To Test Or Not To Test? Here Is Your Guide For This Question.

By | December 23, 2019

Let me start by saying that I am not a mold removal expert, nor do I test for mold. House inspectors are not even permitted by the NC Home Inspection Licensure Board to call a compound mold unless they are professionals in the field. We can and do utilize the words mold-like compounds even if it’s mold. However, I did study microbiology in high school and college and my first major was a medical lab technician. I recognize with mold and other micro-organisms and have dealt with them extensively. Now as a licensed home inspector I work closely with property professionals in the transaction of houses. There is a great deal of mistaken belief about mold as it connects to houses and this short article is an effort to clean up the confusion.

I hope to provide you a much better understanding of the research on mold; the health impacts, what it does to homes and what needs to be done if it is found. I intend to clear up concerns you might have about how moisture, mildew, and mold can make complex home sales. I wish to give you enough details from the specialists so you can comprehend how unfair the suits are that have been in the news. To me, the genuine danger in homes is the long term impacts of wetness and mold which are structural concerns due to rot.

From my research as well as my viewpoint, mold testing is not necessary. When mold or mold-like substances are found in a house by a home inspector, it should not be an offer breaker even if the inspector/tester thinks it needs to be. Let me show you the conclusions of the specialists on the subject so you will have a much better understanding of what you are facing when you come across mold or mold-like compounds or will we just call it all – fungi. Call the best mold removal in Austin.

Here are the essentials about mold:

Molds are decomposers of dead organic material such as leaves, wood, and plants. Without mold, we would discover ourselves wading deep in dead plant matter. And we would not have cheese and some medications without mold. But mold needs water to grow; without water, mold can not grow. To reproduce, molds produce spores, which spread out through the air, water, and pests. These spores imitate seeds and can form new mold development if the conditions are right. Think about spores as dandelion seeds on a microscopic level. A little air movement and they’re everywhere intending to land where they can grow. It’s essential to recognize that mold spores exist all over, in outdoor air as well as indoor air. They just do not grow unless the conditions are right.

Considering that mold needs moisture to grow, here are a few things to look for around your house

– The lawn sprinkler too close to your house

– Downspouts and the ground sloping towards your house

– A watered garden too near your home.

Then there are less apparent sources of moisture in a house you might not see right now that would be picked up during an inspection.

Things like:

– Moisture movement through exterior walls from things such as:

– Poor caulking and paint

– Poor flashings

– Poor shingles

– Poor thresholds

– Interior rooms excluded from airflow like closets

– Poor attic ventilation trapping moisture in the attic

– Humid summer air condensing on cooler crawl space surface areas when there is no vapor barrier present

– Moisture-wicking up through the piece if the builder didn’t supply a vapor barrier

– High humidity from showering, cooking, etc.

– Plumbing leaks

– Any break in the synthetic stucco envelope

Think of this. It only takes 24 to 48 hours for mold to establish. How frequently do today’s house owners examine their crawl space and attic to make sure there are no leaks? Some locations where mold establishes, like a broken pipe in a wall or ceiling, are more apparent and are picked up early enough to make repairs before there’s much damage. Others like malfunctioning bathroom caulk which enables wetness into the structure over an extended period can be so concealed that nobody notices till the framing is so decayed the tub falls under the crawl space. Well, maybe not. The probability of capturing mold before it causes structural damage is less likely than finding rot. We need to be more concerned about rot and structural problems than mold. Mold can be cleaned up but rot needs to be replaced and can cause considerably more damage. Short-term wetness – mold, long term moisture – rot.

Building and construction techniques and structure requirements have altered to accommodate the increased interest in saving energy. Houses built before the 1930s usually had no effective insulation in either ceilings or walls. In essence, they were naturally ventilated and wetness dried out rapidly. Roofing systems were generally steeply pitched and constructed with shingles that had spaces between them which ventilated attics and cooled the roofing deck. These houses were, obviously, heat wasters. The heat left into the attics and natural ventilation kept the attic air moving. Homes today don’t dry as rapidly since we insulate much better and build tighter. Besides that houses, today are developed with more moisture-sensitive products. Paper, like that which is discovered on drywall, is nature’s most perfect mold food. Mold likes processed wood more than it likes lumber. Simply a little wetness in processed wood like OSB and particle board can affect its stability.

Mold can even be constructed into brand-new houses. In this age when time is money, contractors may not wait up until your house structure dries out after rain before sealing in the walls, trapping the wetness in the walls. This may not occur frequently but it can occur; so even brand-new homes need to be checked. If you walk into a brand new house and it smells moldy, there’s most likely an issue.

Now let’s see what the experts say about mold.

Most people do not react when exposed to molds. The biggest health problem from direct exposure to mold is allergic reaction and asthma in vulnerable people. Nevertheless exposure to ecological aspects other than mold in wet indoor areas, significantly house dust mites, infections, tobacco smoke, and cockroaches, along with pesticides, unstable natural substances and fumes from home furnishings or building products can cause the same health results. There are no tests to determine whether the signs are caused by the mold or something else.

