Should I test my home for mold?

As a home inspector, it is not uncommon for me to get asked if I will sample the home for mold. I was taught early on in my career that it was not necessary, so I never sought mold sampling credentials.  Eventually, after many inquiries, I decided to look into becoming a mold sampler.  This quote, from Caoimhin Connell, a forensic industrial hygienist stopped me dead in my tracks “In our experience, all samples collected by Home Inspectors and “certified mould inspectors” on mould related projects were collected in the absence of DQOs, and therefore lack confidence, cannot be interpreted by anyone and are largely meaningless and misleading… Also, in our experience, those Home Inspectors who perform mould sampling and mould testing are the least competent to perform mould consultation, and are often “certified” by a second rate laboratory which merely pushes sampling to increase its own revenues.” Its from an amazing article found here  http://forensic-applications.com/moulds/sampling.html

I decided to research mold sampling further, and found many statements from reputable sources such as the CDC, the EPA, and many State Departments of Health.   The recurring theme seems to be that mold sampling is unnecessary; no standards exist for acceptable levels of mold; and if you can see it, or smell it, it needs to be removed.  Many of the statements also suggest that is prudent to spend your resources on cleaning mold, and determining the moisture source-not on determining what kind of mold is present. I am still not a mold sampler, or an industrial hygienist. I am simply on journey for quality information, and I have compiled statements from reputable sources, so that consumers can read, and decide for themselves. I do however, believe the answer is quite clear.

 The CDC on Mold Testing

I found mold growing in my home, how do I test the mold?

Generally, it is not necessary to identify the species of mold growing in a residence, and CDC does not recommend routine sampling for molds. Current evidence indicates that allergies are the type of diseases most often associated with molds. Since the susceptibility of individuals can vary greatly either because of the amount or type of mold, sampling and culturing are not reliable in determining your health risk. If you are susceptible to mold and mold is seen or smelled, there is a potential health risk; therefore, no matter what type of mold is present, you should arrange for its removal. Furthermore, reliable sampling for mold can be expensive, and standards for judging what is and what is not an acceptable or tolerable quantity of mold have not been established.

http://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm#test

The EPA on Mold Testing

Testing or Sampling for Mold

Is sampling for mold needed?

In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building’s compliance with federal mold standards. Surface sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated. Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations.

http://www.epa.gov/iedmold1/moldguide.html#testing

The States on Mold Testing

Alabama Department of Health

Should I Test For Mold?

Testing for molds is not recommended. Reliable sampling for mold can be expensive and unreliable, with results that may be inconclusive. Instead, you should simply assume there is a problem whenever you see mold or smell mold odors. Testing should never take the place of visual inspection and it should never use up resources that are needed to correct moisture problems and remove all visible growth.

Sometimes, mold growth is hidden and difficult to locate. In such cases, a combination of air (outdoor and indoor air samples) and bulk (material) samples may help determine the extent of contamination and where cleaning is needed. However, mold testing is rarely useful for trying to answer questions about health concerns.

http://www.adph.org/IAQ/Default.asp?id=1597

Arizona Department of Health Services

The Arizona Department of Health Services does not recommend testing as the first step to determine if you have a mold problem. Reliable sampling for mold can be expensive, and requires equipment not available to the general public. Residents of individual private homes must pay a contractor to carry out such sampling, as it is not done by public health agencies. Mold cleanup is usually considered one of the housekeeping tasks of the private citizen, along with roof and plumbing repairs, sweeping and house cleaning. Another problem is that there are few available standards for judging what is an acceptable quantity of mold. In all locations, there are some outdoor levels of molds. If sampling is carried out, an outdoor air sample needs to be taken at the same time as the sample indoors, to provide a baseline measurement. Since the susceptibility of individuals varies so greatly, sampling is at best a general guide. The simplest approach is: if you can see or smell mold, you have a problem. Once you know the problem exists, follow the procedure given next. Unless the source of moisture is removed and the contaminated area is cleaned and disinfected, mold growth is likely to recur.

http://www.azdhs.gov/phs/oeh/children/indoorair/mold/index.php?pg=detection

Arkansas Mold Advisory Board

Sampling for molds inside a building; is it necessary? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend routine sampling for molds. Generally, it is not necessary to identify the species of mold growing in a building. Measurements of mold in air or on specific surfaces are not reliable or representative. Testing for mold is expensive and there are no standards for “acceptable” levels of mold in indoor environments. If mold is seen or smelled, then mold is present and regardless of what type of mold is present, it should be removed. Sampling methods for molds are not well standardized and may result in highly variable data that can be difficult to interpret. Currently, standards for judging what are and what are not acceptable or tolerable quantities of mold have not been established.

http://plantboard.arkansas.gov/PlantIndustry/Documents/Mold%20Advosiry%20Board%20Final%20Report.pdf

California Department of Public Health

There is consensus among scientists and medical experts that the traditional methods used to identify increased mold exposure do not reliably predict increased health risks. Therefore, CDPH recommends against measuring indoor microorganisms or using the presence of specific microorganisms to determine the level of health hazard or the need for urgent remediation

http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/IAQ/Documents/MIMH_2012-07-05.pdf

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment does not recommend testing as a first step to determine if you have a mold problem. Reliable air sampling for mold can be expensive and requires expertise and equipment that is not available to the general public.

http://www.rmrpehsu.org/Portals/24/docs/Mold%20Info%20Sheet_PEHSU%20Site.pdf

Connecticut Department of Public Health has a lot to say about mold testing

In most instances, CT DPH does not recommend testing the air or contaminated surfaces to find out how much or what kind of mold is present. The most important types of testing are the eyeball and nose tests – can you see or smell mold, and/or, do you see evidence of water damage?

