Mold-Related Services

You should consider testing for mold if the property has:

FSG-Mold-Inspection-Graphic

We perform visual inspections, air sample tests, surface sample tests, bulk sample tests, and dust tests for mold.

Why choose us over going directly with a remediation contractor or a company that performs both Assessment and Remediation?

The answer is simple.

  • We are independent and unbiased. Since we do not perform repair work for the properties of our clients, you can rest assured that when we discover things and bring them to your attention, it is not in the hopes of making money on repair work. Some remediation contractors may exaggerate the scope of your problem or tell you there is a problem when there may not be so they can charge you thousands of dollars for work that may not be needed. Once we complete our assessment, if conditions are found that merit remediation you can start the process with your eyes wide open and informed so you can select the independent remediation or restoration contractor of your choice that best matches your needs.
  • You get state licensed professional mold assessors that truly care about each client and produce quality work product with detailed documentation for your records.
  • We use digital electronic primary calibrators and bio-pumps to maintain high levels of accuracy in the field with air sampling (many other companies use much less expensive equipment that can be prone to accuracy problems.)

Inspection process

Mold needs moisture to survive. We start by performing a visual and thermal imaging inspection of desired areas to identify and document past or present observable moisture damage, mold-like substances, and temperature anomalies. We then review the locations of potential concern with a moisture meter to identify moisture levels in building materials. A visual inspection is a key part of the assessment process.

Mold sampling can then follow and compliment a visual inspection by identifying potential amplification (the spreading of mold through the air via sporulation) or by identifying molds so a medical professional can have a better understanding of their patient’s environment and links to possible medical condition(s). When air sampling is performed, a minimum of one air sample is taken on the outside of the property and serves as a baseline for what is in nature around the building. We then take one or more interior samples at locations of concern. We compare what is observed from the outside sample(s) taken in nature with interior levels. Although much less frequent than air samples, we may take swab, tape lift, and dust samples depending on conditions and what is desired by the client. If mold colonies are readily visible in large amounts we may not need to take a sample in that location, but may desire to take one or more air samples in other parts of the building to identify if there has been amplification of mold. A third-party nationally accredited laboratory then analyzes any samples taken to identify what mold was collected.

We document what is observed at the inspection site, environmental variables (such as temperature, humidity, dew point, wet bulb, particle counts, time, etc.) and information on the samples taken.

We provide you our report with our field investigation observations and the findings of the laboratory. If remediation is merited and the client would like guidance on how to remediate we can then produce a mold remediation protocol.

On average, the results of the inspection are ready within 2-3 business days of the inspection. We ask that you call us once you receive your report to go over the mold assessment. That way you can have a good understanding of the findings.

Molds belong to the kingdom Fungi. They are known as nature’s great decomposers. In order to survive they must digest organic materials for food. Molds live on many substrates, such as soil, plants, and other organic matter. Outdoors, molds play a key role in the breakdown of vegetation and animals.

Molds produce spores to reproduce. Mold spores can be found in the air and on surfaces. When mold spores land on a suitable location due to sporulation, they may begin growing and digesting organic matter they make contact with so they can survive.

Mold needs the appropriate food, temperature, oxygen levels, and moisture to survive. Since molds can digest organic material, oxygen is readily available in the air, and many molds like living in temperatures that are comfortable to humans, controlling the availability of water is the greatest factor that limits mold growth indoors. This can be accomplished by minimizing leaks, drying leak events within 48 hours, and maintaining indoor humidity levels below 65%.

Molds will often grow in humid, damp, or wet areas indoors. Common sources or causes of water or moisture problems include envelope leaks (such as roof leaks, walls leaks, window leaks, leaks from groundwater, and vapor problems from groundwater), malfunctioning air conditioning systems, high humidity, temperature differentials in the building, flood events, plumbing leaks, and malfunctioning/ poorly designed/ over used humdification systems.

When moisture damage is present and mold grows, people may begin to report odors and a variety of health problems, such as aggravation of asthma symptoms, allergic reactions, breathing difficulties, headaches, and skin irritation. These symptoms could potentially be associated with mold exposure.

Molds have the potential to cause a wide variety of health effects. They have the potential to produce allergens, irritants, toxins that may cause reactions in humans. The types and severity of symptoms depend, in part, on the types of mold present, the extent of an individual’s exposure, the ages of the individuals (the immune systems of newborns and the elderly may have more difficulty dealing with mold), and their existing sensitivities/allergies.

