Frequently Asked Questions
Please feel free to contact us with any mold or indoor air quality question. We will try to post new questions and answers as often as we can.
Mold Questions (3)
Molds include all species of microscopic fungi that grow in the form of multicellular filaments, called hyphae. In contrast, microscopic fungi that grow as single cells are called yeasts. A connected network of these tubular branching hyphae has multiple, genetically identical nuclei and is considered a single organism, referred to as a colony or in more technical terms a mycelium.There are thousands of known species of molds, which include opportunistic pathogens, saprotrophs, aquatic species, calders and thermophiles. Like all fungi, molds derive energy not through photosynthesis but from the organic matter in which they live. Typically, molds secrete hydrolytic enzymes, mainly from the hyphal tips. These enzymes degrade complex biopolymers such as starch, cellulose and lignin into simpler substances which can be absorbed by the hyphae. In this way, molds play a major role in causing decomposition of organic material, enabling the recycling of nutrients throughout ecosystems. Many molds also secrete mycotoxins which, together with hydrolytic enzymes, inhibit the growth of competing microorganisms.Molds reproduce through small spores, which may contain a single nucleus or be multinucleate. Mold spores can be asexual (the products of mitosis) or sexual (the products of meiosis); many species can produce both types. Some can remain airborne indefinitely, and many are able to survive extremes of temperature and pressure.Although molds grow on dead organic matter everywhere in nature, their presence is only visible to the unaided eye when mold colonies grow. A mold colony does not comprise discrete organisms, but an interconnected network of hyphae called a mycelium. Nutrients and in some cases organelles may be transported throughout the mycelium. In artificial environments like buildings, humidity and temperature are often stable enough to foster the growth of mold colonies, commonly seen as a downy or furry coating growing on food or other surfaces.Some molds can begin growing at temperatures as low as 2°C. When conditions do not enable growth, molds may remain alive in a dormant state depending on the species, within a large range of temperatures before they die. The many different mold species vary enormously in their tolerance to temperature and humidity extremes. Certain molds can survive harsh conditions such as the snow-covered soils of Antarctica, refrigeration, highly acidic solvents, and even petroleum products such as jet fuel.Xerophilic molds use the humidity in the air as their only water source; other molds need more moisture.Molds are ubiquitous in nature, and mold spores are a common component of household and workplace dust. However, when mold spores are present in large quantities, they can present a health hazard to humans, potentially causing allergic reactions and respiratory problems.Some molds also produce mycotoxins that can pose serious health risks to humans and animals. Exposure to high levels of mycotoxins can lead to neurological problems and in some cases death. Prolonged exposure, e.g. daily workplace exposure, can be particularly harmful. The term toxic mold refers to molds that produce mycotoxins, such as Stachybotrys chartarum, and not to all molds in general.Mold growth in buildings can lead to a variety of health issues. Various practices can be followed to mitigate mold issues in buildings, the most important of which is to reduce moisture levels that can facilitate mold growth. Removal of affected materials after the source of moisture has been reduced and/or eliminated may be necessary for remediation.
NO. Most mold spores are between 3 and 10 microns in diameter. To give you some perspective, a strand of hair is approximately 100 microns thick. An average mold spore is about 7 microns in diameter, or about the same size as a human red blood cell. As small and light as they are, mold spores are easily aerosolized, and a spore can stay airborne for as long as 8 hours in a home with no air movement.
Mold growth is known to produce a musty and very recognizable odor, but does not always do so. When you smell mold, that odor is more likely associated with the microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC’s) than with the spore itself. The smell of mold is usually an indication of mold reservoirs in the home, but the lack of a smell is not an indicator that mold growth is not present.
The term “toxic” can be very misleading. Anything, including water, can be toxic at the right dose. A better term might be “toxigenic” which would indicate that the mold has the POTENTIAL to produce mycotoxins, and those molds that are toxigenic do not always produce toxins. The production of mycotoxins is determined by the environmental conditions and is not well researched.
When people talk about “toxic black mold”, most often they are referring to Stachybotrys. The reality is that many species of mold are toxigenic and color is not a reliable way to identify mold. Stachybotrys is what we call a “tertiary colonizer” which means it’s not the first type of mold to show up after water intrusion. Stachybotrys has a relatively high moisture requirement, so it is usually found in areas where cellulose materials have been saturated for a long time.
From a remediation perspective, Stachybotrys is a relatively large spore, and therefore more likely to settle out… which makes it an easier mold to clean.
Mold needs only two things for growth; a food source, and moisture. We have no control over the food sources within our home, as any organic material is potential mold food, but we can control the moisture.Repairs to leaking windows, pipes, appliances, etc., should be made immediately. Water damage that results from a sudden discharge of water, within the last 48 hours, can usually be dried by a professional water damage restoration company. Water damage that is older than 48 hours can usually be assumed to have some degree of mold growth, whether visible or not, and should be properly documented and remediated.Condensation on exterior walls is common in older, uninsulated homes. This can be prevented by ventilating the home, insulating the walls and ceiling, and replacing old aluminum framed windows with new vinyl framed windows.
The first step is to identify and repair the source of moisture. Mold will not grow without moisture. The second step is to assess the situation. How much mold is present? Do you have any liability… can you get sued? Are there any health concerns? How you answer these questions will determine the next steps.The decision to do-it-yourself or hire it out is always a tough one, and there is no wrong answer. Should you choose to hire it out, and we highly recommend this option, you should choose a contractor that has the proper training and equipment. Should you choose to do-it-yourself, you should purchase the proper equipment and get some guidance proper personal protection and remediation techniques. In either case, post-remediation testing is always recommended to ensure the project was completed correctly.
There is always air movement through walls and floors. Contaminants that exist in crawlspaces, attics, and wall cavities have the potential to enter your home and degrade the indoor air quality.
Dirty air duct systems are a common contributor to poor indoor air quality. Even clean duct systems can be a transport mechanism for airborne spores to move through a structure and spread the contamination. Pacific IAQ recommends that the HVAC system be turned off immediately when a mold problem is discovered.
Physical removal is always the best way to get rid of mold. This means removal of affected drywall, carpet, padding and other porous materials, and detailed cleaning of semi-porous and non-porous materials. HEPA filtered air scrubbers are used to physically remove airborne spores.
Bleach can be effective at killing mold and removing the stains caused by mold, but bleach is not recommended because it does not actually remove the mold. Pacific IAQ recommends a mild surfactant solution (dish soap and water) as a cleaning solution on semi-porous and non-porous materials (porous materials with mold growth are generally not cleanable). We recognize that bleach is a cost effective antimicrobial, and that many homeowners will use bleach regardless of what we recommend, so if you do use bleach remember that a 10:1 solution of water and bleach is more effective than straight bleach. Also, if you use bleach, reapply as often as necessary to keep the area wet for at least 30 minutes, and always use it in a well ventilated area, as the byproducts of bleach may be more harmful than the mold you are cleaning.
Mold growth on drywall is an indication of a moisture problem. Painting over the mold will not fix the problem. Once mold growth has been established, it takes very little moisture (as low as 70% relative humidity in the air) to continue to support the growth. Mold that is trapped under a layer of paint will continue to grow and will, eventually, return.
The law is not clear on this issue, and laws differ from state to state. A landlord must provide you with a safe living space. That means that any environmental conditions that could adversely affect your health must be fixed. The problem with mold is that it is a natural organism that exists in every home to some extent. Pacific IAQ has been on both sides of this legal issue and more often than not, the law favors the tenants when a landlord fails to address mold and water damage issues.
You need to sample for mold when you suspect that you have a problem and you need to know the extent of the problem. If you have a dark mold-like growth on your wet drywall, you don’t need a laboratory to tell you its mold. What you may need to know is how that mold has affected your living space… is it confined to that one area or has it become airborne and spread throughout the home? The best way of detecting mold is through your olfactory senses (smell). That musty, moldy smell is usually the microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC’s) produced by mold, and is a good indicator that you have a mold problem.
