Many people assume testing for mold is an important step in solving their mold problems.
Mold testing is done for a variety of different reasons. Some are justified but many are not.
A Few Good Reasons For Testing For Mold And A Bunch Of Bad Ones
Before you run out and buy a home mold test kit or pay for expensive professional mold testing it is important to understand what a mold test can and can not do and when it is appropriate.
Testing For Mold Has Its Limitations
Although there are many ways to test for mold most of them are limited in their scope. For one thing, any mold test is just a snapshot in time. Since mold spores are airborne the amount and type of mold can change, not only from time to time but from one location to another. Mold counts can rise and fall just like pollen counts.
Mold detection is done in various ways. Some tests can measure the amount of mold in the air, others find the type of mold growing on surfaces, but all methods of testing for mold have their shortfalls. Some tests for example identify the live part of a sample but may miss other types that wont grow well in the incubated medium. Then too, mold does not have to be alive to cause health problems.
Because of the variability, unless large numbers of samples are taken they may not accurately reflect actual and typical conditions. For this reason even mold remediators don’t rely too heavily on them. Neither should you. If you find visible mold growing in your home, then mold removal is what’s called for, not mold testing.
Some Good Reasons To Test For Mold
One situation where mold testing should definitely be done is after mold remediation has been completed to verify the mold clean up was successful.
Mold testing in your home may also be required by insurance companies before they will pay the costs of mold remediation. A test for mold may also be required when buying or selling a home. A buyer may want proof that there is no mold problem or the seller may need to prove that remediation was done successfully. However, it should be pointed out that testing for mold is not a substitute for a proper visual inspection.
There are situations where mold testing can be used to detect hidden mold after a visual inspection has not found any. Still the mold source will have to be found. But in cases where occupants are known to have mold allergies and are showing symptoms this can be helpful.
Testing for mold can be expensive and in most cases is not warranted. The money would be better spent correcting the mold problem. If you have found mold in your house it needs to go. Mold testing at this point is like asking a man who has been run over by a car if he needs a doctor. So save your money and spend it correcting the moisture problem and finding the mold instead.
Bad Reasons To Test For Mold
Bad reason for mold testing 1 – I want to know if there’s mold in the house
Duh!Of course there’s mold. Mold is everywhere both inside and out. No home environment is or ever will be free from mold. So if you test for it of course you will find it. Mold tests can not often distinguish between normal mold presence and problem levels of mold.
If you can see mold or smell it then you have a mold problem. If it is left to grow and multiply it will not only damage the surfaces it’s growing on but also poses a health risk.
Bad reason 2 – I want to know what type of mold it is
Knowing what type of mold you have is not important because any indoor mold growth poses a health risk and should be corrected. Mold tests can generally pick up living mold only. But dead mold poses just as much as a health hazard and they will not show up in the test.
Bad reason 3 – I want to know if it’s the toxic mold
So if testing for mold confirms it’s Stachybotrys Chartarum or toxic black mold you’re going to remove it, but if not you are going to just let it continue to multiply?
Many other types of molds besides black mold are toxic but it’s black mold that has received the lions share of the publicity. All molds produce mycotoxins. They do it to keep other organisms from getting at their food supply. Molds that are known to produce damaging mycotoxins are called toxigenic. Some mycotoxins can harm living tissue if enough gets into the body.
Science is only just beginning to study and understand these mycotoxins, their effects on human health and at what levels they become damaging. The safest approach is to assume any mold growing indoors can produce harmful mycotoxins and remove it. It should be pointed out that testing for mold will not indicate if molds are giving off mycotoxins or if they are present.
Bad reason for mold testing 4 – Finding the cause of health problems
Aside from the fact that individuals vary greatly in their reaction to mold the scope of negative health effects are not well understood at this time. Mold testing can not be used to link a person’s health problems to mold.
Conversely a negative mold test does not mean that a person’s health problems are not caused by mold. Remember mold testing is just a brief snapshot and not the whole picture.
However, there is a large enough body of evidence about the health risks of mold exposure to warrant removal of any mold growing in your home.
Testing can not determine if an environment is safe or not and at the current time there are no guidelines in place for this. It should be assumed the presence of visible mold presents a health risk.
Testing For Mold Summary
In most situations testing for mold is unnecessary and a needless expense. The exceptions would be to prove a mold remediation was successful or to furnish information to an insurance company to get a remediation done.
If you have found mold it doesn’t matter what kind it is. All mold species are capable of producing mycotoxins and under the right conditions many of these can become toxigenic.
Since testing for mold can yield inconclusive results the best course of action for solving a mold problem is not to run out and buy home mold test kit, but rather conduct a thorough visual inspection and focus on solving water intrusion problems and mold clean up rather than home testing for mold.