Mold Test Preparation: Clean Up First?
What to Do Before Having a Mold Contamination Inspection or Test
CLEAN MOLD BEFORE TESTING? - CONTENTS: why does cleaning up before testing for mold make mold testing harder? Is it ok to clean up some mold problems? What should be left for the mold investigator to examine?
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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Mold test procedures: pre-cleaning. this article explains why it is best to leave moldy building surfaces alone if you are about to bring in a professional for building inspection and testing as a screen for contamination.
Should You Clean Mold in Advance if You ARE Going to Hire a Mold Expert
If you are thinking of hiring a professional to inspect, diagnose, and test your building for mold or other problems we prefer that you do NOT conduct a "do it yourself" cleanup ahead of time. Cleaning up the mold that you see does not preclude an expert's ability to find areas of suspicion or even to find mold, but
Cleaning up the mold you see may remove some easy-to-identify materials that are useful to compare with what we find in other screening measurements find in the building - that is, it's useful to know some apparent sources of particles that we may later find in screening samples in the building.
Contamination risk: Cleaning up a large area of mold risks cross-contamination of other areas in the building
Illness risk: Doing a large mold cleanup without taking proper precautions could make someone sick by stirring up airborne debris and thus increasing the hazard in the building.
Rather, if you already believe that a mold emergency is present, rather than performing amateur cleaning before mold testing, you should probably not be in the building.
Yes, for small areas of mold, less than 30 sq.ft. of contiguous mold, usually the job can be handled as an ordinary building cleaning or renovation project, with the provision that should the cleaner discover a larger mold reservoir during cleaning, the job stops, an expert is consulted, and proper safetuards are taken.
If you're not able or interested in hiring a mold professional, and/or especially if the total known moldy area is small
Remove small mold areas yourself: For small areas of mold, it's appropriate to just remove it - if you are sensitive, fragile, or sick, have someone else do the work.
Collect and hold on to some samples. If you're going to proceed anyway, try collecting some tape samples of what you see. Instead of sending these samples off to a lab, just keep the samples, but prepare them by following the sample collection instructions
at Six Easy Steps to Get and Mail a Mold Test Kit - you can always save them to give to an investigator later if it becomes necessary to investigate further
If you stumble onto a large area of mold during your cleanup (more than 30 sq ft) you should stop and consult an expert
Reader Question: mold in rental property vents - what tests would be appropriate? Can I use a mold spray to cure a mold problem?
Daniel, I hired a 'professional' vent cleaning service to clean a rental home's ducts yesterday, against my better judgment, but to appease a difficult tenant.
As expected, they tried to 'upsell' the job, INCLUDING 'testing for mold', stating there were a few spots in vents that looked like mold.
Upper level of home tested negative, Lower level tested positive.
I've been told by a licensed HVAC contractor that it's common for a little mold to be present in many areas of a home, but highly unlikely for this to be problematic, given that we live in Albuquerque NM: high desert.
The home is cooled by an evaporative cooler (vs refrigerated air).
Can you recommend how to best test this alleged mold?
Also, when I was able to get the Vent Cleaner alone & 'thank' him for alarming the tenant w/ his mold comments, he stated that some simple, over the counter sprays from Lowe's or Home Depot could probably fix the problem (vs me paying him another $160 to do so)
Reply: If there is no mold problem testing is not appropriate; if there is a mold problem, sprays alone are not a recommended "mold cure"
A competent onsite inspection by an expert, a real one, not an HVAC company trying to sell more duct cleaning services, can often finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem, or that indicate that there is no evidence of a larger mold reservoir that justifies costly cleaning.
That said, it's true that often we find small patches of mold in HVAC systems and that an expert can find at least some mold in just about any building. Often a small Cladosporium colony is seen on HVAC ductwork just downstream from the blower fan in the ductwork. While Cladosporium sp. (the largest group of molds) contains some members that can be harmful to people, small immobile colonies of even a square foot or two are unlikely to be detectable in the building air.
Watch out: if the conditions that produced mold growth that you see anywhere in the building have also produced a larger but less obvious mold colony, say more than 30 sq.ft., and say of highly-mobile problem molds such as Aspergillus sp., the little, probably harmless mold you saw may not be the issue but it might be a pointer to a less obvious problem.
The article above is intended to help decide if an expert inspection and tests for mold are really justified and appropriate at a property. If the rules of thumb we describe above all fail to indicate that further inspection and testing are needed then it's unlikely that it is appropriate nor cost justified to perform more mold testing at your building as well.
The comment by your HVAC guy recommending a mold cure by applying sprays suggests to me that the person is not properly informed about mold.
Mold Sprays Alone are not a "Cure-all" for Indoor Mold Troubles
Sprays alone are not a "mold cure" and in some cases can even be a health problem themselves. There is a place for sealants and disinfectants but not as a "mold cure"
see MOLD SPRAYS, SEALANTS, PAINTS.
Find and Fix the Cause of Indoor Mold Growth
And furthermore, if there really were a mold problem, in the ductwork or elsewhere in the building, finding and fixing the cause of the mold growth is an essential part of a mold remediation plan. Otherwise the time, trouble, and money spent on the "mold cleanup" is simply wasted when the mold-growing conditions remain and a problem returns at the same spot or others in the building.
Amateur "mold inspections" can be Risky - do nothing or do it right?
If legal or health complaints justify a check of the building for mold, I would be certain it's performed by an expert. You don't want to be in the position of asserting that there is "no problem" if in fact there is one, since someone could get sick and you could bear liability for it.
On the other hand, as we discuss in MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ?, in the absence of good reason, a thorough inspection and testing for mold are not justified, and superficial tests (air tests, cultures, etc.) used alone, without an accompanying careful inspection would be unreliable.
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 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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