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photo of a moldy basementMold Contamination FAQs #2
More Q&A on building mold contamination

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Frequently-asked Quest ins & Answers about indoor mold contamination:

Questions about What to Do About Black Mold and other Indoor Air Quality IAQ Contaminants.

Questions about How to test, remove, or prevent mold contamination. And questions on How to deal with mold related illness.

This website answers just about any thing you want to know about what to do about mold contamination in buildings: how to find, test, remove, clean-up or prevent indoor mold contamination. These mold-action & indoor environment investigation & cleanup articles provide expert, un-biased information for owners, occupants, inspectors.

How to recognize mold, how to test for unsafe mold, how to clean up or remove mold, how to prevent mold contamination in buildings, and what mold related illnesses and symptoms have been reported are all discussed in depth.



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How to Find, Test, Inspect For, Remove, & Prevent Indoor Mold Contamination: what to do about mold in buildings

Stachybotrys spores (left) and structure (right)In this article series we give detailed and authoritative 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.

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To find what you need quickly, if you don't want to scroll through this index you are welcome to use the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX to search InspectApedia for specific articles and information.

These questions & answers were posted originally at MOLD CONTAMINATION IN BUILDINGS - topic home.

Basic Advice for Mold Contaminated Buildings

Small areas of mold, if that's all you've got, say less than 30 sqft of contiguous moldy material, are usually handled as a normal cleanup job without heroic efforts, For a small or DIY mold cleanup project see

Larger areas of mold contamination, or if a larger area is discovered in cleaning the small one, do indeed merit professional cleaning. When a professional mold cleanup job seems to be needed, these articles will be helpful

A proper "mold contamination inspection" inspection includes

Details about common mold test report "mold levels" and test accuracy and precision

Watch out: while it is possible to give valid general advice, nobody can make a confident, safe statement about just what mold remediation actions are needed from an email alone nor can a simple mold test in air or on surfaces define the extent of mold contamination nor cleanup that may be needed at a building.

On 2017-11-28 by (mod) - is a mold count of 50 Aspergillus spores a serious problem?

Susan,

I'm sory to say I can't make much sense out of the "mold report" you cited. Finding 50 spores of anything could be absolutely trivial or it could be significant. There is no meaningful context for this report.

For example: If I pulled an air sample of 10 cfm for ten seconds and got 50 Aspergillus niger spores indoors, that's a good suggestion that there's an Aspergillus contamination source nearby. But If I pulled an air sample of 10 cmf for 10 minutes or for some longer interval, the same spore count could be completely insignificant.

So what the heck can we possibly make of "spore counts" like the ones you give? Nothing.

Furthermore, in my experience, very small changes in the measurement area (waving a notebook once through the air, walking through the room, or turning a fan on or off) can make 1 to 3 orders of magnitude difference in the "spore count" I find during that interval. So a "count" of 50 might really be 0.5 or 5000.

There are some widely-accepted "rules of thumb" that many field practitioners accept as indicative of a mold-contaminated building (assuming we can't skip over all that arm-waving by simply pointing to a large visible moldy area).

If an inspection finds a large (more than 30 sq.ft. of contiguous) moldy area indoors, that merits professional cleaning and of course steps to find and fix the cause of the mold growth.

If an inspection finds no large visible moldy area but there are building-related health complaints or odors that make one suspect a mold problem, such as a history of leaks into walls or ceilings, then one might decide it's worth some limited invasive inspecting (cut little test openings) in the most-suspect areas.

At the end of the article above you'll find a live link to where I think you want to Continue reading at ACCEPTABLE MOLD LEVEL

On 2017-11-28 by Susan H

In August of 2016, I had a severe mold problem at a small (1,000 sq ft) rental house. There were likely several reasons - the tenants left for a month, the air conditioning unit was old and probably could not keep up with the humidity especially since a window was left open and it was a horribly hot and humid summer (North Carolina - temps in the 90s with humidity of 85 to 95% regularly - with air left at 65 degrees).

Also, neighbor had a leak that left the yard along one side of the house boggy, and a bathroom tub surround put in a year or so prior had been put in over a window leaving an open space that held lots of moisture.