On an initial mold investigation, Pacific IAQ does not always recommend mold sampling. As degreed scientists, we believe that any test should be conducted with the specific purpose of answering a question. If you have visible mold growth on your wall then we don’t need a surface sample to answer the answer the question “is that mold?”. If you have a reaction to a specific mold and the question is “is that Aspergillus niger” then a surface sample is a very good option. In general, mold samples fall into two categories; viable and nonviable, and within each of those categories we can collect air samples, surface samples, or bulk samples. The samples are sent to an accredited laboratory where they are examined under direct microscopy. The type of sample taken depends on the specific question we are trying to answer.Another method that we can use is qPCR analysis. This is a quick sample, with results in about two days, but considerably more expensive. The advantage of qPCR analysis is that we get the most accurate speciation, and the most accurate quantification of the molds present. This method is typically used in legal cases.
First we have to look at the differences between viable and nonviable sampling:Viable Sampling – Viable sampling only documents mold that is alive and able to grow and produce spores. Nonviable sampling documents all spores, alive and dead. The advantage of viable sampling is that the mold is actually grown out on a Petri dish and mycologists are able to identify the mold down to the species level, and viable sampling can differentiate Aspergillus and Penicillium. The disadvantage of viable sampling is that it takes 7-10 days to culture the sample, and the dead spores, which can also contribute to poor indoor air quality, are not counted. Another disadvantage of viable sampling is that some mold species grow better on specific media, so the standard PDA or MEA Petri dishes may not allow all species to grow.Nonviable Sampling – Nonviable sampling documents all spores. The main advantage of nonviable sampling is the quick turn-around time. Pacific IAQ can get results next-day at no additional charge. The disadvantage of nonviable sampling is that molds are reported at the genus level, and Aspergillus and Penicillium cannot be differentiated and are therefore reported together as “Penicillium/Aspergillus”The most common samples collected are:
- Tape-Lift Surface Sample – Tape-lifts are a nonviable method of sampling where surface material is “lifted” off on a piece of clear tape. The tape is fixed to a microscope slide and analyzed through direct microscopy. Tape-lifts are quick and reliable, with very few cons. This is the most common type of surface sample collected.
- Spore-Trap Air Sample – Spore-traps are small cassettes that trap particles on an adhesive slide inside. The cassettes are attached to a pump, which pulls a specified volume of air across the interior slide. The particles that are stuck to the slide are analyzed through direct microscopy. The advantage of spore-traps is that they are quick. The disadvantage is that they document conditions at a specific place, at a specific time, and conditions can change rapidly, especially in the outdoor air. This is the most common type of air sample collected.
- Swab Sample – Sterile swabs are used to collect surface material. The swabs are sent directly to the laboratory where they are used to inoculate a Petri dish. The Petri dish is cultured for 7-10 days and the resulting mold growth is analyzed through direct microscopy. This type of sampling is commonly used for legal documentation.
- Anderson Sampling – An Anderson sampler is used to move air through 400 small holes, directly onto a Petri dish. The Petri dish is cultured for 7-10 days and the resulting mold growth is analyzed through direct microscopy. This type of sampling is commonly used for legal documentation.
- Bulk Sampling – Bulk sampling is the collection of bulk material for analysis. This material may include carpet samples, drywall, wood, or any other material suspected of containing mold growth. Analysis can be either viable or nonviable. This type of sampling is rarely used.
- Mycometer Samples – Mycometer is a trade name for a luminometer that quantifies mold in air and surface samples. Mycometer detects chemical markers associated with an enzyme reaction that is specific to fungal cells. Samples are collected on swabs or PCM cassettes, and analysis is done in the field, in about 40 minutes. The obvious advantage is the 40 minute turnaround time on analysis. The disadvantage is that the results document only total fungal biomass and cannot identify specific mold genera. Another disadvantage is that there is no independent third party verification, as there is when using an independent laboratory. This means that there is no record of the results of the analysis, and no documentation other than the word of the analyst. While the technology is promising, Pacific IAQ does not recommend the use of this product until these problems are addressed.
Sometimes many… and sometimes none! If the mold is visible and you’re looking for a remediation protocol, there’s probably no need for sampling. If the problem is not so clear cut, it may take a few samples.There is no law or regulation regarding the number of samples a consultant should take. The industry generally relies on the “professional judgment” of the consultant. The problem with this, of course, is that you will always find someone who’s “professional judgment” differs from your own.Mold spore concentrations in the outside air are in constant fluctuation depending on the wind, precipitation, time of day, etc., and the indoor air is usually reflective of the outside air. Taking one sample inside and one sample outside would be similar to flipping a coin twice and drawing conclusions from that. Obviously the more times you flip a coin the more accurate your statistics will be. The same holds true for air sampling. It has been estimated that, in order to have 90% a confidence level in your data, you would have to take three samples and a blank from the problem area, three samples and a blank from a non-problem area, and three samples and a blank from two outdoor locations… three times a day, for three days. That’s 144 samples… No one will pay for that so we have to settle on something in between. The AIHA recommends a minimum of two outside samples and Pacific IAQ agrees. As far as inside samples, we recommend at least one in the problem area(s), and one in a non-complaint area. For post remediation verification, we recommend two outside, one in the containment, and one outside the containment.
There is no “good” mold to have growing in your home. Mold growth is an indication of an even larger water problem. From an environmental consultant’s perspective, the type of mold is far less important than the extent of the growth and the cause of the moisture. The microclimates where molds develop and grow are constantly changing because of temperature, air movement, and moisture content, and the mold species that is growing right now may not be the same species that is growing next week.
Many states now have a certification requirement for mold remediation, California is not yet one of them. Since mold remediation usually involves the removal of building materials, certain cities like Santa Rosa are requiring building permits for mold work. Permits can only be obtained by home owners and licensed contractors. So the minimum qualifications for mold work would be a general contractor’s license.There are many organizations that offer mold training and “certification”. The problem with most is that their certification is really nothing more than a training certificate. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), the National Association of Mold Professionals (NAMP), and the Mold Inspection Consulting and Remediation Organization (MICRO), all offer training certifications in mold remediation and mold investigations. The problem with training certifications is that anyone can attend the 1-5 day course, pass the exam, and walk out as an “expert”. The consumer has no way of knowing how much education and/or experience that person has.The only actual certification that exists is from the American Indoor Air Quality Council (AmIAQC). The AmIAQC certifications must pass an exam and meet stringent education and experience requirements prior to being awarded the board-certification. The Certified Microbial Remediator (CMR) certification has a two year requirement, and the Certified Microbial Remediation Supervisor (CMRS) has a five year requirement. For additional information regarding mold certifications, or to find a local certified professional, check the AmIAQ website www.iaqcouncil.org.Having said all that, there is no law or regulation that would prevent a home owner from cleaning up their own mold. Mold remediation is not rocket science and most of the “technicians” that do the actual work are seasonal or temporary employees with little or no training or experience. If a home owner chooses to do their own remediation, Pacific IAQ recommends The Homeowners Do-It-Yourself Guide to Mold Removal, by Eric and David Keith. The book and video can be purchased at www.firstamericanresearch.com.
In general, porous items with actual mold growth are not savable. This includes bedding, clothing, shoes, upholstered furniture and mattresses. Porous materials with settled spores can usually be cleaned. Semi-porous and non-porous items can also be successfully cleaned, even if they have actual growth. Items that have a high monetary or sentimental value may be salvaged if the owner understands that the mold remediation may not be complete. The owner of Pacific IAQ completed a remediation project on a 35 million dollar estate in Ross, California. The project not only included the full-gut remediation of the structure, but also the cleaning of over 30 million dollars worth of art work. Sometimes you have to get creative and step out of the box to save these special items.
Containment is nothing more than a system of barriers and other engineering controls designed to contain the mold contamination to the designated work area. Contractor’s typically erect 6 mil poly sheeting (visquene) around the work area and then place the “containment” under as slight negative pressure with HEPA filtered air movers. While the mold spore concentration within an area may not be too high at the beginning of a project, it will quickly climb as moldy materials are disturbed. The containment is designed to prevent those mold spores from moving to unaffected areas of your home.
