What is a Mold Inspection?
Environmental Testing Associates' mold inspections are non-invasive, non-destructive visual inspections for mold and conditions that lead to problems with indoor air quality.
Non-Invasive means we do not cut open walls, tear up floors, rip out cabinets, etc. ETA's inspections are technology-based using state-of-the-art inspection equipment when applicable, such as infrared cameras, surface and air samples, and moisture detection instruments. This avoids destructive inspection procedures for our clients.
Assessing mold and the conditions causing it means the inspection focuses on more than just visible mold growth. We inspect the interior and exterior of the structure for any conditions that are commonly associated with indoor mold growth.
Even with the latest and best technology, a non-invasive inspection can still have certain limitations. It is commonly assumed that identifying mold problems and their source is fairly straightforward and can be done with just a cursory visual inspection. This is not the case, except in rare occasions. If during an inspection, a red flag or suspicious condition is detected, (i.e. water damage, high moisture retention in a wall, etc.) but no visible mold growth is seen, it's an indicator that the visual inspection has reached its limitation. That's where testing comes in.
What is Mold Testing?
Mold testing involves the collection of samples for one or both of the following purposes:
- To assess the likelihood that mold growth has occurred in suspect areas that are not visible at the time of inspection.
- To assess the probability that indoor mold growth has negatively impacted the indoor air quality of a structure and may be impacting the occupant's health adversely.
In other words, is mold growing inside wall or flooring cavities where it cannot be seen, and is it posing a health risk to building occupants?
MOLD SAMPLE TYPES
The two primary methods utilized for testing for mold indoors are surface samples and air samples.
1. Surface Sampling:
The purpose of surface sampling is to evaluate whether a suspected stain, discoloration, blemish, or other irregular appearance on a surface is mold. Just as the name implies, surface samples are used to identify what type of mold - if any - may be growing on a specific surface, such as construction materials or personal contents. Surface samples are usually taken with a sterile cotton swab or tape lift and are only relevant to the exact area where the sample is taken. As such, surface samples are not to be relied upon for conducting risk assessment as it relates to airborne mold spore levels.
When Should Surface Samples be Taken in a Mold Inspection?
As a rule, surface samples are unnecessary. Seeing visible mold growing indoors is enough to confirm that there is a mold problem. Mold should never be growing on any construction materials indoors or on any of your personal contents stored indoors. Occasionally however, it can be difficult to distinguish the difference between mold and dirt with a visual inspection alone. For that reason, it is important to define your objective before deciding on whether or not to sample a surface for mold. The four most common questions people have for sampling surfaces are:
1) Is a certain stain or discoloration mold or dirt?
2) What are the specific types of mold present on a surface?
3) Is the mold on a surface viable or non-viable (alive or dead)?
4) Is the mold on a surface the same mold that was found in an air sample taken from the same location?
If your objective for sampling suspected mold on a surface is not one of these four reasons, surface sampling may be unnecessary. To discuss your specific situation and whether or not surface sampling will answer any questions you have, call an ETA Certified Inspector for a no-cost consultation.
2. Air Sampling:
The purpose of air sampling is to evaluate the probability that an elevated or unusual mold condition exists indoors when such a determination cannot be made by visual observation alone.
In a non-invasive inspection it is not always possible to visually determine if a "suspect condition", such as water damage or moisture is in fact a mold problem or not (see pictures of hidden mold growth - right). Testing airborne mold spore levels near a suspect condition provides analytical data that can be used to either confirm or rule out hidden mold growth.
When Should Air Samples be Taken for Mold Testing?
If you suspect you have a mold problem, don't wait until you can visually see it. Many people who call ETA say, "I don't see any mold". But the fact is, most mold problems go unnoticed long before any visible signs appear, and the costliest mold repair jobs are the ones that no one knew were there until after the damage is done.
Mold growth can spread exponentially inside walls, under under cabinets and floors, above ceilings, and deep into heating and air conditioning vents as long as the right conditions exist. By the time hidden mold is detected, it can cause thousands of dollars in property damage and pose significant health risks.
The time to test for mold is when you suspect you might have a mold problem. If you smell musty odors indoors, you have a reason to have a mold inspection. If you've had a roof leak, a plumbing leak, or a flood (past or present) a mold testing is certainly warranted. Prompt action can mean the difference between an inexpensive repair project or a several thousand dollar mold remediation job and health implications.
Could your car be compromising your health?
By now everyone has heard stories about toxic mold forcing families from their homes, offices, and classrooms; but if you think you're safe from mold behind the wheel - think again. What you don't know about the vehicles you travel in could actually be hazardous to your health.
Regardless of the type of vehicle or its age, your car, boat, motor home or airplane could have a problem with mold. And since you can't always see it, you might not know you have a problem until you start to feel the effects.
Does mold in your vehicle cause fungal infections?
Yes. Have you ever turned your vehicle's heater or air conditioner and smelled mold? Our cars, trucks, SUVs, RV's, motor homes, boats, and airplanes can all be a source for exposure to high levels of airborne mold spores.
If you live or work in a moldy building there is a highly likelihood that the air in that building has significantly elevated concentrations of mold spores. Those mold spores cling to your clothing and often carried into your vehicle.
When that happens, mold spores end up in your vehicle's heater/air conditioning system where they can colonize in the condensation and keep recycling over and over again in the air you breathe. Water-damaged vehicles and even vehicles that have been cleaned but the upholstery or carpets have not been dried properly can all be infested with mold.
You have to drive your car, but you don't have get sick doing it or show up at your destination smelling like a damp crawlspace. If you suspect you have mold in your car, truck, RV, boat, or any other mode of transportation, get it tested. If passengers in your vehicle cough, sneeze, have asthma flare-ups or complain about chest pain, have that vehicle tested for mold.