The tenants thought it was an unhealthy situation, so I let them out of their lease. I addressed all moisture issues.... I had a new HVAC system with new venting installed, the tub torn out and redone, the neighbor repaired their leak, and the entire house was thoroughly cleaned, with wood floors refinished and all walls and surfaces were wiped down and painted.

This is probably not an exhaustive list of all that was done, but overall all moisture problems were addressed and any visable mold was cleaned. I finally re-rented the house late last spring. The tenants contacted me this past week to say they are not feeling well and think it is mold. They had a surface of an HVAC filter (they said filter, but I think they meant a vent/register in the living room) test done with the following results:

Aspergillus/Penicillium types (3+)
Chaetomium (1+)
Cladosporium sphaerospermum (3+)
With the following notes:
Animal hair present.
Chaetomium is a potentially toxic/ abnormal indicator spore
that typically represents nearby mold damage.
And a summary stating "FUNGAL GROWTH OR CONTAMINATION IN VICINITY"

The reporting company provided this scale with the report: Scale 1-5+ =-Number of spores in sample window
1+ = 1 to 24 spores; 2+ = 25 to 50 spores; 3+ = >50 spores to 25%;
4+ = 25% to 60% of sample; 5+ = >60% of sample

The tenants recognize that they have health issues that may make them particularly sensitive to mold (asthma, autoimmune disease).
Neither the tenants or I can find any new/current moisture issues.

Are these limits what can be expected in a house with a known prior contamination?
If so, it seems reasonable to let them out of the lease because of their health issues.

If the limits are unreasonable, what other steps should be taken to decrease the amount of mold? I had several consults at the time and followed all steps I was given to remedy the situation, so I'm not sure what to do next.

I'd be happy to provide any additional information.
Thanks so much!
Susan

On 2017-09-15 by Pete

The baseboard in the room at the second floor got wet, the drywall looks fine. But is it possible that the insulation inside the drywall got wet as well since the water might leak from the roof?

On 2017-08-20 by (mod) -

Esther Cameron

Yes those results suggest that there is a significant indoor mold colony - the location of the mold contamination an its extent need to be determined and a cleanup plan to suit will then be appropriate.

On 2017-08-19 by hankloving

Awesome, thank you I will send shortly, as soon as I can figure it out LOL

On 2017-08-19 by (mod) -

Cosmetic mold is principally in the Ophistoma family and would not be something that would be likely to occur "as new" after original construction.
See COSMETIC MOLD, RECOGNIZE - http://inspectapedia.com/mold/Cosmetic_Mold.php

On 2017-08-19 by (mod) - mushroom thing growing in my home

Hank I'm sorry your message didn't appear the first time. Sometimes the Comments Box software will block a message if it thinks the message contains links or a virus. Something as simple as typing a period at the end of a sentence without a space before the next word trips up the system.

You can also always contact us by using the page top or bottom CONTACT link if the comments system isn't working. (We give first priority to responding to public comments made on our web articles since other readers are seeing that too.)

I'd like to see photos of the bloom you mentioned - you can use the email at the CONTACT link I mentioned. Indeed many families of mold (fungi) can grow quite rapidly under just the right conditions. But a fungal decay that completely destroys particleboard in just a few days would be very unusual. More often when I see that it's because there was a leak.

So we need to figure out what's going on. IN addition to photos of the damaged area, let me see the whole building from outside.

On 2017-08-19 by hankloving

Just went out to look at it again (see my post below) after having educated myself from this great site -- I don't know if it's significant but the brown crud is only on the particle/chipboard wood, it doesn't carry over onto the framing wood

However I do see some black staining on the framing wood on the wall where the crud is. I would think it was cosmetic mold but it is not on any of the framing on the other walls, just the crud infested wall. Thanks in advance for any help or advice.

I just typed a big long question and it seems to have disappeared so I'm trying again. I live in dry climate, high desert of Joshua Tree, CA. This morning I noticed a mild musty smell in garage and discovered a giant "bloom" on the wall (unfinished particle type board) about 2x5 feet with a few smaller un adjacent blooms on same wall. No water source or plumbing on that side of the big garage and just got new roof in december. House built in 60s.

The thing is a mushroom tan color looks like a thick dry mud that was spread with a trowel in arc patterns. I hit it with pure vinegar spay and it disintegrated and fell right off - the wood was totally eaten away behind it! It was not noticeable last week at all. It grew really fast! No evidence of insects which was my first thought.

