Mold Testing

Most recent post about Mold Testing with most current info:

[Also see Mold Testing under Mold Link for types of tests, and Local Resources for local companies]

I always recommend – was about to write about ERMI and HERTSMI testing (I use and more but then found this link that discussed mold testing better than I could:

HERTSMI = $150 and tests top five toxic molds
ERMI = $300 and is more comprehensive
there are many links online for how to interpret/use them

Nasal Testing for Mold:
If I were wondering if toxic mold was a possible issue, I would the HERTSMI test from Mycometrics, as well as a nasal swab test ($80) from:
Microbiology Dx
Tel: (781)276-4956 * Fax: (781)275-6236

Regarding Mold Plates:
Petri dishes grow out mold spores. However, mold spores contain only about 20% of the mycotoxins from mold. Mold fragments contain the other 80% or so and they aren’t  detected by petri dishes or air testing. In other words, you can have a very toxic environmental with zero spores on an air test or petri dish. An ERMI by Mycometrics appears to be able to detect many of these fragments.

Tips on Whether to Test or Not, and How

Immediately after a flood, it is more important to get anything wet out to prevent mold growth.  Dry everything, keep humidity low, clean.  Then test for hidden moisture issues (some professionals use infrared equipment, which is ideal).

In a situation when you know there is a mold issue, you’d want to test, remediate, then test again.  Testing is typically done before cleaning or spraying as that can alter tests results and ability to have before/after comparisons.

However, after a flood, you need to clean first.  Then moisture test, then mold test as needed.  Removing moisture issues (finding the source, etc) and remediating will always be the priority.

One expert wrote:

“If you know you have a mold issue, the type of mold and bacteria does not change the need to remove it, how it is removed nor how we come to understand what made us ill, nor what we need to do to prevent it.”

“Testing, however, can be necessary IF a doctor [usually only Environmental Illness doctors can do this] identified a specific organism in your body [there are blood and urine tests for this] and you need to find the source.”

For example, is it your house or office or car even?

“Testing can also be helpful in a law suit. HOWEVER, this requires a carefully developed sampling plan that answers the additional questions required for a medical interpretation and a legal basis in addition to the environmental assessment information.”

“We have this perception that we can’t do anything unless there is a test first. That is 99% false for water damage, especially from flooding.”

Testing is helpful if you are unsure whether you are dealing with mold issues. Although not every kind of testing is accurate.  It is typically more of a priority to do moisture testing first, and address that issue.

Another expert wrote:

“Remember that sampling is only a tool and should not be the sole criteria for clearance. The basis for my sampling protocols is to determine if there are significantly elevated levels of mold spores present. Sampling can be skewed by various environmental conditions and the consultant needs to be skilled enough to understand the complex variables…”

“…Clean and dry and whether there are occupant complaints are the primary criteria for clearance. The only risk of not sampling, my point of view and based on experience, is that if there has been cross contamination, then it can often take time for the occupants to demonstrate exposure related issues. This can mean the clients hyper-sensitizing, which in the end is the ultimate criteria for reoccupying the habitable space. If there are at-risk clients, immune compromised, allergies, very young or sensitivities then sampling is an added tool that can be used to assess exposure risks. Peanuts and strawberries is my analogy. Some people react and some don’t. Sampling can help to identify the risk of exposure but should not be the only criteria used to verify successful clean up. Every project of this type needs to be considered as “hot” based on the length of time which has passed since the initial loss. I know it’s confusing and complex. There are no yes and no answers that fit every client. Tools are only as good as the user so experience and expertise are the keys to success”.

 *Note that studies are showing that buildings with dampness and moisture are becoming equally problematic to buildings that have mold issues. 

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