I Think I Have Mold in My Office Who Do I call?

If you need mold sampling assistance as discussed in this article, call us at 1-800-344-4414 or email us at info@atlenv.com for details and a free estimate.

 

Written By:  Robert E. Sheriff, MS, CIH, CSP, President

November 1, 2018

 

Mold is the most common Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) problem but not the only one.  We offer testing for Black Mold, Toxic Mold, Stachybotrys, Actinomyetes, Yeasts, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Alternaria, Penicillium and many more. Our Staff includes a Texas Certified Mold Consultant and Indoor Air Quality Investigators who can identify mold problems, causes, and recommend corrective actions.

We can inspect buildings and HVAC systems for evidence of mold or bacteria that may adversely affect building occupants.  Our services include air quality testing for mold and Bacteria, including mycotoxins and endotoxins, thorough building inspections including air handlers, filters, ductwork, crawlspaces, attics, rooftops, air intakes, and exhausts.  We can also identify mold and bacteria quantities.  Our objective is to identify the problem and give specific actions needed to correct the situation.

Flood and Mold Claims Service are available to insurance carriers, brokers and property owners—including remediation costs and occupancy inspections.

Molds are common to both indoors and outdoors.  In fact, molds grow best in warm, damp and humid conditions, where there is a source of food such as leaf matter, dirt/soil, decomposed wood including paper, or other organic material—both plant and animal.

Molds can survive in a dormant state in very harsh conditions and for long periods of time because they produce spores that may be dormant in extreme heat or cold, dry conditions, very acid or alkaline environments and then multiply when conditions become more favorable.

Molds cause a variety of symptoms in humans.  The most common symptoms are upper respiratory symptoms, cough, asthma reactions in people with asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis in persons susceptible to respiratory problems.  Far less common are other illnesses, such as chronic fatigue, blood disorders, immune system reactions and other system illnesses that almost always occur in individuals with severely compromised immune systems (i.e., cancer patients, organ transplant recipients, etc.), and even these situations are controversial.

It is also important to note that human susceptibility varies greatly from person to person.  While one person may have a strong reaction to a particular mold, while scores of others in the same environment experience no reaction at all.

Remember:  Allergies, asthma, and many other illnesses may be caused by other agents such as pollen, grass, trees, chemicals, foods, medicines, animals, insects and genetics.

 

Site Visits

Our baseline investigation is intended to look for the most obvious problems and get them resolved fast!

  1. Even before the site visit, our indoor air quality experts will obtain information on complaints, symptoms, building systems, activities, age of building, changes to interior HVAC systems location and operation and much more.
  1. The site visit is usually one day to review building complaints, building construction, inspection of HVAC, and work activities, and surrounding businesses and their activities.
  1. Testing includes basic indoor tests such as temperature and relative humidity.
  1. If the pre-survey investigation identifies specific tests for molds, we will be prepared to perform such tests.
  1. Our reports will identify tests performed, our results and in the case a specific problem is found, we will recommend specific corrective actions.

 

MOLD FACTS

Molds are not animal, nor are they plants.  They are separately classified in the kingdom known as Fungi.

Molds do not magically appear on a suitable surface for growth – such as a damp or wet surface in a warm location, with a food source such as dirt – and they don’t seep through a wood, concrete, or plaster wall like a gas.  Molds generally come from outdoors through a window, door, furnace, air conditioner, or just a hole.  By random chance they settle on the “ideal growth surface” and begin to multiply and in ideal circumstances – after a few days or weeks of multiplying – are sufficient in number to be seen as a visible circle of green, white, black, or brown colony.  As they grow and multiply they release spores, “seeds” due to vibration, air currents, or physical contact and get into the air where they can be inhaled or find other surfaces where they can also multiply.

 

COMMON MOLDS FOUND INDOORS

Alterneria

Commonly found outdoors.  Alterneria can be found indoors in carpets, textiles as cloth furniture and drapes, and on most horizontal surfaces.  It produces large spores that can be deposited in the nose, mouth and upper respiratory tract.

