The EPA does not recommend testing mold when mold is visible. The EPA as well as multiple international health organizations acknowledge that mold is an indoor air contaminate. Mold when growing (visible presence) generates spores as one mold spore can range in size from between 3 to 40 microns, a human hair is 100 to 150 microns. A square inch of visible mold can contain thousands of spores. When inhaled mold spores create health issues, in short the mold spore is a foreign product and your body can trigger an autoimmune reaction to the mold.
Think Mold Spores can Harm You?
When Mold grows it also generates mycotoxins as well as MVOC’s (Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds) producing chemicals such as benzyl cyanide. Both mycotoxins as well as MVOC’s produce toxic metabolites than can be toxic to lung cells and may cause upper respiratory tract issues. In short when mold grows it produces byproducts as part of the metabolism of organic matter, but it can also break down building materials that can release air pollutants. Think about a rubber tire burning, the fire releases the compounds that comprise the tire, don't want to breath that, well how about mold braking down organic matter, glues, paint, fire retardants, all of which can become airborne when mold breaks matter down.
Visible mold is pretty straight forward, although we get lots of calls to evaluate spotting, staining, discoloration, ect. of a building material inside a home or office. It seems when you are not talking about a bathroom, where mold is highly common people see a fungal like substance somewhere else inside and want further evaluation.
Mold may not be as obvious as you think. Many sites have mold that is present that has been growing off and on for an extended period of time. When mold grows intermittently you typically will not find the musty earthy odor associated with active mold growth consistently being present in the air. Meaning maybe you have water entry from rain in say a crawlspace (photo below). Well every time it rains the crawlspace takes on water and mold grows. So for a few days after the rain you can smell the musty odor because mold is actively growing. When the water dries out, the mold growth stops and so does the musty odor.For solid advice on how to prevent mold clink here. mold prevention tipsWhere is mold most often found? Attics, basements and crawl spaces are the most common growth areas for mold.The photo below has mold growth on the wood, but to the casual observer you would think no mold is present, because you don't see heavy staining. But if you looked closely with the appropriate lighting, you would see the growth. Mold inspections are thorough because they look at surfaces that the passing glance would not see. Mold inspections can be prudent in certain circumstances, which include the following:Selling a HomeThinking of selling your home. The buyer will hire a home inspector, who may find mold or a mold like substance. If mold is found Hysteria can ensue. Be proactive and have a mold inspection performed before you list the property for sale. Addressing mold in advance of finding a buyer will save money and buyer hysteria. You may also find that for the mold to have grown, you had a water issue you were not aware of, that would be found during the home inspection.Think you smell or see Mold?Do you smell a musty or earthy odor indoors? Are building material discolored? As soon as you discover the presence of mold or suspect mold, arrange for a professional mold inspector to evaluate the problem. If you are having a home inspection and your home inspector finds mold, call Curren Environmental. Mold inspections can be visual, destructive, by testing or IR (infrared)
Currently, there are no regulatory limits or medical consensus for threshold-levels of indoor airborne fungi. The industry guidelines recommend that since fungi are normally present in the outdoor environment, acceptable indoor levels (air) are determined by comparison to the outside samples. Inside air, samples should have lower or comparable levels to the outdoors and the genus/species should be similar to that of the outdoors. In both air samples and tape samples, certain “marker” species can indicate interior water damage (as opposed to an outdoor mold) and subsequent microbial amplification. More information about mold testing can be found at How-to-interpret-mold-test-results
What happens if you find mold, how do you clean it up?
If you have mold you should determine the cause of the growth, in short where there is mold there is water, moisture or condensation issue. If you don't fix the cause, mold can come back. It also is comforting to know that you addressed the cause. many firms are more interested in remediating the mold not the source. At Curren Environmental will identify the mold and the source of the moisture problem and formulate a remediation plan. The industry protocol is to follow Asbestos Remediation guidelines when you remediate mold. There include the following:
Mold Worker safety
Containment of the affected area to avoid contaminating other areas with mold spores.
Install and operate negative air machines (commercial grade air filter) and HEPA filters to clean the air of mold spores and other particles during the work activities.
Remove impacted building materials that cannot be cleaned.
Hepa vacuum surfaces
Certain materials can be treated with antimicrobial cleaners (not bleach!).
Apply sealants on remaining organic surfaces. These coatings are fungistatic so they resists mold growth on dry surfaces, seals wood to prevent moisture penetration, and the smooth finish minimizes dirt buildup.