POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to decide if a mold, odor or other indoor air emergency exists, what to do in an emergency, and how to determine if professional mold inspection & testing are needed
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When to hire an expert to inspect & test a building for environmental, health, safety, mold, IAQ hazards:
When to Hire a Professional to Inspect or Test for Mold or other Contaminants. This article describes how to determine that you should hire an expert for on-site mold or other indoor contamination inspection and testing.
Not every environmental, safety, or mold contamination worry merits a costly onsite investigation - hiring an onsite expert or even performing mold testing for trivial mold cleanup jobs is expensive and usually unnecessary.
But failing to hire an expert when one is needed can itself be a costly mistake of a different kind.
We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.
How to Decide When to Hire an Environmental or Mold Inspection / Test Professional
The purpose of the advice below is to help readers decide when it is appropriate to perform mold inspection and testing on a building.
We want to know how and when mold testing is appropriate, and we want to avoid spending money on mold testing when it is not necessary. Also we want to avoid spending money on unreliable mold "tests" and inspections that do not validly support any conclusion about the building.
Our moldy home photograph (left) shows a cup fungus growing along the wall/floor baseboard trim in a home that had suffered a prolonged plumbing leak.
The visible fungal growth is quite obvious. What is less obvious, and what will require an expert inspection, is the extent of mold cleanup needed in the building, possibly including hidden mold in wall and ceiling cavities.
The answer to the "when to hire an expert" question hinges on the answers to the questions given in the table below. Or if you don't like decision tables try our "expert hiring RULES of THUMB" that follow the table.
Mold "Test" Results: do results of a mold screening test, air test, surface test, or culture test suggest that indoor mold contamination is present?
Yes: provided that the mold screening test was properly conducted and has reasonable validity,
you need a professional to define the scope of cleanup needed and to explain how to correct the cause of indoor mold contamination.
Watch out: because it is possible to find some mold growth in just about any building, collecting a sample of such mold from what is actually a trivial or small area of indoor mold contamination would not, of itself, justify a costly and extensive building mold investigation.
No: Watch out: while a "positive" mold test result can indeed suggest that a hidden mold problem is present in a building, negative results on just about any mold test cannot assure that no problematic mold reservoir is present.
Whether or not you need an expert depends on the questions & answers below.
Five reasons to consider a more extensive on-site investigation for toxic or allergenic mold
Five Rules of Thumb for Deciding When to Hire a Professional to Inspect for Mold & Prepare a Mold Remediation Plan
People in the building are at
particular health risk: elderly, infant, immune-impaired, asthmatic, history of
respiratory illness or other medical complaints which might be caused by
or aggravated by mold, allergens, or other bioaerosols
People in the building are sick and there is reason to suspect that the building is causing or contributing to health, air quality, or similar concerns. You need a building or apartment evaluation and diagnosis to answer the question that may be posed by your doctor: might the building be contributing to or causing these complaints?
The building has or is
suspected of having had a history of significant leak events or even a single event which
flooded some areas: plumbing leaks, roof leaks, ice dam leaks, basement
water entry, sewer backup, ventilation problems, air conditioning system
problems; forced-air central heating/cooling concerns. If hidden building cavities have been wet, the mold you see may be just the tip of a "mold iceberg" that does need an expert to find the extent of mold, cause of mold, and to remove the mold.
Large areas of water damage or mold contamination have
been seen and you need an estimate of the extent of demolition and mold
remediation which will be needed to make a proper cleanup and repair.
Small mold problems: If you are confident that the amount of mold is less than 30 sq. ft. of contiguous mold (and that there is no significant risk of a larger hidden mold problem) then the NY City mold remediation guidelines suggest that professional remediation is not appropriate. You do not need to hire someone other than perhaps a handyman or general cleaning service. BEWARE: if during cleanup of a small mold problem you discover that it is actually a large one, stop work and bring in a professional to advise you on how to proceed.
Large mold problems: If more than 30 sq. ft. of mold-infected material is found or is already visible, then you need professional advice as more serious health risks and mold contamination may be involved.
Contractors have already bid a variety of expensive mold-cleanup approaches to building cleanup/remediation and you need an unbiased, informed professional to help sort out these proposals
U. Minnesota general rules of thumb for deciding when to inspect for mold
[Edited and annotated by Daniel Friedman.]
IF these conditions are present in a building being evaluated for mold contamination risk
Fungal spore count or visual
presence indicators are high (air or bulk) [DF comment: BEWARE: while a high indoor spore count probably does indicate a problem, a low indoor airborne mold count is not a reliable clean bill of health for a building.
 Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. (727) 595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com Technical review, text clarification, 03/31/2009
 "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
 US EPA - Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Building [ copy on file as /sickhouse/EPA_Mold_Remediation_in_Schools.pdf ] - US EPA
 "Indoor Air Quality Problem Solving Wheel", U.S. EPA (included in  above. EPA Telephone for IAQ information & publications: 800-438-4318 S/N 055-000-00390-4
Allergens: Testing for the level of exposure to animal allergens is discussed at http://www.animalhealthchannel.com/animalallergy/diagnosis.shtml (lab animal exposure study is interesting because it involves a higher exposure level in some cases
Allergens: WebMD discusses allergy tests for humans at webmd.com/allergies/allergy-tests
Atlas of Clinical Fungi, 2nd Ed., GS deHoog, J Guarro, J Gene, & MJ Figueras, Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures, Universitat Rovira I Virgili, 2000, ISBN 90-70351-43-9 (you can buy this book at Amazon) - The Atlas of Clinical Fungi is also available on CD ROM
"Disease Prevention in Home Vegetable Gardens," Patricia Donald, Department of Plant Microbiology and Pathology, Lewis Jett
Department of Horticulture, University of Missouri Extension - extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G6202
"IgG Food Allergy Testing by ELISA/EIA, What do they really tell us?" Sheryl B. Miller, MT (ASCP), PhD, Clinical Laboratory Director, Bastyr University Natural Health Clinic - ELISA testing accuracy: Here is an example of Miller's critique of ELISA http://www.betterhealthusa.com/public/282.cfm - Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients
The critique included in that article raises compelling questions about IgG testing assays, which prompts our interest in actually screening for the presence of high levels of particles that could carry allergens - dog dander or cat dander in the case at hand.
http://www.tldp.com/issue/174/IgG%20Food%20Allergy.html contains similar criticism in another venue but interestingly by the same author, Sheryl Miller. Sheryl Miller, MT (ASCP), PhD, is an Immunologist and Associate Professor of Basic and Medical Sciences at Bastyr University in Bothell, Washington. She is also the Laboratory Director of the Bastyr Natural Health Clinic Laboratory.
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
"Management of Powdery Mildew, Leveillula taurica, in Greenhouse Peppers," Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, British Columbia - Original source: www.agf.gov.bc.ca/cropprot/peppermildew.htm
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.
MOLD in BUILDINGS Procedure: what mold is often found where in buildings - simple technical presentation
Rot concerns in buildings-some building mold such as Meruliporia incrassata "Poria" risks serious or Una Breva Guia a Moho - Hongo [Copy on file as /sickhouse/EPA_Moho_Guia_sp.pdf Una Breva Guia a Moho - Hongo - en Espanol
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
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The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates 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.
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.
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