I can't find any pictures on line that look similar. It is not hairy or fuzzy - what the heck is it? Ive lived in this house 17 years and never seen anything like it. I'd appreciate any help, I sure don't want mold because I have lung damage - but could it be anything else???

On 2017-08-18 by Esther Cameron

Heavy rains flooded one unit of our four-unit condo building. When his flooring was removed mold was found inside the outer wall. This
led the other three units to have testing done.

He made two small holes, in my kitchen and living room walls, to test. We have never had any sign of mold or water. The outside walkway was resloped recently to avoid future flooding.

The living room hole showed count/M3 48,000 for aspergillus/Penicillium and 48,000 stachybotrys sp. The kitchen hole was count/M3 213,333 Aspergillus/Penicillium and count/M3 741 each for Chaetomium sp and stachybotrys sp. Must these molds be removed?

On 2017-08-02 by (mod) -

Your doctor can refer you to a specialist in environmental medicine or mold related illness; you or your doc can also find medical experts at
MOLD DOCTORS - ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE http://inspectapedia.com/sickhouse/Mold_Doctors.php

On 2017-08-02 by (mod) -

3. Beware about moving - which may indeed be appropriate for your case - that you

- do not move into another building that's also moldy
- do not carry moldy things from your old home into the new one: clean them before bringing them into the new home: laundering soft goods, using household cleaners, paper towels, etc. to clean hard items, HEPA vacuuming may also help.

See details about handling these concerns at RENTERS & TENANTS: MOLD ADVICE http://inspectapedia.com/sickhouse/Rental_Unit_Mold.php

2. If you need an onsite expert you might try calling Walter H. Carter, Inc. whcdrm@alltel.net Chattanooga: 800-564-5537 environmental investigations - Click on the EXPERTS DIRECTORY at our page top links, then click the link on that page for ENVIRONMENTAL INSPECTORS & TESTING SERVICES to find more about Mr. Carter

(We have no financial nor business relationship with any consultant, product, service we discuss)

I'm posting additional advice in segments

1. I suggest discussing testing usefulness first with your doctor.

On 2017-08-02 by (mod) - black lab died - was mold a factor?

Jeremy,

I'm sorry that you've suffered illness and loss of your black lab. Some "black molds" indoors can be harmful (Stachybotrys chartarum) though usually those are the molds you see but not the most seriously-harmful ones, as less-obvious but often present in moldy conditions are species of Aspergillus and sometimes Penicillium that more-often cause respiratory illness as those spores are smaller, inhaled into the lung, and are notorious among experts.

An "air test" is a dangerous approach to rely upon, especially where people are already sick and a dog has died. That's because air tests can give results varying enormously depending on how the test is conducted, and because the test does not find where the problem mold is nor tell us what remediation is needed - often people end up paying double the total cost of testing when they have to then hire an inspector to actually diagnose the problem and specify the cleanup needed.

If you know that your home has significant indoor mold contamination - more than 30 sq.ft. of contiguous mold - by simple visual inspection, confirmed by illnesses, then testing is not going to make one iota of difference in what needs to be done in the building.

The only reason you might want some mold testing done is to inform your doctor about just what has been your exposure, in the off chance that that would change the doctor's approach or treatment. If your doctor wants that information, then an air test is, again, unreliable because the most-harmful molds might not be the ones in the air that the test finds.

So what's needed is a visual inspection by an expert to find the mold, take physical (usually tape) samples of the dominant or largest mold reservoirs by type and appearance and location, and give those results to your physician. Tape testing to collect mold samples to send to a lab is technically easy - TAPE & BULK SAMPLING & TESTS for MOLD inspectapedia.com/mold/Mold_Test_Adhesive_Tape.php and any qualified mold lab can process those. What requires some experience and sense is recognizing where to stick the tape - where to collect the samples.

On 2017-08-01 by Jeremy

I live in Memphis and we having mold issues with our town house that is infested with mold my black lab died 2 weeks ago from a fungal parasitis disease in his lungs.

We believe that his illness occurred because of the indoor air quality of our place because the side effects from being exposed he had all of them . Also my other lab is starting to show some signs so and we've been fighting with allergies and breathing problems respiratory issues like stuffy nose all that good stuff.

