Mold Myth #1: Mold Testing is not required once visible mold is identified.
Multiple “experienced” mold professionals have shared several of these 8 Common Mold Myth with me. This is because most home treatments for mold utilize the same mold products. However, previous water damage remains problematic and identification of the types of mold present can provide valuable information regarding the health of occupants. Since mycotoxins can cause severe symptoms, testing for mycotoxins can be helpful. Unfortunately, these tests are limited in their accuracy and are expensive. Identification of mycotoxin producing molds is often the best circumstantial evidence of mycotoxins for health care professionals.
Mold Inspectors and remediation sales representatives may have various levels of mold training and certification. Most mold remediation workers are general laborers that have little to no training in mold biology, holistic mold remediation, and potential health effects. The consequences of hiring an ineffective remediator can be catastrophic. If mold is not properly contained, treated, and removed, it will contaminate other areas within the home including the HVAC, and possibly return on down the road.
In addition, some mold certification programs require minimal training. OSHA and others offers a 2-hour course online. A “Mold Professional” can easily get multiple certifications to be a Mold Inspector, Mold Remediation Contractor, or Micro Health Safety Technician with little to no experience. Unfortunately, they all sound the same to consumers. Read more about Types of Mold Experts HERE.
Many professional mold remediators do not fully understand the complex health repercussions caused by mold. Further, there is additional knowledge involved surrounding Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) required to have truly healthy indoor environments. This is a significant consideration for both the home and the ill occupants.
You can screen for quality mold professionals by:
- Seeking out a licensed professional with a background in Mycology, Building Science, or Bau-Biology. The ability to connect findings with human health conditions is important.
- Asking about their training. Many HVAC, Contractors, Mechanical Engineers, and IAQ professionals will seek additional training about mold to leverage their technical background.
- Asking if they have a network of other mold professionals or laboratories that they consult with.
- Asking lots of questions to determine if they had an apprenticeship where they worked with another professional for an extended period to learn and problem solve.
- Making sure adequate testing occurs throughout the home. This is especially important where there are moisture problems.
- Making sure that testing also occur after the work is complete.
We often suggest that our clients look for mold professionals at ISEAI medical professionals and indoor environmental professionals.
Mold Myth #2: Mold Inspector reports are always conclusive.
Mold testing is as much of a craft as it is an exact science. There are numerous technologies that can be used to estimate mold counts via air samples and surface samples. The cost of some approaches to adequately test a home can be prohibitive. Unless the inspector brings a microscope and has mycology training, every sample must have a purpose to adequately estimate the severity of the mold issue. All homes require numerous samples for proper characterization, as homes are not homogeneous.
Mold Myth #3: You can eat food that has mold if you cut it off at least 1 inch from the mold.
While this may be true for cheeses, cured meats, and possibly firm vegetables, most moldy food should be discarded, and the area where it was stored should be disinfected. This is due to:
- Mold hyphae growing to unknown depths within the food.
- Mold spores invisibly traveling to areas of the food that appear to be uncontaminated.
- Mycotoxins possibly being present that cannot be seen, but can produce health effects.
When in doubt, throw it out!
Mold Myth #4: Mold can be cleaned from drywall and painted over.
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to remove mold from drywall, so drywall that has mold on it should be cut out and replaced. Porous materials aren’t entirely solid, even if they appear solid to the naked eye. Materials like drywall have tiny holes, or pores, in them, much like the pores in your skin. These pores absorb and retain moisture. Microscopic mold spores will remain unseen in the pores of the drywall, even when the drywall appears free of mold. It’s similar to the way dirt or oil can be trapped in the pores of your skin, even if you don’t see it.
Many contractors and homeowners have been known to attempt to paint over mold only to discover that in a few months the mold has either poked its way through the paint, or the paint has started peeling off.
Since not all mold growth can be seen with the naked eye, it is recommended that drywall be removed at least two feet past any visible mold.
Mold Myth #5: Bleach Cleans Mold. True and False.
Bleach has been used to clean mold for numerous decades. The EPA recommends the use of bleach on hard non-porous surfaces. Unfortunately, bleach does not effectively clean porous surfaces. For example, Bleach can be used on porcelain or tiles: it does not clean grout or sealants. Because mold colonies grow hyphae that penetrates the porous materials, bleach is often a short-term solution. Surface mold will be cleaned; however, the hyphae will generally grow mold back quickly.
Bleach is generally not used as a fungicide (mold killer) by remediators. Bleach works by dousing the mold in toxic levels of the chemical solution. This can be effective when cleaning metal, refrigerators, and other appliances that do not contain porous surfaces. However, there are downsides:
Humans are susceptible to bleach’s damaging toxic properties, especially those with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). In addition, mixing cleaning chemicals can be dangerous. Read more about the dangers of mixing cleaning materials HERE. Mold hyphae are microscopic “roots” that penetrate porous materials and seek nutrients. These “Hyphae” can grow into and trough organic matter.
Bleach is generally a water-based solution. Because the bleach component does not penetrate porous materials, mold can grow more aggressively as the water component does penetrate porous materials.
Mold Myth #6: Removing large amounts of mold is not dangerous if safety equipment (PPE) is used.
The EPA recommends that a remediation professional be used if removing mold from more than 10 square feet of building materials. Proper safety precautions are critical in mold remediation for a variety of reasons:
- Disturbing mold can release millions, or more, of spores into the air. These spores can be harmful for the individuals removing the mold and the home occupants.
- Careless or sloppy removal can contaminate an entire home or building.
- Once mold contaminates the HVAC, an entire home and its contents can become contaminated.
Large areas such as sub-floors, under floor padding and carpets, or inside wall or ceiling cavities require extra precautions and can require professional help to employ complicated procedures and precautions. Even a common mold allergen can become a significant health issue when there is a lot of it.
Use proper PPE during mold remediation.
Whether you are removing mold yourself or hiring a professional, the use of proper safety equipment and sealing off the remaining areas of the home is imperative. A disposable Tyvek body suit, disposable gloves (nitrile or latex are most common), eye protection such as goggles, foot covers, and a N95 or P100 respirator mask can be purchased at any hardware store for little money.
Vents, doorways, ceilings, etc. must be sealed with plastic sheets and tape. Proper control of the airflow including negative pressure and the use of industrial strength HEPA air scrubbers helps to keep contamination from spreading throughout a home.
Seal off any vents, doorways, ceilings, etc. with plastic sheets and tape.
If your remediator is not practicing safety guidelines along with mold testing, consider finding another mold professional. Ask questions and do not be afraid to walk away from a proposal. Your health is at stake.
Mold Myth # 7: Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
The ultraviolet rays and the warmth of the sun can disinfect many clothes and household items. However, clean is not the same as sterilized. Placing shoes or drying laundry outside can be beneficial due to the sun’s disinfecting powers; however, humidity, mold, and pollen counts must be considered. Large items that are not easily dried, such as carpets and curtains, can benefit from the sun’s disinfecting powers as well. With that being said, active growth on any item will not be completely killed by sunshine alone.
Mold Myth #8: Mold in a non-conditioned crawlspace or basement is not an issue in the home.
Your home breaths like a person. There are physical science aspects of the home that allow mold under the home to penetrate the entire home. There are “Wind Effects”, “Stacking Effects”, and “Ventilation Effects” that allow a home to exchange air in addition to HVAC systems. When moisture meets dust and dirt, mold can flourish. Dampness under your home must be addressed or the mold and related VOCs will seep into the subfloors, then they can travel upstairs all the way into the attic. Dehumidification is often critical for crawlspaces and basements. Read more about mold in crawlspaces HERE.
Examples of infiltration.