The industry is evenly split on this topic. Some consultants recommend cleaning of the duct system after remediation of any mold in your home, others believe that the ducts should never be cleaned. Pacific IAQ falls somewhere in between. We believe that actual mold growth in rigid ducts can be successfully cleaned, but mold growth in the flexible ducts is not practical or possible. Pacific IAQ recommends that flexible ducting that has actual mold growth inside should be replaced. If the ducts, flexible or rigid, are contaminated with mold spores due to an elevation somewhere in the home that has traveled through the duct system, then duct cleaning may offer some benefit. In either case it is recommended that the duct cleaning should be done by a NADCA certified duct cleaner.
If the porous items have not been wet, and there is no actual growth, they can generally be cleaned by HEPA vacuuming. Pacific IAQ recommends that these items are HEPA vacuumed three times at opposing 60° angles. Porous items with actual mold growth are usually not salvageable.
Semi-porous and non-porous materials can be cleaned by HEPA vacuuming and damp-wiping with a mild surfactant solution (soap and water). A surfactant actually changes the physical properties of water and acts as a solvent or cleaner. Bleach has no surfactant properties and is not considered a cleaner.
Pacific IAQ has three requirements for post-remediation verification; the building materials must be cleaned to a dust-free condition (if there is dust and debris, then there are still mold spores), the material must be dry (below 15% moisture content), and the laboratory analysis must indicate that the air and/or surface samples are reflective of normal fungal ecology.“Normal fungal ecology” simply means that the airborne mold spore concentrations inside should be similar in species composition and distribution to the outdoor air samples. Pacific IAQ does not necessarily require the inside concentrations to be lower than outside concentrations because outside mold spore concentrations vary from minute to minute and it takes time for inside concentrations to reach an equilibrium. We look instead for spikes, or elevations, in specific mold types that indicate a mold reservoir in the home.Surface samples are far more important than air samples. After a remediation project is complete, there should be no mold growth on the affected surfaces. This does not mean that there are no spores, as spores can be found everywhere; it means that there is no actual growth and that the mold spores on the surface are reflective of normal fungal ecology.
NO. Mold is everywhere. Even if you could remove all of the mold from a contained area, normal mold spore levels would return as soon as the containment barriers were removed. The goal of remediation is to fix the source of water, remove all mold growth, and clean the affected areas to a state of normal fungal ecology
Health Questions (9)
There are over 100,000 known species of mold, and the effects they have on humans is poorly understood. We do know that there are certain species that have been linked to adverse health effects in healthy humans. Molds can be allergenic, toxigenic, and carcinogenic in certain individuals. Most people tolerate exposure to normal mold levels without any adverse health effects, while others may have severe allergic reactions to the slightest amounts. While the research is limited, it has become apparent that individuals with suppressed or compromised immune systems may be at the greatest risk of developing a mold related illness.
Some people are genetically predisposed to developing a mold reaction, while others may develop a reaction after being “sensitized to a particular mold species over a period of time. Most people have no reaction to even elevated mold spore levels. The most susceptible people are are infants with under developed immune systems, elderly with weakened immune systems, AIDS and cancer patients, and anyone whose immune system has been compromised by respiratory infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and asthma. Immonusuppression can also result from medications, chemotherapy, alcoholism, and short duration illnesses such as influenza.
The answer to this question will be different for every person, and science cannot yet predict who will be affected and who will not.
There are no documented deaths related to mold growth in a home. While there have been multiple infant deaths related to Stachybotrys, in all cases there were other environmental conditions that may or may not have contributed to the deaths. For most healthy individuals, mold related symptoms disappear when the mold is removed.Cryptococcus (yeast) and Histoplasma (yeast) are avian pathogens associated with bird and bat droppings that can cause severe illness or death. Both are fungi which can be found in your home or office, but neither are molds.
While many molds are black, and many molds are toxigenic, the term “black toxic mold” usually means Stachybotrys. Toxigenic molds are those species that are capable of producing mycotoxins. Not all molds can produce mycotoxins, and those that can only do so when environmental conditions are right. Mycotoxins can be divided into five major groups:
- Aflatoxins – Aflatoxins are a type of mycotoxin produced by Aspergillus species of fungi, such as A. flavus and A. parasiticus. The umbrella term aflatoxin refers to four different types of mycotoxins produced, which are B1, B2, G1, and G2. Aflatoxin B1, the most toxic, is a potent carcinogen and has been directly correlated to adverse health effects, such as liver cancer, in many animal species.
- Ochratoxin – Ochratoxin is a mycotoxin that comes in three secondary metabolite forms, A, B, and C. All are produced by Penicillium and Aspergillus species. The three forms differ in that Ochratoxin B (OTB) is a nonchlorinated form of Ochratoxin A (OTA) and that Ochratoxin C (OTC) is an ethyl ester form Ochatoxin A. OTA has been labeled as a carcinogen and a nephrotoxin, and has been linked to tumors in the human urinary track, although research in humans is limited.
- Citrinin – Citrinin is a toxin that was first isolated from Penicillium citrinum, but has been identified in over a dozen species of Penicillium and several species of Aspergillus. Some of these species are used to produce human foodstuffs such as cheese (Penicillium camemberti), sake, miso, and soy sauce (Aspergillus oryzae). Citrinin is associated with yellow rice disease in Japan and acts as a nephrotoxin in all animal species tested. Although it is associated with many human foods (wheat, rice, corn, barley, oats, rye, and food colored with Monascus pigment) its full significance for human health is unknown. Citrinin can also act synergistically with Ochratoxin A to depress RNA synthesis in murine kidneys.
- Ergot Alkaliods – Ergot Alkaloids are compounds produced as a toxic mixture of alkaloids in the sclerotia of species of Claviceps, which are common pathogens of various grass species. The ingestion of ergot sclerotia from infected cereals, commonly in the form of bread produced from contaminated flour, cause ergotism the human disease historically known as St. Anthony’s Fire. There are two forms of ergotism gangrenous affecting blood supply to extremities and convulsive which affects the central nervous system. Modern methods of grain cleaning have significantly reduced ergotism as a human disease, however it is still an important veterinarian problem. Ergot alkaloids have been used pharmaceutically. Patulin is a toxin produced by the P. expansum, Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Paecilomyces fungal species. P. expansum is especially associated with a range of moldy fruits and vegetables, in particular rotting apples and figs. It is destroyed by the fermentation process and so is not found in apple beverages, such as cider. Although patulin has not been shown to be carcinogenic, it has been reported to damage the immune system in animals.
- Fusarium Toxins – Fusarium toxins are produced by over 50 species of Fusarium and have a history of infecting the grain of developing cereals such as wheat and maize. They include a range of mycotoxins, such as: the fumonisins, which affect the nervous systems of horses and may cause cancer in rodents; the trichothecenes, which are most strongly associated with chronic and fatal toxic effects in animals and humans; and zearalenone, which is not correlated to any fatal toxic effects in animals or humans. Some of the other major types of Fusarium toxins include: beauvercin and enniatins, butenolide, equisetin, and fusarins.
There are no definitive guidelines for mold spore levels in the air, so it is impossible to determine what level is safe and what level is unsafe. It is safe to say that the level that will affect one person will be different for another. In general, mold professionals rely on the outdoor mold spore concentrations to define what is “normal”, and those levels can change very rapidly. In the indoor environment, we expect the air to be reflective of normal outside fungal ecology.
You should leave your home when you feel that the indoor air quality is affecting, or may affect your health. Any consultant that advises you to leave your home is over stepping his role, unless he is also a physician. Pacific IAQ always advises its clients to seek professional medical advice before evacuating their home.
The typical reaction to elevated levels of mold spores is an allergic reaction similar to pollen allergies. These reactions include sneezing, nasal and sinus congestion, irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat, and coughing. In sensitive individuals, more serious problems may develop such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble concentrating
- nausea and dizziness
In most cases, mold related illnesses go away after the mold is removed or after the occupants leave the impacted building. It is believed, though, that the affected individuals may have a greater sensitivity to molds in the future so that later it will take exposure to lower levels of mold spores for a shorter duration of time to develop the same problems.