Also we had mentioned that to our veterinarian who said there's a good possibility it could be directly related to the mold spores I looked at the descriptions of black mold and the symptoms my fiance and I are also experiencing some adverse medical issues as well so the big question is it's is there somebody in the Memphis Tennessee area that could do a free mold inspection and also an air quality test to check for spores in the air.

We don't really have the money because we are going to be moving soon but we want to know if we've been you know if we can into any contact with the stuff in the pits responsible for my dog so does anybody in this area do free testing I saw where it said that you do it for the elderly and for disabled individuals I have PTSD anxiety ADHD depression just the name for you so I definitely have disappeared a couple could you let me know please thank you very much

On 2017-08-02 by (mod) Advice for sick tenants in mold-infested apartment in Tennessee

Jeremy,

I'm sorry that you've suffered illness and loss of your black lab. Some "black molds" indoors can be harmful (Stachybotrys chartarum) though usually those are the molds you see but not the most seriously-harmful ones, as less-obvious but often present in moldy conditions are species of Aspergillus and sometimes Penicillium that more-often cause respiratory illness as those spores are smaller, inhaled into the lung, and are notorious among experts.

An "air test" is a dangerous approach to rely upon, especially where people are already sick and a dog has died. That's because air tests can give results varying enormously depending on how the test is conducted, and because the test does not find where the problem mold is nor tell us what remediation is needed - often people end up paying double the total cost of testing when they have to then hire an inspector to actually diagnose the problem and specify the cleanup needed.

If you know that your home has significant indoor mold contamination - more than 30 sq. ft. of contiguous mold - by simple visual inspection, confirmed by illnesses, then testing is not going to make one iota of difference in what needs to be done in the building.

The only reason you might want some mold testing done is to inform your doctor about just what has been your exposure, in the off chance that that would change the doctor's approach or treatment. If your doctor wants that information, then an air test is, again, unreliable because the most-harmful molds might not be the ones in the air that the test finds.

So what's needed is a visual inspection by an expert to find the mold, take physical (usually tape) samples of the dominant or largest mold reservoirs by type and appearance and location, and give those results to your physician. Tape testing to collect mold samples to send to a lab is technically easy - TAPE & BULK SAMPLING & TESTS for MOLD http://inspectapedia.com/mold/Mold_Test_Adhesive_Tape.php and any qualified mold lab can process those. What requires some experience and sense is recognizing where to stick the tape - where to collect the samples.

1. I suggest discussing testing usefulness first with your doctor.

2. If you need an onsite expert you might try calling Walter H. Carter, Inc. whcdrm@alltel.net Chattanooga: 800-564-5537 environmental investigations - see Walter's information at http://inspectapedia.com/Environment/Environmental_Testing_Services.php#TN in our ENVIRONMENTAL & MOLD TESTING SERVICES directory. (We have no financial nor business relationship with any consultant, product, service we discuss)

3. Beware about moving - which may indeed be appropriate for your case - that you

- do not move into another building that's also moldy
- do not carry moldy things from your old home into the new one: clean them before bringing them into the new home: laundering soft goods, using household cleaners, paper towels, etc. to clean hard items, HEPA vacuuming may also help.

See details about handling these concerns at RENTERS & TENANTS: MOLD ADVICE http://inspectapedia.com/sickhouse/Rental_Unit_Mold.php

Your doctor can refer you to a specialist in environmental medicine or mold related illness; you or your doc can also find medical experts at
MOLD DOCTORS - ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE http://inspectapedia.com/sickhouse/Mold_Doctors.php

On 2017-08-01 by Jeremy - town house that is infested with mold my black lab died

I live in Memphis and we having mold issues with our town house that is infested with mold my black lab died 2 weeks ago from a fungal parasitis disease in his lungs. We believe that his illness occurred because of the indoor air quality of our place because the side effects from being exposed he had all of them .

Also my other lab is starting to show some signs so and we've been fighting with allergies and breathing problems respiratory issues like stuffy nose all that good stuff.

Also we had mentioned that to our veterinarian who said there's a good possibility it could be directly related to the mold spores I looked at the descriptions of black mold and the symptoms my fiance and I are also experiencing some adverse medical issues as well

so the big question is it's is there somebody in the Memphis Tennessee area that could do a free mold inspection and also an air quality test to check for spores in the air.

