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Insulation mold test procedure: this document describes step by step field test procedures to screen for the presence of mold contamination in fiberglass insulation in residential and light-commercial buildings. This article explains how to find or test for moldy insulation in buildings, the probable cause of mold contamination in building insulation, and how to recognize conditions that make that problem likely in a particular case.
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We have also detected high levels of problematic mold in fiberglass building insulation where other mold reservoirs were either not present or had been previously removed.
Where to Look for Mold in Building Insulation
For buildings which do not have other known mold reservoirs, special attention needs to be given to inspecting and testing for problematic mold in
We provide the following procedure for testing building insulation for mold for two purposes.
See INSULATION MOLD for more detailed discussion about the occurrence of mold in building insulation.
Visually Inspect Insulation For Mold First
For people who cannot obtain field services to inspect and vacuum-test building insulation for problem mold, it is possible to cut and remove a square foot of mold-suspect insulation to be sent as a bulk sample to a forensic lab for testing. What we don't like about this approach is that the cost and trouble generally mean that only one or two samples will be collected, reducing our confidence in the conclusion. That is, a lot depends on exactly where and when a mold test sample is collected, and it's a bit too easy to collect a "clean" sample that misses a problem in the building.
If you must collect one or two bulk samples of fiberglass insulation to be tested for mold, we suggest
The lab will construct a sterile chamber in which each insulation sample will be agitated and then debris from the insulation will be collected for qualitative analysis.
This procedure prepares dust samples from building insulation for qualitative analysis in a mold lab. (Quantitative analysis by this method would be inaccurate, but it's also unnecessary.)
While some mold inspectors use more sophisticated equipment, the presence or absence of significant problem mold contamination in fiberglass (or other porous) insulation materials, as well as the presence or absence of high levels of other problem particles such as insect allergens, insect fragments (cockroach parts), or even bird dropping contamination can be detected by a competent forensic laboratory from even an amateur-collected insulation sample collected by the process we describe here.
Equipment you'll need to Vacuum-Sample Fiberglass Insulation for Mold
Here is our procedure. Contact us by email if you have other procedural suggestions or questions.
Comment on Accuracy of Insulation Vacuum Samples for Mold Testing
This mold sample insulation vacuum approach is not suitable for quantitative analysis such as determining the number of mold spores per cubic foot of material.
But then, our tests have demonstrated that there is already an enormous variation in the absolute level of mold spores pulled from building insulation depending many variables:
But this approach will easily tell you what sort of particles and at what density they are found in an insulation sample, and it's easily the most inexpensive method available for testing building insulation.
By examining the density of mold obtained from an insulation sample and also by examining the mold qualitatively (such as for the presence of spore chains of Penicillium sp. or Aspergillus sp., a lab should be able to tell you if the insulation is
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Technical Reviewers & References
Fiberglass in buildings: hazards, testing, cleanup, prevention: references & products
For more information about fiberglass as an indoor air quality concern see: