Importance of Mold Testing
The Sick Building Syndrome
- The presence of symptoms while working or living in the building.
- The symptoms clearing upon leaving the building and living/working elsewhere for a while.
- The return of the symptoms upon return to the building.
- The presence of the symptoms in multiple individuals. Typically, a few individuals will be severely affected, a larger number will have moderate symptoms, while others will have none.
What Factors Seem to Most Often Cause the Sick Building Syndrome?
- Mechanical Ventilation
- Relative Humidity
- Fresh Air Ventilation Rates
Specific Environmental Factors and Pollutants
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Formaldehyde, Solvents, Etc.
- Carbon Monoxide: Stoves, Heaters, Furnaces
- Dust and Fibres: Asbestosis, Fiberglass, Dirt
- Bioaerosols: Bacteria, Molds, Viruses, Pollen, Dust Mites, Animal Dander, Animal Excreta
- Trapped Outdoor Pollutants: Vehicle or Industrial Exhausts
- Physical Factors: Lighting, Vibration, Noise, Temperature, Crowding, Photoduplication
- Hypersensitive Senses (Chemically Sensitive Individuals)
- History of Being Allergic (Atopic)
- Job-Related Tensions
- Job Dissatisfaction
- Allergic Reactions to Indoor Allergens Including Dust Mites, Plant Products, or Fungal Products
- Irritation Due to (Volatile/Non-Volatile) Chemicals Released From the Environment
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Related to the Recirculation of Cigarette Smoke or Exhaust Fumes
Searching for Molds
- There is no visible mold.
- There are no mold odors.
- You have fixed the moisture/water problem so that it will not recur.
- Air sampling utilizing culture tests and microscopic analysis
- Tape Lift Sampling to inspect whatever sticks to the tape for the presence of fungal fragments
- Swabbing the surface and culture the collected material
- Vacuuming the surface and then inspecting the contents of the vacuum cleaner bag
- Bulk sampling of surface or material and either culture it or inspect it microscopically
None of the CDC or EPA publications support any specific cut-off or threshold value. For example, as of September 2005, the EPA website states that "Standards or Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for airborne concentrations of mold or mold spores have not been set. Currently, there are no EPA regulations or standards for airborne mold contaminants."
Our mold testing professionals cover issues in buildings that range from industrial settings to residential properties where human health is an issue. The significant issues frequently asked of our team when on an inspection are as follows:
- How do you detect and measure the presence of mold?
- What is an acceptable level of indoor fungi?
- How do we relate this information to human health problems?
- How do we control the level of fungi in our environment?
Fungi Problems in Building Environments
Secondly, indoor molds can cause human illness, which is a matter of concern. Infection is unlikely unless the exposed individual has a weak immune system functioning (e.g., is on long-term therapy with high doses of corticosteroids). The diseases caused by indoor fungi can be either allergic, toxic, or a combination of both.
Environmental Mold Testing
Next, our company brings in the “tools”:
- The thermal imager identifies micro-temperature differences in building materials and can easily identify hidden problems deep within walls.
- Moisture-detecting equipment is then used to sense moisture on the surface and deep within wall cavities.
- Ultra-fine airborne particle-sensing equipment is used to detect differences in airborne particles in different parts of the home.
- Macro-particulate sampling equipment detects large suspended airborne particulate in the home.
- Volatile organic compounds testing is done for micro-odor identification and localization.
- Boroscopic examination is the visual inspection of the interior of wall cavities to determine the presence of mold colonies and or water marks inside building materials.
- Roof ventilation checks are performed.
- Exterior investigation is then performed utilizing the thermal imager and any other tools deemed necessary by the inspector.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) in non-industrial facilities is found at 1.2 to 4.2 ppm (parts per million). The National Ambient Air Quality Standard for outside air is 9 ppm for an 8-hour exposure and 35 ppm for a one-hour exposure.
- Carbon dioxide is a general indicator of IAQ. Levels greater than 900 ppm are often accompanied by complaints about air quality. Carbon dioxide itself is not the problem but is instead a marker of other pollutants that accumulate along with it.
- Temperate and relative humidity should be ~70-75F and 30-50%.
- Testing for ozone, nitrogen oxide, NH3 (ammonia), hydrogen sulfides, chlorine, and others is necessary to determine if the mechanical systems in the establishment are functioning properly or if the property is drawing pollutants from the outside.
- If other air qualities or environmental testing tools are necessary to identify problems with the indoor environment, our company will most likely have them on-site or will advise the customer to set up a follow-up test.
- If we see a stain that might be mold, we place a piece of transparent tape on the stain, pull the tape off, bring it back to the lab and inspect whatever sticks to the tape for the presence of fungal fragments.
- We can swab the surface and culture the collected material.
- We can vacuum the surface and then inspect the contents of the vacuum sample.
- We can cut out a piece of the surface or material and either culture it or inspect it microscopically.