If you can see or smell mold, the next step is to identify the source and then remove it. If you smell a musty odor but cannot see visible growth, mold may be hidden behind wallpaper, paint, inside of wall cavities, etc.

There is little to be gained scientifically from air testing in most home and work place environments, especially if there is a visible source, because:

• Mold is everywhere – if you test the air, you will find some mold

• There are no standards for “acceptable levels” of mold in indoor environments, because different types of mold vary in ability to produce allergy or illness, and, people vary in individual susceptibility/resistance.

• There is poor correlation between airborne concentrations of mold and health outcomes.

• Knowing air test results will not change the abatement outcome – removal of the moldy source is still the recommended course of action.

Sometimes, people may choose to perform testing as part of an investigation to look for hidden mold, or for documentation purposes (i.e., for insurance or litigation). However, testing rarely contributes to understanding what has occurred from a health perspective. For further information about testing, see the CT DPH Fact sheet, Indoor Air Quality Testing Should Not Be Your First Move at http://www.ct.gov/dph/mold.

http://www.ct.gov/dph/lib/dph/environmental_health/eoha/pdf/Get_The_Mold_Out.pdf

Delaware Department of Public Health

Should I Test For Mold?

The Delaware Division of Public Health does not routinely recommend testing for mold. Instead, you should simply assume there is a problem whenever you see mold or smell mold odors. Testing should never take the place of visual inspection and it should never use up resources that are needed to correct moisture problems and remove all visible growth.

When Is Testing Recommended?

Sometimes, mold growth is hidden and difficult to locate. In such cases, a combination of air (outdoor and indoor air samples) and bulk (material) samples may help determine the extent of contamination and where cleaning is needed. However, mold testing is rarely useful for trying to answer questions about health concerns. Some insurance companies and legal services may suggest sampling as a form of documentation of microbial contamination. These situations should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

http://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dph/hsp/i-moldinyourhome.html

 

Florida Department of Health says “Investigate a mold problem; don’t test”

Indoor mold growth can usually be seen or smelled. In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is not needed. There are no health or exposure-based standards that you can use to evaluate a mold sampling result. The Florida Department of Health does not recommend mold testing or sampling to see if you have a mold problem, or to see what kind of mold might be growing. Sampling for mold in the air can be expensive and, if done, should only be done by experienced professionals. Investigate a mold problem; don’t test.

http://www.floridashealth.com/Environment/community/indoor-air/Indoor_Mold_and_Health.pdf

 

I could not find any statement from Georgia or Hawaii

Idaho Department of Health

Testing for Mold

Knowing the type of mold does not change the way you respond. It should be cleaned and the moisture source identified and fixed. Mold testing is expensive and money spent on testing will not be available for cleaning up the mold and fixing the moisture problem. Remember, mold has to have water to thrive. No water, no mold. Find the water problem and you will find the mold. Testing your home for mold is usually not recommended or necessary and may even cause more questions than answers. If you see and smell mold, you have mold.

 

http://www.healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/Portals/0/Health/EnvironmentalHealth/Mold%20in%20Rentals%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

 

Illinois Department of Health also has a lot to say about mold testing

Does IDPH test for mold?

No, IDPH does not test for mold. Even if testing is done, no standards or guidelines exist to judge acceptable levels of mold. Generally, IDPH does not recommend mold testing (see below).

Who can test for mold?

Citizens can find individuals or companies that perform mold testing by looking under “Environmental Services” in the Yellow Pages of their telephone book. IDPH recommends looking for individuals or companies that employ certified industrial hygienists or persons who work under the supervision of industrial hygienists.

Citizens also may search the Internet for individuals or companies that do this kind of work. The American Industrial Hygiene Association provides a list of its members at http://www.aiha.org . Citizens may search the list of certified industrial hygienists by specialty, state and location (i.e., residential, commercial or both).

Should I have my home or business tested for mold?

IDPH does not recommend testing for mold (see the fact sheet “Indoor Environmental Quality: Testing Should Not Be the First Step”). If mold growth is visible, testing is not needed to identify what type or level of mold is present. Mold testing also is not typically useful in determining what steps to take for cleanup.

If you can see or smell mold, testing is usually not necessary. It is likely that there is a source of moisture that needs to be fixed and the mold needs to be cleaned or removed. Even if testing is done, no standards or guidelines exist to judge acceptable amounts of mold. Testing cannot determine whether health effects will occur.

http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/factsheets/mold_qa_fs.htm

Indiana State Department of Health

What should you do if mold is present in your home or apartment?
Although any visible mold can be sampled by an environmental consultant and/or analyzed by a laboratory specializing in microbiology, these tests can be very expensive—from hundreds to thousands of dollars.  There is no simple and cheap way to sample the air in your home to find out what types of mold are present and whether they are airborne.  Even if you have your home tested, it is difficult to say at what levels health effects would occur.  Therefore, it is more important get rid of the mold rather than find out more about it.  The most effective way to treat mold is to correct underlying water damage and clean the affected area.

We will be periodically adding info we find from the rest of the State Health Departments and other reputable sources.

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