MOLD PRODUCTS, INEFFECTIVE - CONTENTS: Warnings about bogus mold-detection methods used in buildings - Warnings about ineffective mold removal systems & products. Save by avoiding unreliable mold tests & methods
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Ineffective mold detection methods, killers, treatments & products to avoid:
This article describes ineffective or even possibly harmful procedures and products that are marketed to
"kill mold" or "prevent mold" - things that you should avoid any time, including when cleaning a building after it has been flooded.
Our photograph shows Randy the jumping mold dog pulling down a sample of mold-suspect fiberglass insulation from a basement ceiling. But for this extensive toxic black mold reservoir in a New York City high rise apartment Randy could have stayed home - no sniffing was needed to report that mold contamination was visible over a large area.
Sprays, fogging, or ozone will not be effective remedies for the mold contaminated insulation being fetched from the ceiling by Randy.
Ineffective Methods Used to Detect Mold in buildings
Air sampling to screen buildings for mold: sometimes helps spur further investigation when there is no visible mold contamination, but in particular, negative results of an "air test for mold" are unreliable.
We have documented very high variation in the level of airborne particles in buildings over very short time intervals, as little as over a few seconds. We have documented very high variation in the level of airborne particles in buildings depending also on how and exactly where the sample is collected, and depending on changes in building conditions.
Opening a basement door, turning on a fan, moving the air sampler from the floor to a table, can produce completely different results. Furthermore, even if we do detect evidence of problem mold in an air sample we do not know where it's coming from, how big the mold reservoir is, what caused it, or what level of cleanup is needed.
Is the mold just from a single pool table in the basement? Or is all of that clean-looking insulation mold contaminated. Air sampling is a useful tool but not a reliable building screen for mold when used alone and without a very thorough visual inspection and application of good building science.
Culture tests for mold are, we're sorry to say, junk science, though they're fun to look at. Roughly 90% of mold genera/species won't grow on any culture media, so as a mold screening test you're perhaps 90% "wrong" when you start the test.
Thermal scans and infra-red devices to find mold in buildings: the use of IR or thermography is effective in finding places where building temperature varies for any reason: missing insulation, wet insulation, electrical failures, radiant heat system failures.
IR and thermography are wonderful tools. But these tools can only detect a building condition that is present at the time that the tool is used.
As with our moisture detection schemes above, if a building wall was flooded and its insulation soaked last year, the wall cavity may be mold-contaminated, but having since dried, the thermal scan method will not detect that condition.
Thermal imaging is very useful for measuring temperature variations and points of heat loss in buildings - as we explain at THERMAL IMAGING, THERMOGRAPHY.
Moisture meters are among the most-popular "mold scanning" tool for buildings.
But a moisture meter only detects moisture if moisture is still present. A leak last year that soaked a wall cavity may have generated a stunning mold reservoir that happens to be dry at the time your mold detective pokes into the wall exterior with her moisture meter. Absence of moisture is no assurance of an absence of mold contamination.
See MOISTURE METER STUDY where we demonstrate that even the best moisture meter will not find all moisture, leaks, nor mold in buildings.
MVOC-detection, mold related volatile organic compounds to find mold in buildings: are limited in effectiveness.
As we discuss below at MOLD-SNIFFING DOGS, not all molds produce MVOCs and MVOCs are also not produced consistently even when the mold species can make these gases.
Some mold investigators use dogs trained to respond to mold odors - usually gases produced by MVOC's. Indeed there is ample evidence that some dogs can be trained to sniff out certain compounds.
But there are limitations to the effectiveness and comprehensiveness of mold sniffing dog mold surveys of buildings that in my OPINION your money might be better spent on an inspection for building leaks and water damage.
Mold sniffing dogs used to find mold in buildings: are not a joke to everyone. There are some fatal limitations to mold sniffing dogs that prevent an expert from taking them seriously, even if the dogs, of various breeds and often specially-trained mold-beagles may be the cutest and most fun mold detection device around.
Why can't the Mold Sniffing Dog Sniff Out the Mold?
Spores or MVOCs may be absent: Allergenic or toxic molds may be present but may not be producing MVOCs or other materials that the dog senses. Not all molds produce gases and smells; even if a mold species does produce detectable MVOCs the mold colony does not always actively do so.
Spore release from a mold colony and gas production from mold varies widely over time as a function of changes in the building environment: moisture, temperature, light exposure, air movement and other factors can "turn on" or "turn off" these effects. So our cute mold sniffer may not sense a problem even though one is present.
Most mold sniffing dogs can't write a remediation plan.
Even if a mold sniffer dog does suspect a mold problem in a building and tells his handler of it, that's not enough data to act upon. We do not know the size, location, or cause of the mold contamination; we do not know if the mold our mold dog found was the only or even the most important mold reservoir.
Most mold sniffing dogs are short: not many of them can poke their noses in all of the areas where mold problems are most likely such as high on building walls, along building ceilings, across attic insulation, etc.
People who describe the mold sniffing dog service to us have all confirmed that not once did the mold detection dog's handler pick up the dog and lift it into the air so that the dog could thoroughly explore all of the building's ceilings, nor did these critters crawl through attic insulation.
Mold Dog scaffolds? Shown above: to enable mold sniffing dogs to check out upper areas of building walls and to sniff out hidden mold in ceilings we propose the telescoping safety scaffold portrayed above.
When the dog scaffold is extended to place the dog close to the ceiling, the mold-sniffing dog needs a safety harness. Working at higher elevations in buildings can be dangerous, particularly if MVOCs sniffed by Randy (shown in our photo above) cause dizziness and disorientation.
Casters on the mobile mold dog scaffold permit the mold dog's handler to wheel the Randy about - presuming all obstructing furniture and hanging fixtures have first been removed from the building. [Click to enlarge any image]
Mold sniffing dogs can't jump high enough: We already claimed that the mold sniffing dog is too short to sniff anywhere but along the floor of a building. But some dogs like Randy shown in our mold dog photo above, can actually jump amazingly high.
When you hired the Service-Capable Animal Mold-Educated Dog (SCAMED) Company did you see if the Randy the dog was able to jump high enough to pull down moldy insulation from the basement ceiling?
[Click to enlarge any image] When Randy delivers the insulation sample he expects us to test it for mold following the procedure at INSULATION MOLD CONTAMINATION TEST but such tests are not needed when the visible surfaces of the room are already thick with mold.
Did your mold dog jump high enough to smell mold near the ceiling - where maybe a roof eaves leak dropped water into the upper wall and ceiling or where the attic air conditioner condensate leaked into the attic floor?
I think there cannot be many mold dogs who can both smell mold and who can maintain their ability to jump seven feet into the air repeatedly to sniff around every room in a building. Randy gets tired after about ten minutes of jumping, though our neighbor's dog Duffy seems to be able to keep leaping (and barking) like a madman for hours at a time.
Above: a dog of limited height might be asked to wear stilts to enable him to sniff out hidden mold reservoirs up near the ceiling. Image adapted from celebritydachsund.com. [Click to enlarge any image] Notice the worried expression on this mold dog's face? He's still practicing using stilts, starting with a junior set. he hasn't yet gone inside the moldy home. But he's thinking about it.
Mold sniffing dogs do not do well wearing stilts: ok so if the mold sniffing dog can't jump and the dog's handler doesn't have the strength nor height to hold the dog up near the ceiling for a walkabout through every room in a building, what about dog stilts?
Mold sniffing may be hazardous to the dog's health. We have been collecting data for two decades showing that some pets become sensitized to and very ill from exposure to some molds. Some of them have died. It's not good for the dog to keep going into moldy buildings - and if the dog wore a dog-fitted HEPA respirator it's doubtful s/he would smell building conditions very accurately.
Ineffective or Unreliable Products and Procedures Sold for Detecting, Killing, or Removing Mold
If your building has been flooded, this website provides an easy to understand guide for flood damage assessment, setting
priorities of action, safety, and we provide special information about
avoiding or minimizing mold damage.
Our FLOOD RESPONSE CHECKLIST lists key actions you should take after building flooding to minimize mold damage, and includes some safety warnings.
We also list after-flood "anti-mold" /mold/Ineffective_Mold_Cleaners.phpctive.htm">procedures that do not work or are unsafe - to help you avoid unnecessary expense in dealing with mold
after a building flood.
If your building is already moldy or if you suspect mold related illness in your building, we link to a step by step MOLD ACTION GUIDE dealing with toxic or allergenic indoor mold and other indoor contaminants:
when and how to inspect or test for mold, when to hire an expert, how to clean up a moldy area, when and how to perform post-remediation mold testing.
Disinfectants, mold biocides, mold killing sprays, mold washes, & fungicides: Spraying cleaners, disinfectants, bleach, fungicides can be used to clean a moldy surface if you wish, and where bacterial contamination is present or suspected they are appropriate.
But do not use sprays or disinfectants without first drying the building and removing sludge, debris, and contaminated or moldy materials and then physically leaning all surfaces.
Use of disinfectants or biocides as part of
cleaning are appropriate at times, especially where there has been or may have been sewage backup where bacterial contamination is present. But no spray or gas is an effective substitute for
physically cleaning and physically removing mold and moldy materials.
Watch out for companies who offer sprays or gases as a shortcut when cleaning is what's needed. A dead mold spore can still be toxic or allergenic. Clean off the mold from hard surfaces, and throw away moldy materials that cannot be cleaned.
Ozone for mold: Using ozone generators to "kill" mold - use of Ozone as a "mold" remedy is ineffective and may be dangerous. Ozone has valid disinfection applications but not as a panacea for mold contamination; over-dosing with ozone creates new odor and offgassing hazards. See OZONE MOLD / ODOR TREATMENT WARNINGS
Dehumidification without Demolition Water "extraction" methods which simply run dehumidifiers in a building which has been flooded. we have found soaking wet wall cavities and insulation
many weeks after a building appeared "dry" when this method was used.
Blown-air Wall Cavity Treatments: "Water extraction" methods that cut small holes between wall studs to blow air through the wall cavity. In many buildings which we have investigated where
this method was used, we found severe mold growth on the cavity side of drywall and wallboard afterwards.
Water Detection to Track Moldy Areas: Use of moisture meters or infra red or other measures to "find the wet areas" - this works to find mold-risk areas only if
the cavities are still wet. In other words, if a building was wet in the past but has since dried, it could have a severe hidden mold infection that
will not be detected by using moisture-detection methods.
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Hankey and Brown home inspectors, Eden Prairie, MN, technical review by Roger Hankey, prior chairman, Standards Committee, American Society of Home Inspectors - ASHI. 952 829-0044 - hankeyandbrown.com 11/06
Arlene Puentes, a licensed home inspector, educator, and building failures researcher in Kingston, NY. 11/29/06
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
"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.
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
Recognizing Allergens: What various indoor allergens look like - identification photos to help identify pollen, dust mites, animal dander, toxic or allergenic mold - Common Mold and other Allergens, Irritants, Remedies & Advice
Rodent control issues, including dander, fecal, and urine contamination of buildings and Building insulation are discussed at our
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
"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.htmthology,
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.
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
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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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Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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