DID YOU KNOW?
If several members of your house (including the pets!) are constantly sick with infections, or gut, immune, brain, psychiatric, neurological, focus, cognition, energy or hormonal problems, the air quality may be an issue!
Even without an obvious flood or water leak, if indoor humidity is over 50% a home can have issues, as toxic mold species favorite food is the paper backing on damp sheetrock and on moist wood surfaces. Often damage may be slow and hidden for years, or underlie new construction.
If you are reluctant to start with a certified environmental air quality specialist/mold inspector, begin with assessing areas where water damage is likely to occur and consider doing at least the first 3 of the following 5 steps.
It is critical to understand WHERE to sample with each method. To understand what the benefits and limits are, and which companies have quality, reliable and informative results for a DIY person.
If you find anything, it is imperative that you have a certified, experienced professional inspector guide you in a comprehensive inspection and plan for SAFE remediation!
Especially if several members of your house (including the pets!) are sick, air quality may be an issue. For example if in the same home there are: children with asthma, allergies, recurrent ear infections and learning disorders, along with teens and adults with sinus infections, gut issues, migraines, insomnia, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, difficult to treat anxiety or depression (including serious psychiatric illness such as bipolar psychoses), autoimmune disorders or even cancer- then be sure you don’t have toxic mold contributing to these diseases. Don’t guess, assess!
Did you know that toxic mold species can begin growing within 36-48 hours of water intrusion? At least 50% of homes and 60% of commercial buildings have moisture and air quality issues that may be impacting your health. Throw in “tight” energy efficient construction with inadequate ventilation and your home may have high humidity and poor air quality issues, even in brand new homes. Unfortunately toxic mold and bacterial growth can often be hidden inside walls, off gassing irritating chemical VOCs and mycotoxins with no visible mold growth.
Even without an obvious flood or water leak, if indoor humidity is over 50% a home can have issues, as toxic mold species favorite food is the paper backing on damp sheetrock and on moist wood surfaces, including particleboard and pressed wood which many new houses are constructed of. Then there’s high humidity levels inside HVAC units and condensers to consider…they don’t grow mold in and of themselves, but once contaminated can harbor spores that can spread to every area of the home.
If you’re unsure if you have mold or other environmental air quality issues impacting your health, yet are reluctant to start with a certified environmental air quality specialist/mold inspector, begin with assessing areas where water damage is likely to occur and try at least the first 3 of the following 5 steps.
However, it is imperative that you have a certified, experienced professional inspector guide you in a comprehensive inspection and plan for safe remediation, especially if there are un-identified hidden sources of mold, or other chemicals, contaminants and EMF’s. ISEAI.org is a good source to help you find qualified environmental health professionals experienced in working with sick clients.
5 BASIC DIY Steps to Assess for Water Damage and MOLD. First start with a thorough visual inspection of interior and exterior, assessing your home to give you an overall idea of where problems are likely to be. Then ideally include these 5 different forms of sampling. All have advantages and disadvantages. Especially the first three along with the visual inspection can really help localize where a problem may be. (A professional will have many more expensive “toys” and the experience to help look for the hidden problems.)
1. Mold plates– an inexpensive form of Petri dish with agar that you can purchase at home improvement stores or online – unfortunately most of those aren’t worth the $10 to purchase and can give both false negative and false positive results. My favorite company specializes in environmental illness and also tests for the level of Candida in the environment*. Can test each room and common problem areas such as under sinks and laundry room to see where high levels of species are concentrated, as well as HVAC filter, furniture and even pets with “tap” testing. If more than 4 spots are growing send in to find out if these are the kind of molds that produce mycotoxins. Limits are they don’t grow the heavy black molds Stachybotrus and Chaeteomium and need to know expiration dates of media and have stable condition for shipping. Relatively inexpensive to test each room. $5-10/plate to buy. $30-40 per plate to have speciated to see if any of these toxin producing species are present.
2. Dust sampling-a DNA test of dust to find out what species of molds have been present, sometimes known as ERMI testing (Environmental Relative Mold Index) several companies out there*. Can use vacuum or Swiffer dust sampling. An excellent way to assess overall house contamination by sampling multiple rooms. Will pick up multiple common mycotoxin producing Aspergillus/ Penicillium species as well as Wallemia, Stachybotrus, Chaetomium and others not grown on common mold agar . $250-350 range.(expensive to test each room individually)
3. Humidity + Moisture meter combo- purchase at any home improvement store, available under $25.(Not a direct test of mold presence but whether or not conditions are ripe for growth.) Ambient air humidity should be <50%, and moisture of drywall/sheetrock ideally 5-12%. Check each room for overall humidity and then check lower half of outside facing walls and any areas around penetrating plumbing, windows or doors for moisture content.
4. Tape/swab sampling of visible mold growth to find out if toxin producing species are present. Has to be interpreted by a qualified lab or mycologist/inspector. One of the least expensive options is MoldConrtrolOnaBudget.com with great educational info.
5. Air sampling– standard conventional method of testing for mold but many, many factors can influence the validity and often misses hidden molds off gassing behind walls. Results depend on time of year, level of humidity, air flow, ventilation and whether or not mold is actively sporulating. DIY kits available online. $35-50/room sampled.