Aspergillus

A very versatile mold with over 150 different species that grow in a wide variety of environments.  Some can even be parasitic in animals including man.  One of the most common molds in all of North America.  Many humans have an allergenic response to Aspergillus.  Can cause or contribute to Asthmatic response.  As many other molds, they produce a mycotoxin.  Although some of the mycotoxins they produce are suspected as being carcinogenic the very low levels found in most environments it is most unlikely to be carcinogenic to humans except in the most severe immune compromised individuals.

Basidomycetes

One of the major classes for fungi.  This includes mushrooms, shelf fungi, puff balls and other macro-fungi.  Generally easy to identity spores – which often can be allergenic.

Chaetomium

A large ascomycetous fungus and very often found on paper and plant compost.  It can very readily be found on damp or deteriorated sheetrock paper.

Cladosporium

Most common of all outdoor molds.  Can reach very high levels outdoors in summer and fall.  It is a common allergen and grows on a widevariety of foodstuff and plant matter.  A contributor to acute and chronic asthma and pulmonary emphysema.

Fusarium

A common soil fungus found in a wide variety of plants, can be found in high levels in rural areas especially around commercial crops and adjacent communities.  Produces mycotoxins including a vomitoxin on damp grains that can be consumed or inhaled.  Reactions can be severe.  Can also result in eye, skin and nail infections.

Penicillium

Contains a very wide variety of molds.  Very common mold form in North America.  Found in soils, foods, cellulose, and grains.  Commonly found in carpets, wallpaper and interior fiberglass ducts.  Some species produce mycotoxins, the most recognized is Penicillin.  Can be allergenic, causing asthma and pulmonary emphysema.

Stachybotrys

A slow growing fungus that grows in material with a high cellulose content such as sheetrock paper.  Generally a “black mold” appearing colony that does produce a mycotoxin.  Although it is implicated as the infamous “Toxic Mold” there is little clear scientific evidence to support this title.  It can be toxic to highly immune compromised individuals but to a normal human, there is little possibility it can cause anything but allergic and asthmatic symptoms as other mold forms that produce a mycotoxin – of which there are many.

Yeasts

Rapidly growing fungi that generally don’t produce spores.  They tend to be the first form of mold growth on an opportunistic surface.  They tend to be as allergenic as pollens, trees and grasses.  The “musty odor” often attributed to dampness is due to the yeast “carcasses”.  As they die out other mold forms tend to take their place if proper conditions of food, warmth and moisture exist.

 

SPECIAL NOTE ON DEAD MOLDS

It is important to recognize that the “dead” molds of any type are still allergenic and potentially toxigenic as are the living organism.  This also applies to the spores – whether viable or non-viable.

 

QUESTION:

I purchased a mold culture plate from a home improvement store, placed it in my home following the instructions and it grew all kinds of mold!  Should I vacate my home?

ANSWER:

The answer is: “Not on the basis of a single settling plate result.”  There are a variety of reasons for this:

  1. There is no basis of comparison.  There may be as many molds outdoors as indoors where you placed the culture plate since that is where most molds originate.
  2. A single test is not enough to make an informed conclusion or decision.
  3. The test is not quantitative.  It is based on settling of mold spores on the culture plate.  Knowledgeable specialists do mold testing by using an active sampler that collects a known volume of air – and mold – for comparative purposes – including multiple samples – and an outdoor reference sample.
  4. There is no interpretation of results.  A knowledgeable professional would compare indoor and outdoor results, identify the types and quantities of molds found, inspect the sampled areas for evidence of a suitable growth environment, consider the regional area, seasons of the year, and any symptoms of occupants in rendering an opinion on whether there is a problem due to the presence of mold in the occupied space whether it is a residence or a place of business.

 

REMEMBER: Mold is everywhere!  Outdoors and indoors!  The real problem is when it is growing indoors to the extent occupants are being affected.

 

Our primary service areas for Mold Sampling are:  NJ, NY, NYC, PA, CT, DE, (Boston) MA, RI, Wash DC, WI, MD, MI, (Chicago) IL, VA, IN, (Atlanta) GA, AL, NC, SC, TN, (Dallas, Fort Worth) TX, OK, DC, AR, we can service most other areas of the U.S. but with some added travel charges.