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This article describes forensic microscopy and aerobiology test laboratory methods & services used to accept and test both mold-expert-collected mold samples and client-submitted test samples for toxic mold, allergens, gases, odors, sewage backups, other indoor particles or other indoor contaminants that may be present in buildings.
This website provides free, in-depth information and procedures for finding, testing, cleaning and preventing indoor mold, toxic black mold, green mold,
testing building indoor air quality, and other sick house / sick building investigations.
We give in-depth
information about mold and other indoor air quality problems: causes of respiratory illness, asthma, or other symptoms such as neurological or
psychological problems, air quality investigation methods, and remediation procedures such as mold cleanup, handling
toxic mold contamination, and building or mechanical system repairs.
MOLD TEST LABORATORY SERVICES - Laboratory Analysis Services
Mold test laboratory service includes analysis of expert-prepared field samples as well as processing of consumer-prepared adhesive-tape mail-in samples of mold or other particles.
For example, our mold testing lab provides identification services for bioaerosols such as mold, mildew, dust
mites, pollen, and other allergens. We have considerable experience examining samples collected on tape, Zefon™ cassettes, MCE filter cassettes, slides,
impaction air samplers, carpet, furniture, and other soft-goods vacuum samples, and in bulk material. Mold culture and bacterial surface contamination
evaluation is available, and we also offer testing for carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, and other gases.
Mold test laboratory education and experience include advanced indoor air quality, culture plate identification of fungal genera/species,
house dust analysis, mold fungal spore quantitative analysis (spore counts in air), and qualitative analysis (particle types and what they mean),
organic, and inorganic particle and fiber identification,
mold culture methods and culture
speciation. We have experience and special interest in identification of particles in building dust, paint failure field and lab
analysis, paint sample analysis, and general forensic microscopy.
Mold test equipment education and experience include biological microscopy, forensic microscopy, particle identification using microscopic
particle manipulation, microchemistry, transmitted light microscopy, polarized light microscopy, dispersion staining, determination
of refractive index, interference patterns, phase-contrast, darkfield, focal screening, and other advanced techniques.
In the lab we make use of a variety of microscopes: low-power stereoscopic examination (photo at left) of samples for characterization and high-power microscopic
examination (Page top photo, up to 1920x) for broad scope particle identification (not just mold) using transmitted and polarized light as well as darkfield and phase contrast
Forensic particle identification can extend well beyond biological matter (mold spores, cat or dog dander, insect fragments, dust mites, mite fecals) to include both organic and inorganic particles and fibers.
Particle identification is supplemented by use of Cargille™ refractive index liquid particle differentiation for identification of biological
particles such as mold spores, pollen grains, animal allergens, dog, cat, mouse dander, mite fecals, cockroach and other insect particles,
and non-biological particles in house dust and debris such as road dust, tire particles, diesel soot, oil burner soot, copier toner, wood and
paper fragments, skin cells, possible bacteria.
These methods help assure that the lab report accurately represents the
character of the samples which were submitted.
Mobile Microscopy Lab: For immediate on-site particle determination where emergency response or remediation/salvage
operation evaluation is necessary we offer mobile field
microscopy lab service including field preparation of test samples and light microscopic examination for particle identification.
Field samples are used to prepare slides for examination by light microscope. Our own field work collects mold or biological particle samples
using a variety of methods. From the public our lab also accepts mold surface samples
using clear tape.
Chemical treatment and mounting media are selected based on the sample type, often including potassium hydroxide, acid or basic fuchsin,
Calberla's solution, lacto phenol cotton blue, or other preparations.
When lab work is in support of legal proceedings or if otherwise appropriate we prepare
permanent-mount slides using glycerine jelly or other media. Slides are examined at magnifications of 10x, 100x, 400x, and
1000x using tungsten and polarized light, darkfield, etc. as appropriate.
ONSITE INSPECTION / INVESTIGATION AVAILABILITY NOTICE:Except for special cases including our pro-bono services we no longer provide onsite building investigations.
Identification of toxic, allergenic, or cosmetic mold genera/species in the Mold Test Lab
Genera/species identifications are made based on experience, education, reference texts, comparison with known samples, and when appropriate,
consultation with fellow mycologists and other experts.
There are more than 70,000 mold species which have been identified and an estimated 1 million
remaining to be identified, so it is common to encounter unidentified spores. (Our lab photo, left, shows an Pleospora sp., an Ascomycete, being released from its perithecium.)
However fortunately, in most areas there common protagonists which
have been studied and which can be identified to genera and often to species.
Because mold toxicity varies widely within a particular
genera, speciation is an important step, omitted by some high-volume labs and investigators who may fail to distinguish between harmless amerospores such as basidiomycetes and potentially harmful Penicillium/Aspergillus spores in samples.
A detailed written mold test laboratory report of laboratory finding, medical information, and recommendations is provided. The lab report describes:
"Significant/dominant particles" in each sample examined: likely to be most important in the Building
"Other spores/particles present" in each sample at notable but not dominant frequency, possibly important
"Incidental spores or particles detected", which in special cases may still be diagnostic even though the absolute spore count is so low that many labs and consultants ignore this data. An example is the Aspergillus niger spore-chains in our lab photo (left). The presence of these spores in chains suggests nearby active indoor growth of this toxic mold, even though the actual spore count would be reported as just 31 spores!
Our lab reports use clear, specific definitions of "mold levels" and we explain what certain particle findings suggest about the area or surface from which the sample was collected.
Study of sample contents with special understanding of mycology and building science is important: Similarly, the appearance of certain fungal structures, such as Penicillium/Aspergillus spore chains in an indoor sample may be an important indicator of a local problematic mold reservoir, even though a quantitative analysis alone would produce an apparently low spore count and would fail to detect this problem indicator.
Quantitative analysis such as fungal spore or particle counts per cubic meter of air sampled are also available when such measures are appropriate.
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto, have provided us with (and we recommend) Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates' Technical Reference Guide to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Kansas State University, department of plant pathology, extension plant pathology web page on wheat rust fungus: see http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/path-ext/factSheets/Wheat/Wheat%20Leaf%20Rust.asp
"A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home",
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency US EPA - includes basic advice for building owners, occupants, and mold cleanup operations. See http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.htm
US EPA - Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Building [Copy on file at /sickhouse/EPA_Mold_Remediation_in_Schools.pdf ] - US EPA
US EPA - Una Breva Guia a Moho - Hongo [Copy on file as /sickhouse/EPA_Moho_Guia_sp.pdf - en Espanol
"A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home", U.S. Environmental Protection Agency US EPA - includes basic advice for building owners, occupants, and mold cleanup operations. See http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.htm
"Disease Prevention in Home Vegetable Gardens,"
Department of Plant Microbiology and Pathology,
Department of Horticulture, University of Missouri Extension - extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G6202
Fifth Kingdom, Bryce Kendrick, ISBN13: 9781585100224, is available from the InspectAPedia online bookstore - we recommend the CD-ROM version of this book. This 3rd/edition is a compact but comprehensive encyclopedia of all things mycological. Every aspect of the fungi, from aflatoxin to zppspores, with an accessible blend of verve and wit. The 24 chapters are filled with up-to-date information of classification, yeast, lichens, spore dispersal, allergies, ecology, genetics, plant pathology, predatory fungi, biological control, mutualistic symbioses with animals and plants, fungi as food, food spoilage and mycotoxins.