There are more than 100,000 types of mold. Some molds, like Stachybotrys, produce hazardous compounds called mycotoxins. These molds typically have a greater water requirement than common household molds and tend to flourish just under conditions of persistent and extreme water damage. Currently, we do not understand all that much about the health impacts of most mycotoxins on humans. Most of what we know about mycotoxins originates from direct exposure of stock to moldy grain or hay. We don’t have any tests that can identify whether mycotoxins are the cause of somebody’s illness. We can’t quickly or dependably measure the level of mycotoxins in air samples to determine direct exposure levels. Presently there are just standards and no guidelines regarding indoor mold. There may never be any regulations on direct exposure to mold since even the lowest levels bother individuals with serious hypersensitivity. Believe it or not, allergic reactions can originate from direct exposure to dead along with living mold spores. Therefore, eliminating mold with bleach and or other disinfectants may not prevent allergic reactions.

What about black mold? Stachybotrys is a mycotoxin producing mold and type connected with black mold. It’s one of several that are unhealthy however gets all the attention. Stachybotrys does not quickly grow indoors and requires large amounts of moisture to grow. The recognized health impacts from exposure to Stachybotrys are similar to other common molds but have been inconclusively associated with more extreme health effects in some individuals. Testing for it is expensive; the outcomes are tough to interpret and typically inconclusive.

From a 2004 report by the Institute of Medicine:

There are no existing reliable, dependable measurement procedures for mold and that such assessment methods must be developed. The entire procedure of fungal-spore aerosolization, transportation, deposition, re-suspension, and tracking, all of which identify inhalation exposure, is improperly understood, and methods for assessing human exposure to fungal agents are improperly developed. In scientific medical practice, there is no known dose-response relationship between a particular ambient fungal concentration and any human health impacts. There is no substantial scientific proof that humans have adverse impacts of immunotoxic, neurologic, breathing or dermal reactions after direct exposure to mold aside from allergy which, in the scientific medical field, there is no known dosage response relationship in between a particular ambient fungal concentration and any poisonous human health result. For that reason, there is no legitimate data available to support tasting because an assessment of risk-relevant direct exposure can not be produced.

The following are statements from the Scientific Community:

– The Texas Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs launched a report in September 2002 mentioning that there is no substantial proof connecting “black mold” to human disease.

– The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery has reported that there is no convincing evidence of a causal association between the black mold Stachybotrys and human illness.

– The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine mentions that, except for persons with seriously impaired body immune systems, indoor mold is not a source of fungal infections. Existing scientific evidence does not support the proposal that human health has been adversely impacted by inhaled mycotoxins in homes, schools or office environments.

– The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported July 2003 that in “A Scientific View of the Health Effects of Mold,” a team of researchers found that mold can cause responses for those who are prone to allergic reactions. Infections brought on by mold are uncommon, except for those who are “immune jeopardized.” The research study concludes that “there is no sound scientific proof that mold triggers ‘toxicity’ in dosages found in house environments.”

– Dr. Gailen Marshall, Jr., Director, Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the Medical School, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, states that some individuals do establish allergic reactions and experience symptoms of asthma or hay fever when exposed to some mold spores. “There also are a couple of mold-related diseases that can be major, but those are uncommon. So what about the ‘specialists’ who declare to detect all sorts of mold-related diseases such as amnesia or learning disabilities? There is no evidence to support those claims.”

– The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, in its report released in May 2004, failed to find proof of a causal relationship to (mold) and a wide variety of other health conditions.

– The National Center for Environmental Health states that at present no test proves an association between Stachybotrys Chartarum and specific health symptoms.

– The Environmental Protection Agency mentions that the standards or threshold limit values for airborne concentrations of mold or mold spores have not been set. Presently, there are no EPA regulations or requirements for air-borne mold impurities.

– The American Industrial Hygiene Association specifies that some molds produce hazardous substances called mycotoxins. Airborne mycotoxins have not been revealed to trigger health issues for residents in domestic or industrial buildings.

– Drs. Chapman, Terr, Jacobs, Charlesworth, and Bardana report the conclusion of their current research study in the September 2003 problem of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “When mold-related symptoms happen, they are likely the outcome of short-term inflammation, allergy, or infection. Building-related disease due to mycotoxicosis has never been shown in the medical literature. Trigger remediation of water-damaged product and infrastructure repair work ought to be the main reaction to fungal contamination in buildings.”

There are several ways to test for mold. Wholesale sampling, samples (like sections of drywall, pieces of carpet or air filters) are collected for analysis to determine if molds are actively growing. In surface area tasting, a swab or adhesive tape lifts the samples for analysis. Air tasting utilizes a suction type pump to sample the air. According to the HUD Healthy Homes Issue, “air tasting is more technically tough and has a greater opportunity for a mistake than source sampling. Comparative evaluations of the performance of the various samplers have been undetermined, although particular samplers have been observed to perform much better for particular purposes.”

According to the New York City Department of Health, “air sampling for fungi should not be part of a regular assessment. This is since decisions about suitable remediation techniques can normally be made based on a visual inspection. Also, air-sampling approaches for some fungi are prone to false-negative outcomes and therefore can not be used to definitively dismiss contamination. Tiny recognition of the spores/colonies requires significant competence. These services are not consistently available from industrial laboratories.”

From another expert, Dr. Yost of the Building Science Corporation, “an increasing variety of companies are offering ‘air testing for mold.’ On the surface, this seems like a sensible thing to do. The issue, however, is that the results of the majority of air tasting for mold are worthless for two reasons. Air testing for mold was not established to identify if an environment was safe or has an unsafe level of mold in the air. Air tasting was developed to help identify the place of a concealed reservoir of mold. If the source of mold is currently identified, air sampling does not supply additional meaningful information. Furthermore, safe or poisonous levels of airborne mold have not been developed. An individual air sample for mold offers a ‘photo’ of what was in the air during the few minutes of tasting. The outcomes might not be indicative of the amount of mold that is in the air throughout the majority of the day. The Center for Disease Control, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists do not advise routine air testing for mold.” “The Minnesota Department of Health does not recommend testing for mold. Rather, you need to just presume there is an issue whenever you see mold or odor mold smells. Testing must never take the place of visual inspection and it needs to never consume resources that are required to remedy wetness problems and remove all noticeable development. Mold testing is hardly ever useful for attempting to answer concerns about health concerns.”


Once again according to Dr. Yost, “Don’t test for mold. If you see it or smell it you have it. You don’t require to understand what species it is to handle it. You must handle all mold the same way. Repair the water issue that triggered it. Replace the water-damaged materials. Clean up the mold, dust and mold spores. If for some mysterious reason you choose to test for mold insist that the report consists of just the following things: Who did the test and when? Where were the samples were taken and how? How were the samples examined? What are the outcomes of the analysis? The report should include absolutely no analysis. Excessive mold in a home is apparent. If you see mold and you smell mold – you have mold – and if you see it and you smell it you most likely have excessive of it. If a home has mold and the water issue that caused mold is obvious it is meaningless to test for mold. Mold removal is costly. Any cash spent on mold testing will not be offered for tidying up the mold and fixing the water issue that caused the mold. Likewise, the samples can take days or weeks to be analyzed – time that is lost that might better be invested tidying up the mold and fixing the water issue. No acknowledged authoritative public company suggests mold testing to guide the clean-up or to direct correction of the water problem.”

So when is testing encouraged by the specialists? Dr. Yost once again: “Biological measurements often provide helpful details in discovering covert mold when a comprehensive inspection has not found moisture or mold. The likelihood that airborne samples will offer proof that inspection does not is really little. Reserve sampling for mystery cases, where things smell moldy or people experience symptoms that follow mold direct exposure, but no mold is found upon inspection. If an insurer or a third party requires ‘testing to verify the existence of mold,’ simply send out a piece of the moldy product to a qualified laboratory for confirmation of the presence of mold.”

Alright, your house has mold or mold-like substances. Now what? Discover the reason for the moisture and repair it quickly. Start removal. Remove harmed material (particularly permeable products) that can’t be cleaned or is more expensive to clean than replace. Tidy the salvaged product (non-porous). Dry out the area before closing in a wall or ceiling. New structure products were mentioned previously. Again, Dr. Yost says, “Materials like lumber, plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), particleboard, paper-covered gypsum board may or might not be salvageable. The base case test is – has the material lost structural integrity? Mold growing on strong lumber is most likely a surface contamination issue, not a structural concern. It can be cleaned, dried and restored. If strong lumber has lost structural stability, then it has been colonized by wood decay fungi and probably particular bacteria and that part should be changed.” Who should do the clean-up? “The Institute of Medicine committee studied many historical studies and publications on the avoidance and removal of mold. The most current of these consist of remediation procedures that are based on the assumption that mold is toxic and ought to be remediated in a way comparable to the removal of a building with asbestos. The physician panel proposes that until medical science has proof of mold toxicity, remediation needs to be based upon non-clinical elements and the focus should be on wetness control and structural repair work.” According to the New York City Department of Health, “there are no unique requirements for the disposal of musty products.”

In summary, above all, when there’s a moisture problem, it needs to be repaired – fast. Whether it’s leakage or high humidity, time is of the essence. The source requires to be located and fixed. The afflicted location needs to be either cleaned up or replaced and dried completely.

As far as testing goes, research is extremely specific. It doesn’t matter what types of mold exist. The only time testing works is to discover covert mold or identify if a location has been sufficiently cleaned up or remediated.

Your houses we find out about in the big claims had to be very damp for a long time. Why didn’t anyone see the apparent mold? Were they empty for a long period? Didn’t they have an inspection before they relocated?

Who is to blame when mold is discovered in a house – who do you sue? Nature? Father Time when a fifty years of age pipeline bursts? The sun since the shingles gave in?

If the experts state that there is no connection to mold and health issues besides allergies, where did the information originate from in these claims to say that there is?

I hope this response at least a few of the questions and misunderstandings you have about the mysterious mold issue in houses.