We don't really have the money because we are going to be moving soon but we want to know if we've been you know if we can into any contact with the stuff in the pits responsible for my dog so does anybody in this area do free testing I saw where it said that you do it for the elderly and for disabled individuals I have PTSD anxiety ADHD depression just the name for you so I definitely have disappeared a couple could you let me know please thank you very much

How Should a Building Mold "Test" be Conducted?

Reader Question: does my mold test result indicate a bad problem? do I need a mold specialist?

We had a flood in our basement a month ago and before having any reconstruction done I wanted to make sure there was no mold present. I have a respiratory condition. The company that did the testing found mold present in one area and an elevated spore count in one area of the basement.

The mold identified was aspergillis penicillium and the advice was to get a company to get rid of it. The count for outside was 210 spores per m3 and in the basement 2600m3.

The basement was dry, but one area had a visible grey fuzz that was identified as mold. The main floor count was 110 spores per m3. I simply want to know how BAD the problem is and is it something that can be removed by a non specialist.

Do these numbers warrant professional intervention? How much would this cost, any idea? Your input would be appreciated. I think this website is very informative, and I would highly recommend it. Thanks,- N.M. 8/23/2013

Reply: what should your mold test consultant actually have done to provide useful information, and what should s/he report to you?

With respect I have to say I'm troubled that you paid someone to "test" your home for mold or perhaps better, "inspect" for mold contamination and then are left having to ask others to interpret and advise you on how to proceed. What the heck did your testing company take your money for if they're not going to actually try to be of use? More about actualy usable mold test and investigation reports can be read
at MOLD INVESTIGATION REPORTS.

Incidentally, "aspergillus penicillium" as your report stated, or Pen/Asp as many labs report, is a name used to describe the presence of either or both of two completely differnt mold genera/species - Aspergillus sp. or Penicillium sp. - a result that is offered when the lab has only undifferentiated spores that cannot be named more specifically.

Either of these mold families are common in outdoor air and are found indoors too, but when found indoors at high levels usually this indicates that further investigation is needed to find and remove the mold; The comparison of incompletely identified Pen/Asp spores found indoors with incompletely identified Pen/Asp spores found outdoors is somewhat nonsensical: we may be comparing counts completely different mold genera/species.

With that caveat and gripe stated and out of the way, your "count" shows that there is probably an indoor mold reservoir that needs to be found and removed - cleaning hard surfaces, disposing of stuff like drywall or insulation that can't be cleaned; then you want to know for sure that the cause of mold growth was properly identified and corrected as well.

And the work to clean up mold contamination needs to be done properly so as not to blow moldy dust elsewher, contaminating the home and leading to a new costly round of cleaning.

A "mold test" that just has someone stop by to grap an air, dust, or worse, culture sample to come up with some sort of "mold count" is, alone, not very helpful, and certainly not worth more than about $50. in my opinion. Such a mold test, especially if results are negative, are extremely unreliable. And even when a "mold test" such as yours is suggestive of a problem, you are left wondering

Watch out: by no means do I suggest that every building needs a costly mold investigation by a true expert. The article: MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ? can help you decide if conditions warrant bringing in someone who actually knows something and who will actually help you. I would not go back to yor first company again.

On 2017-06-22 by (mod) worried about fiberglass insulation

You'll need an onsite expert for an accurate diagnosis and action plan.

Meanwhile you can reduce the health risk by making the crawl area negative air pressure comp ared with the space above, using an exhaust fan or two.

Wet Insuation gets removed and thrown out.

On 2017-06-22 by Lauren Hoshoian

1 month in a newly constructed home with a crawl space. The crawl space has pink fiber insulation from headers to floor, wrapped in vapor barrier that has not been sealed..

.the reason given is that the exterior was wrapped in Tyvek. The space is wet! There is moisture behind some of the vapor barrier and it is dripping through the pink and down to the cement floor....builder used some wood that has mold on it and states that since the mold is dry it is not a problem...

we have a de-humidifier running 24/7 to help the new building dry...we are worried about the spread of mold as there is lung disease in one of the owners...any solutions and should we be worried!

...


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