Health effect include allergic reactions (e.g., rhinitis and dermatitis or skin rash), asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and other immunologic effects.

Research on mold and health effects is ongoing. The information provided below is not intended to be all-inclusive.

The health effects listed above are well documented in humans. Evidence for other health effects in humans is less substantial and is primarily based on case reports or occupational studies.

Specific reactions to mold growth can include the following:

Allergic Reactions

Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and are common. Reactions can be immediate or delayed. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Mold spores and its constituent parts can produce allergic reactions in sensitive individuals regardless of whether the mold is dead or alive. Repeated or single exposure to mold or mold spores may cause previously non-sensitive individuals to become sensitive. Repeated exposure has the potential to increase sensitivity. This is called “hypersensitivity”.

  • Asthma: Molds can trigger asthma attacks in persons who are allergic (sensitized) to molds. The irritants produced by molds may also worsen asthma in non-allergic (non-sensitized) people.
  • Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis: Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis may develop following either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) exposure to molds. The disease resembles bacterial pneumonia and is uncommon.
  • Irritant Effects: Mold exposure can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs.
  • Opportunistic Infections: People that are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed may be more vulnerable to infections by molds (as well as more vulnerable than healthy persons to mold toxins). Aspergillus fumigatus, for example, has been known to infect the lungs of immunocompromised individuals. These individuals can inhale mold spores which then can start growing in their lungs. Trichoderma has also been known to infect immunocompromised children.

Healthy individuals are usually less vulnerable to opportunistic infections from airborne mold exposure. Molds can still cause common skin diseases, such as athlete’s foot, as well as other infections such as yeast infections even with healthy individuals.

Some molds, such as Aspergillus versicolor and Stachybotrys atra (chartarum), are known to produce potent toxins under certain circumstances. Although some mycotoxins are well known to affect humans and have been shown to be responsible for human health effects, for many mycotoxins, little information is available, and in some cases research is ongoing.

Molds can produce toxic substances called mycotoxins. The word mycotoxin originates from Greek μύκης (mykes, mukos) “fungus” and τοξικόν (toxikon) “poison”. It is a toxic secondary metabolite produced by some molds. Some mycotoxins cling to the surface of mold spores; others may be found within spores. More than 200 mycotoxins have been identified from common molds. Scientists and medical professionals are identifying more mycotoxins and their interactions with humans and other animals as research progresses. Some of the molds that are known to produce mycotoxins are commonly found in moisture-damaged buildings. Individuals can be exposed to mycotoxins through ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact. Although some mycotoxins are well known to affect humans and have been shown to be responsible for human health effects, for many mycotoxins, little information is available.

Aflatoxin B1 is one of the most well-known and studied mycotoxins. It can be produced by the molds Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. It is known as a potent carcinogen. Ingestion of aflatoxin B1 can cause liver cancer. Some studies have shown that there is evidence that inhalation of aflatoxin B1 can cause lung cancer. Aflatoxin B1 has been found on contaminated grains, peanuts, and other human and animal foodstuffs. However, Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus are not commonly found on building materials or in indoor environments.

Much of the information on the human health effects of inhalation exposure to mycotoxins comes from studies done in the workplace and some case studies or case reports.

Many symptoms and human health effects attributed to inhalation of mycotoxins have been reported including: mucous membrane irritation, skin rash, nausea, immune system suppression, acute or chronic liver damage, acute or chronic central nervous system damage, endocrine effects, and cancer. More studies are needed to get a clear picture of all of the health effects related to most mycotoxins. It is prudent to avoid exposure to molds and mycotoxins when possible.

Some molds can produce various toxins. Some molds produce mycotoxins only under certain environmental conditions. The presence of mold in a building does not necessarily mean that mycotoxins are present or that they are present in large quantities.

Note: Information on ingestion exposure, for both humans and animals, is more abundant. A wide range of health effects has been reported following ingestion of moldy foods including liver damage, nervous system damage, and immunological effects.

Some compounds produced by molds are volatile and are released directly into the air. These are known as microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs). Because these compounds often have strong and/or unpleasant odors, they can be the source of odors associated with molds. Exposure to mVOCs from molds has been linked to symptoms such as headaches, nasal irritation, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.

