACAC unanimous board approval; and
  • Re-certification every two years with a minimum of 40 continuing education credits

When looking to hire a professional mold inspector, look for a company and inspectors that have reputable licenses, certifications, and ones that belong to industry leading organizations like the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA).

Michael Bains

by Michael Bains, President, Mold Inspection Sciences

April 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Invasive Exploration for Mold

Invasive Exploration for Mold

The majority of our mold and moisture investigations are considered “non-invasive”.  This means that our inspectors do not cut open walls and ceilings, we don’t remove bathroom or kitchen fixtures, nor do we lift carpeting or flooring materials.  There are two primary reasons for this approach.  Number one, if there is hidden mold, we don’t want to cause airborne mold spore contamination by exposing and disturbing the mold.  Number two, performing invasive exploration can cause damage (intentional or unintentional) to a home.  But, sometimes to fully understand a mold problem, or to be able to fully remedy a mold problem, invasive exploration is necessary.  So, who should do it?

The best person to perform invasive exploration for mold is a mold remediation professional.  They have the tools and expertise to place a testing area under containment using specific engineering controls.  This containment will prevent the spread of airborne mold spores should mold be found during the exploration.

We will make the recommendation for invasive exploration for mold when we believe hidden mold is possible.  For example, if during a typical mold inspection at a personal residence, we find an actively wet wall in a bathroom.  We will recommend ambient mold air sampling and sometimes a wall cavity sample.  If both of those samples are negative, we will recommend that the wall be opened (invasive exploration for mold).  Since the wall is wet and sealed from the ambient air in the bathroom, it is possible that there is hidden mold in the wall even though the air sample was normal or negative.  Should mold be found in the wall during the exploration, it will need to be professionally removed.  If no mold is found, the source of water will need to be repaired, but no professional mold remediation is required.

Invasive exploration is also an integral part of professional mold remediation.  If for example, we definitively discover a mold problem under a kitchen sink, we will recommend invasive testing under, beside, behind, and below that cabinet to look for mold that we cannot see in our visual investigation.  This invasive exploration will continue to approximately 18 inches beyond the last visible mold growth and water damage.

Invasive exploration for mold is another important tool used in professional mold investigations.  It is generally used to collect secondary data and is not always required as part of a professional mold inspection.

Michael Bains

by Michael Bains, President, Mold Inspection Sciences

April 5, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Symptoms of Mold Exposure

Symptoms of Mold ExposureClients often ask us “what are the symptoms of mold exposure”?  Below are some of the common symptoms:

  • Respiratory problems; including difficulty breathing, wheezing, shortness of breath;
  • Sinus and nasal congestion and irritation;
  • Irritation of the eyes — watery, burning, red;
  • Coughing;
  • Sore and/or dry throat;
  • Skin rashes and irritations;
  • Problems with sense of smell;
  • Typical symptoms normally associated with a cold or allergies; and
  • Memory problems, odd mood swings, nose bleeds, body aches and pains, and fevers are occasionally reported in mold cases.

Mold exposure can also exacerbate other illnesses and conditions, including asthma.  These symptoms are often worse for the young, elderly, or people with compromised immune systems.

If you have any of these symptoms and you believe they may be related to mold, it’s prudent to engage a mold inspection and testing professional to perform an analysis of your home and/or place of work.

Here are some of the most respected documents related to mold and your health; including discussions of the symptoms of mold exposure.

Michael Bains

by Michael Bains, President, Mold Inspection Sciences

March 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Why You Need a Mold Inspection – Part II

Why you need a mold inspection

This is my second posting in the series “Why You Need a Mold Inspection”

From my last post:

“One of the most common questions our offices receive is “Why do I need a mold inspection?  Won’t mold sampling and testing tell me what I need?”  From our experiences over the last 10 years, which includes tens of thousands of mold inspection projects across five states, we consider the mold inspection to account for about 75% of the puzzle and mold sampling and testing to account for the other 25%.

Both parts are important, but they must be done in tandem — you can’t just count on one to tell the entire story.

Rather than write abstractly about why you need both an inspection and testing, I thought it would be more useful to provide a number of examples to make my case.  This posting will be the first of several hypothetical case studies I’ll present.”

My second case study…

Our client, Mrs. Black is in contract to purchase a new home.  She did not want to pay for a mold inspection/moisture intrusion investigation.  Instead, she wanted some representative air samples collected from some key areas of the home — master bedroom, living room, and kitchen.

All of the air samples collected came back in the normal range.

Mrs. Black moved into the home and about one week later, she noticed the kitchen floor buckling.  She had us come back out to the home to inspect the kitchen for mold and moisture.  Our inspector discovered that the kitchen hardwood floor was actively wet and retaining moisture.  It was caused by an active leak under the dishwasher.

We collected microbial samples and the air in the kitchen was normal with respect to airborne mold spores.  Our advice at this point was to have invasive exploration performed under the flooring to check for hidden mold growth.

The good news for Mrs. Black is that there was no mold problem.  The bad news is that she had to replace almost half the hardwood flooring in the kitchen, which was thousands of dollars.  Had she had us perform the inspection before she closed escrow, this problem would have been detected and she could have asked the seller to pay for the repairs.

I often tell clients on the phone that our mold inspection (water intrusion investigation) service is important even if we don’t find mold.  Water intrusion in a home is always going to be an expensive project whether it has damaged carpeting, flooring, cabinets, etc., they are all expensive to repair or replace.

It is always important and prudent to have a mold inspection and water intrusion investigation if you are purchasing a new home, or if you believe you have a problem in your current home or rental property.

Michael Bains

by Michael Bains, President, Mold Inspection Sciences

March 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm 1 comment

Older Posts


Contact Mold Inspection Sciences

Los Angeles - 310.451.9333
Orange County - 949.892.6343
San Diego - 619.618.2885
Seattle/Tacoma - 206.407.3352
Portland/Vancouver - 503.922.3399
Denver/Boulder - 303.339.0133
Cincinnati - 513.448.1253
Austin - 512.535.2493
Dallas/Fort Worth - 214.774.4380
San Antonio - 210.568.7725
Houston - 281.652.5353
Nashville - 615.846.0937 www.moldsci.com

Visit us on Facebook


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.