Testing Mold for Fungal Type Identification Part I
The question comes up over and over again. Is mold testing and identification important in regard to an inspector’s opinions and recommendations?
WHEN TESTING IS NOT HELPFUL ?
When doctors are treating microbial infections in humans they may prescribe one type of antibiotic that attacks the cell walls of bacteria, and another that works best on fungal infections, still other types of medications are used when treating parasitic infections. Is the same methodology used when treating mold infestations in homes?
WHEN ETTING RID OF MOLD IS YOUR REAL GOAL
In homes mold is obviously not treated with pills or injections containing Kingdom, genus, or species, specific antibiotic. So it does not matter what type of mold we are dealing with, thus it is not always important to test it. During mold remediation in homes and other buildings mold is sprayed with harsh wide spectrum antimicrobial chemicals, then entire sections of wall are ripped off and tossed into thick plastic bags. No need to know the name of the mold, no need to identify the species we are killing, it is all treated, ripped out, and disposed of in the exact same way regardless of the type being remediated. When you remove weeds from your garden you do not always know the name of the weed, you just rip it out by the roots, and mold gets the same treatment. In most cases an inspector can see water damage and mold growth and ascertain from this what needs to be removed.
When mold removal specialists and inspectors prepare specific removal recommendations it is never based on the type of mold they are removing. Even when a decision is made as to what type of protective gear to wear it is not based on the toxicity level of the mold being remediated, it is based on the amount of mold being removed and not the type.
WHEN IS TESTING MOLD HELPFUL ?
Mold sampling, testing, and knowing the names of the fungi we are living with has its place; though testing is not usually needed it is true that it has some benefits and below is a partial list of some reason why we test for mold. Click here for part two of this article.
ESTABLISH THE EXTENT AND LEVEL OF CONTAMINATION Testing for mold spores is helpful to determine the amount of spores in your air. It can also be utilized to tell us how far the spores have spread, in a given buildings air. An inspector can have a very basic and general idea as to how contaminated a buildings air is by considering the amount of flooding and water damage present, the intensity of mold odor, and the amount of visible mold growth, but this is obviously not 100% accurate. To get a better idea of how many spores there are in the air we can test the air for mold spores.
Another example of when it is important to test is in cases related it fungal infections. If a homeowner has aspergillosus fungal infection caused by Aspergillus flavus for example, then it is beneficial to take viable samples to determine if levels of Aspergillus flavus in the home are elevated. If the client has a deadly Mucor infection in the sinuses then we can test for mucor in the home. In the last 10 years of testing for mold I have conducted inspections for clients with infections caused by fungus somewhere around four time. In cases where building occupants are suffering from fungal infections we utilize an Anderson impactor to sample so that mold can be identified to the species level.
In the vast majority of the cases client health issues seem to be induces by exposure to allergens and irritants induced by exposure to mold and it’s spores. These types of reactions are not related to the type of mold, but are related to the amount of mold in the indoor air, and are related to the sensitivity level of the clients residing in the contaminated building.
Another benefit of identifying mold types is it can give us clues as to what caused the mold. Some molds like Chaetomium, Fusarium, Stachybotrys, memnoniella, Aspergillus Niger, are found after flooding occurs. I have use the identification of these fungi to show in court on more than one cases that the mold was caused by flooding. Other particle application of testing is to get a basic idea of if you have old growth or new growth, the presence of a large growth of Stachybotrys can be utilized to establish evidence that the mold is older growth and not very new, because this growth often do not becomes established quickly after flooding, and grows relatively slowly once it is established. I have used this information on a couple of expert witness investigations to help establish that the growth was old, several months or years old, v.s. days or weeks old.
In the vast majority of cases the important answers do not come from testing the mold growth in your home. An inspectors time and resources are far better spent on inspecting your property than testing your air and swabbing your walls. The important answers come from doing a detailed hours long investigation of the property in question, and using inspection, eyes, nose, tools, and problem solving skills, and NOT SAMPES to uncover the location of fungal growth, and the building defects that caused it. From reading this you may et the idea that samples are all important, but the truth is more than 90% of a consultants truly helpful information comes not from the samples, but from the inspection part of the investigation.
The big questions have always been and will always be:
1) What are the causes and origins of moisture, condensation, or humidity that resulted in fungal proliferation?
2) How extensive is the problem and how contaminated is the air?
3) How to remediate the fungal problem so it does not come back.
So why does our West Palm Beach mold inspector test mold during inspections? And why do we answer questions such as what types of mold is that growing on my walls? And “is it the bad toxic stuff?” The answer is simple, we do the testing and identification because clients want us to identify the types of mold they have, we sample and identify it for them because we have a duty to answer their questions while we simultaneously explain how to get rid of it.
For your benefit we always test, we sample, identify, and describe the types of molds growth while simultaneously doing the real job of trying to figure out:
- How extensive the growth is.
- How contaminated the air is.
- Where it is.
- Why it is present.
- And what needs to be done to correct the problem.
Many people want our West Palm Beach mold testing specialist to tell them if they have some insidious scary toxic black mold growth in their ducts or on their walls that will spread throughout their home and contaminating their furniture. They very often ask if they move will it follow them in their clothes furniture. This is how homeowners and even some unqualified certified mold inspectors have looked at it for years.
In conclusion our professional West Palm Beach mold inspectors must always be sensitive to our paying customers needs by answering their questions and identifying the type of mold they have while at the same time being able to explain to the clients that it does not matter if it is toxic black mold or not. We must get them to understand why it is growing in their home, and how to attack the root cause, and how it can be eradicated without contaminated the rest of the home in the process. This has been or philosophy from 2003 to 2013 and still is our philosophy.
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