Glucans are mold cell wall components which may cause inflammatory lung and airway reactions. Glucans can affect the immune system when inhaled. Exposure to very high levels of glucans or dust mixtures including glucans may cause a flu-like illness known as Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome (ODTS).

Mold spores are microscopic. They are naturally present in both indoor and outdoor air. Molds reproduce by means of spores. Some molds have spores that are easily disturbed and waft into the air and settle repeatedly with each disturbance. Other molds have sticky spores that will cling to surfaces and are dislodged by brushing against them or by other direct contact. Some molds are light sporulators. Other molds are heavy sporulators. Spores may remain able to grow for years after they are produced. In addition, whether or not the spores are alive, the allergens in and on them may remain allergenic for years.

Hyphae is the branching filamentous structure of mold. In most fungi, hyphae are the main mode of vegetative growth, and are collectively called a mycelium. Through the mycelium, mold absorbs nutrients from its environment. Mycelium typically has an appearance somewhat like roots of a tree.

Colony forming units, usually abbreviated as CFU, refer to individual colonies mold. A colony of mold is a group of hyphae of the same mold growing together. Since spores are microscopic, the presence of mold is usually visible to the unaided eye only when they form colonies.

Non-culturable (non-viable) direct microscopy mold sampling

This method of sampling involves a trained laboratory technician using a microscope to visually identify and count mold observed on samples. This is the most common sampling performed for mold.

Advantages

  • Can identify mold that is alive or dead,
  • Is usually the least expensive method to analyze mold samples.

Disadvantages

  • The morphology (how they look) of some molds can be very similar or indistinguishable to technicians reviewing samples under a microscope,
  • Relies on the experience and attention of the technician in order to properly identify molds. The level of expertise and accuracy can vary from person,
  • Spore viability cannot be assessed,
  • Spores can only be identified up to Genus level.

Culturable (viable) direct microscopy mold sampling

This method of sampling involves the culturing of mold on petri dishes over an incubation period. A trained laboratory technician uses a microscope to visually identify and count mold observed on samples after an appropriate time period has past.

Advantages

  • Can allow for genus and species identification.
  • Can help in determining mold viability (what is alive.) This can be important in certain situations when severely immunocompromised people are involved.

Disadvantages

  • Requires that spores in the sample are alive and survive the sampling process/transportation to the laboratory,
  • Requires that spores germinate on the sampling growth media and compete well with other species present.
  • Does not indicate the presence of non-culturable spores, which may also be capable of producing allergens or irritation.
  • Requires usually five to fifteen days for incubation and analysis after the sampling has taken place
  • Is typically more expensive than non-culturable direct microscopy,
  • Certain molds will only live on certain types of agar growth media.
  • Certain molds can only live on living hosts.

Mold Specific Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Mold sampling

MsqPCR is a highly accurate and sensitive molecular technique for the detection of molds using DNA sequences that are unique to molds.

Advantages

  • MsqPCR air samples cannot be overloaded by longer sampling times or large numbers of spores,
  • Results can be obtained in a short period of time (Usually one day from the time the laboratory receives the samples),
  • High specificity/sensitivity- MsqPCR amplifies the DNA present billions of times. Because of that It can detect the presence of one cell or spore,
  • Precise quantification- Computer software is used to precisely calculate how many sequences of DNA were in the sample,
  • Accurate Identification- A machine with mold specific assays produce the outcome of the test. Human error or judgement is not a variable in the analysis.

Disadvantages

  • MsqPCR is limited in detecting molds that have available assays. (Many assays are available for common molds and molds associated with water damage.)
  • MsqPCR samples can be substantially more cost prohibitive than standard non-culturable air samples.

A remediation protocol is a document that outlines a recommended remediation process for Remediation Contractors. Protocols are primarily produced by the Mold Assessor that originally performed a mold assessment on a site. When and initial mold assessment was not performed, and a Mold Assessor has not been hired to perform an assessment and protocol, the Mold remediator may choose to produce their own protocol based on their experience or hire a mold assessor to assist them with the creation of a remediation protocol.

No. We are not medical professionals. If you have any medical/health concerns, please consult one or more appropriate medical professionals. Medical professionals can run tests on you and assess your medical condition. Your medical professional(s) can review our findings which may help glean some insight into your environment that can help them in understanding your situation.

*Information on Mold and its potential health effects obtained from EPA Publication 402-K-01-001*