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Navigating professional mold testing and remediation
October 24, 2019

Getting a diagnosis of mold sensitivity and decreasing your toxic load is a very complex issue to tackle. Besides finding a physician who recognizes and treats mold sickness, where to start looks like a blank sheet of paper. Physicians schedules do not allow them to enter discussions regarding anything other than the treatment they prescribe.  Many physicians have told me that they do not get bogged down with discussions about home repair.  The result is often leaving the physician’s office with no clear answers.

In fact, any household will likely require several different professionals to be involved to remedy a mold sick home.  Delegating to the wrong person or service provider to lead the effort can be very costly. By learning a little about the mold remediation landscape, a household can save a lot of money and time and avoid getting taken advantage of.

Finding the Source

The first and most important step is to find the source.  You can investigate your home, room by room, looking for any leaks and mold evidence in a relatively short time.   Our senses are very effective in finding mold.  Looking for any sources of moisture, leaks, wetness, and condensation is relatively easy with a flashlight and touching the surface for dampness. Be safe and avoid touching the mold directly if visible.  Most of the time the musty smell is a dead give-away.  Our noses are very sensitive and for those who have mold sensitivity, our bodies will alert us that there is an issue. Regardless of smell, any dampness or leak should be investigated by a professional if it is not segregated to a small area.  Make sure you look under sinks, under toilets, and behind water using appliances (refrigerator, washing machine, dishwasher).  You should also check around windows, external door frames, and HVAC registers.

Finally, check all ceilings and the attic above and inspect the basement or crawl space.  Make sure you just do a visual inspection of the attic and crawlspace from their entrance as entering can lead to an over-exposure. Fixing these areas often require a professional or some careful planning.

Testing

If you are reading this blog, you understand that ImmunoLytics provides valuable mold identification information that can help physicians and mold professionals in identifying efficacious and cost-effective solutions.

It cannot be emphasized enough that knowing the genera of mold and level of infestation provides important, conclusive information about the mold, mycotoxins, and any microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) that are in your home.  This information is particularly useful when patients have unexplained symptoms regarding cognition, memory, headaches, and motor function in addition to allergy symptoms.

Professional Testing

If you are looking at a single source of mold, clearly identified the water source or water damage in the home, or have obvious “bathroom mold”, hiring a mold inspector that costs between $350-$1000 may be unnecessary.  However, there are a few situations where either testing yourself or hiring a professional to inspect the entire home makes sense.

When the smell of mold is obvious, even if not found.
There have been water leaks or water issues that are large enough where you cannot see the extent of the damage behind walls or below floors or carpet.
After making a significant investment in remediation or buying a home that had a previous mold issue to protect your investment.
When family members have serious health concerns where mold is suspect.
It is important to understand that most, if not all, professional testing techniques have limitations.  A mold inspection should include the following:

A visual inspection of the entire home, inside and out. This should be accompanied with detailed questions on the home history including any plumbing, storm, or water damaged areas in the past.
Air sampling to determine mold counts.  This should be done throughout the home.
Physical sampling to be sent to a lab for determination of the species in your home.
There are many testing methods and equipment choices that each have limitations.  Some calculate estimates of mold counts.  Some measure particle counts using molecule size to make assumptions of mold counts. Some testing measures relative mold counts compared to outside, which offers limited conclusive information. There should always be some form of diagnostic testing (mostly done in a lab) to validate the biological identity of the mold.   Air sampling results vary throughout the home because of ventilation systems., thus there should always be testing throughout the home.

Most important, do your homework to find an inspector with all of the proper certifications, practical experience, and references.  Best practices suggest you have an inspector who is independent from any mold remediation professionals you will be using.  Combining testing with the expensive remediation work often results in projects of significant expense and potentially unnecessary renovation.

The Mold Remediation Industry

It takes years of study of several scientific disciplines to understand the physics involved in architecture to control temperature and moisture.  Architects design floor plans taking in consideration the weather, windows, sun exposure, occupancy, ventilation systems (HVAC), ductwork placement, outside water drainage, etc.  Unfortunately, builders often take floor plans and build to optimize profitability in a competitive field.  Even small deviations from original individual plans can results in a troublesome and inefficient home.

According to ENERGY STAR, over half of all new HVAC systems are improperly installed.  This leads to inefficiency and improper moisture control, a common source for condensation and water damage.   I asked my HVAC technician about HVAC systems in my home development; he stated that about 80% of installations are improperly sized.

There are many reputable, responsible, honest mold remediation professionals.  Unfortunately, because of the publicity and profitability, there are also many individuals that will take advantage of people and play on their fears about the health risks of mold exposure.

As stated before, mold remediation requires significant knowledge across several disciplines (physics, engineering, biology, industrial science, mycology, construction, human physiology). Alternatively, certifications for mold remediation are relatively easy to get, requiring online courses and multi-day seminars to attain.  These courses are not sufficient to provide all of the knowledge and practical experience to properly remediate a home.  If remediation is done without proper safety protocol and containment, additional contamination can occur.  Once mold reaches the ventilation system, it is systemically spread throughout the home.

There are some mold remediators that view the mold issue as the latest “Gold Rush” like what occurred in the late last century with asbestos.

Here are some guidelines to aid you in avoiding remediator selection mistakes:

• They offer free mold testing – unfortunately, mold testing costs money. Reputable mold testers typically charge for their services.

• They do not test for mold.  It is true that proper remediation will work regardless of mold species. However, proper testing before and after is proper protocol and essential if health is a concern.

• They neglect to ask you about health concerns.  This indicates a lack of knowledge of mold growth propensity throughout the home and knowledge of mold mycotoxins, a primary concern for people sensitive to mold.

• The company offers both mold testing and mold remediation services and insist on doing both.  It is never cost effective to incentivize the professionals to find additional, unnecessary mold issues to fix.  If you find a remediator you trust, testing by an independent lab or yourself by using ImmunoLytics Mold Test Kits for cost effective visual plate testing or getting detailed lab results will help ensure you home is well.

• They aren’t certified by any reputable mold remediation organizations, such as the Mold Inspection Consulting and Remediation Organization (MICRO), the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors, or the Professional Mold Inspection Institute (PMII).

• They use products to encapsulate mold with a colored sealant. Paint is often used to hide the evidence of remaining mold by painting over it.

• Their core business is not mold remediation (Carpet Cleaners, General Contractors, Handymen).

• They cannot or will not give you any references.

• They don’t put everything in writing.  This includes a detailed estimate of the entire job and solutions.  In addition, some remediators may cite proprietary technology or trade secret for not sharing details of the project.

• They do not offer any guarantees regarding the effectiveness of their work.

• Asking for the entire payment upfront is a common mold scam. A fair payment plan throughout the project and upon completion and testing is appropriate for a significant investment.

• They do not discuss containment of areas where they work.  Lack of containment and air disposal (air scrubbing or venting outside) can lead to more expensive systemic spreading of mold and mycotoxins.

• They do not incorporate some type of systemic fogging with non-toxic compounds, or systematic cleaning of every individual object and walls with hydrogen peroxide to remove systemic contamination

 

“Mold Inspection Standards of Practice” International Association of Certified Indoor Air Inspectors. https://iac2.org/sop/
“Mold Scams” https://www.mold-advisor.com