Understanding Mold Testing
Before you contact a Certified Mold Assessor or perform physical testing for mold, it's important to understand what mold is, common methods used to collect mold, and the theories behind those collection methods.
Maida NH & MA Home Inspection Services offered mold testing as an "optional fee based service" for more than 10 years. Although we no longer perform this service, we've provided the information on this page based on our testing experiences, protocols, collections methods, and reporting techniques we followed. Any persons interested in mold testing should not assume all collection methods, protocols and reports are the same. You should ask your Certified Mold Assessor or Mold Test Technician for their protocols, collection methods and reporting techniques as well as any pros and cons of the same.
If your considering Mold Assessing or physical mold testing services, keep in mind there is a wide range of services offered and, these types of services are typically limited to the areas in the house that are visually and physically accessible. There is no way to make all the areas in the home accessible.
Maida NH & MA Home Inspection Services DOES NOT offer Mold Assessments or Physical Sampling of Mold.
Mold is a natural part of our environment found everywhere, both indoors and outdoors - unless your home has recently had "whole house remediation", it probably has mold in it. When mold settles on moist surfaces, mold grows and reproduces by releasing tiny microscopic spores into the air. Because mold spores can travel on air currents (e.g. wind) they may enter your home naturally. Indoors mold can grow on virtually anything it can attach to.
Since mold needs moisture to grow, the earlier you can detect and clean up water problems, the better chance you have to deter mold growth; The best way to control mold is to control moisture. (This is why Maida Services recommends a NH or MA Home Inspection before pursuing testing.) Early detection and prevention may save you from paying much greater treatment, cleanup and repair expenses later on.
Overall the biggest reason behind testing for mold is that each individual may have a different sensitivity threshold. An over abundance of mold spores in the air can invade the human respiratory system. To persons who are especially sensitive, their resulting health effects may be more severe than less sensitive people.
Mold Testing: Air Samples (spore traps) are a generally accepted collection method wherein air travels through a cassette (like the one pictured on the right) with a sticky surface inside to collect spores. Their purpose is to identifying air borne molds -living or not- and their concentrations. The intended result of an air sample determines what genera of molds may be present at the time the mold sample is performed.
Any time air samples are performed inside of a property, another air sample is usually performed in a control area – most often outside. Each interior air sample's concentration (spore count) on a report is compared to the outside (control) air sample's concentration. The theory behind this method of sampling is the idea that mold concentrations inside your home, should be similar too or lower than mold concentrations in the natural environment. Usually, if indoor air fungal concentrations are significantly higher than outdoors, remediation and/or further investigation (such as evasive testing) should be considered.
If you are considering Air Sampling via Spore Trap here are some considerations: First, this is probably one of the most commonly used sample collection methods because its purpose is to identify potentially airborne molds and/or their concentrations. In other words, the molds that you -as an occupant of the home- are being exposed to. The other side of the argument is, in Maida Services experience, this collection result is sensitive to it's protocols. This means, if the instance occurs wherein a control sample cannot be performed, the mold genera in the sample may still be reported, but, since there's no sample to compare the findings to, there's a good chance the reported conditions will be "inconclusive". Second, as air passes through the trap it is possible other microscopic debris, such as fibers or pollen, may be present in the sample. If there is too much debris, the mold spore count could be compromised or inaccurate. This may also result in an inconclusive result. Lastly, this type of collection method is often a non-viable sample. Basically, this means molds present may not be able to be cultured or grown.
Standards or Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for airborne concentrations of mold, or mold spores, have not been set. Currently, there are no regulations or standards for airborne mold contaminants or the majority of substances of biological origins that are associated with building-related exposures.
Mold Testing: Topical (swab) Samples are generally performed when suspicious conditions such as water stains or suspect visual mold contamination are observed. The result of a topical sample reports which genera of mold(s) may be present at the time sampling is performed. Depending on who is performing the analysis of your mold samples, you may have the option of further analysis (i.e. identifying molds present to a species) for an additional charge. The idea behind this collection method is simple: it's a matter of distinguishing mold from other substances like soot or dirt.
If you are considering Topical Sampling here are some points to consider: Again, this is probably one of the most common types of mold sampling methods because topical samples are typically location specific and don't require a comparison (control/outside) sample. Topical samples can also be cultured during analysis; this is helpful if you need to learn the species of the mold contamination. However, in pre-purchase sales situations this step is not always necessary, and in our experience, this can be very expensive. Last but not least, if there are multiple areas of suspicion in your home, each area should be topically sampled separately; this should be a serious consideration if you are paying on a per sample basis.
Other types of mold collection methods such as tape lifts or petri dishes are available, and have their respective pros and cons. Some types of mold sampling kits are sold at your local retailer. This company has found these other collection methods to be less reliable in the application of use. For example, swab samples are incredibly flexible and can manoeuver into tighter areas than where a tape lift might reach.
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