Mold Industry Scams (10)
Most remediation contractors are honest businessmen, but every industry has its “opportunists” – individuals who have no moral or ethical scruples when it comes to padding their profits by getting your repair bill up as high as possible. Mold remediation is big businesses. Renovation contractors typically charge 3 to 5 times more for jobs involving mold than similar jobs which don’t involve mold. With such tremendous potential for abuse, hiring mold inspectors who profit from the remediation work presents a serious conflict of interest – much like hiring a fox to mind your hen house.This scam can be avoided by not hiring inspectors who profit from mold removal work. Insist on Certified Mold Inspectors who are not in the remediation business and are not motivated to create more work for themselves. And specifically ask your mold inspector if there is any money being exchanged between the Remediator and the inspector. Pacific neither accept nor offers “finders fees” for its services If you encounter a mold inspector who also does mold removal (or visa-versa) just say NO THANKS. There's plenty of quality contractors available that don't do both. Contact the American Indoor Air Quality Council; www.iaqcouncil.org, or the Indoor Air Quality Association; www.iaqa.org to file a formal complaint.
"House cooking" is an old scam designed to get the worst possible test results. The inspector shuts all the windows and turns on the furnace in order to elevate the number of mold spores in the air before taking samples. Some will even turn on ceiling fans and humidifiers full blast. The purpose is to cause high levels of detectable mold to justify expensive mold remediation work. This scam can also be avoided by not hiring a mold inspector who also profits from remediation work.
Ozone schemes claim that tenting a home or building and then injecting massive amounts of ozone gas into it will kill all of the mold in the structure. Ozone can only kill what it comes into contact with. Ozone cannot get at, and thus cannot kill, mold growing inside drywall, walls, carpeting, upholstered furniture, wall cavities, ceiling cavities and floor cavities. Besides being ineffective at killing hidden mold (the worst type), ozone readily damages all rubber and plastic parts it comes into contact with such as rubber and plastic components of appliances, electronics of all types, exposed electrical lines, extension cords and HVAC controls. Ozone is also unhealthy to humans according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Many contractors offer "FREE" clearance testing also, (which is equivalent to grading their own homework). Don't fall for it! Clearance testing is crucial to the mold remediation process and should never be performed by a mold removal contractor waiting to get paid for his work.AVOID BEING SCAMMED. The best way to avoid getting scammed this way is to avoid using mold removal contractors for mold inspections. Pacific IAQ is not in the mold removal business and therefore we have no vested interest in how your inspection and testing comes out. Our position is always unbiased and neutral. But even if you don't choose Pacific IAQ for you inspection and testing needs, be sure whoever you do choose is not looking for repair work for himself.
AND CALL THE REFERENCES! Don't take anyone's word for it when it comes to shelling out thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars for remediation work. Ask for references for jobs that are at least 10 to 12 months old. Why? Because every mold remediation job looks great as soon as it’s finished. But if remediation work is not done correctly, it can take several months to realize it. As a rule, if mold does not reoccur in that time, the work was done correctly. A remediation contractor who has nothing to hide, has no problem giving you references. If a contractor gets offend by your request, that’s a good indication that you don’t want to use that contractor.
The standard rates for remodeling or reconstruction work that involves mold remediation is approximately three time higher that the exact same remodel without mold remediation. That means, by hiring one contractor to do the entire job, you are paying triple the regular rate for the reconstruction work that takes place after the mold is removed. As rule, you save a lot of money by hiring a remediation contractor to remove the mold, then having a remodeling contractor come in to do the reconstruction. Some remediation contractors will insist on doing all the work or none at all. Just remember, there's more where they came from. Furthermore, be sure to have a post-remediation verification test done before you pay your remediation contractor. If you agree to make progress payments, make sure the final payment is a significant percentage of the total job price so the contractor is motivated to finish the job correctly.Never allow a contractor to provide clearance testing for his own remediation work.Many remediation contractors will offer to provide FREE clearance testing after their work is complete. Nice gesture, but don't fall for it. The reason they do that is so they pass their own work and get paid. Also, they more than likely quoted you a firm price in order to get the work in the first place and if a third party inspector fails his post-remediation clearance test, he has to keep coming back until he gets it right. A "free" clearance test from a contractor offering to pass his own work is not a good deal for you. Always insist on third party post-remediation clearance testing and make sure your agreement with the contractor states that he will come back and correct his work if it fails. And don't settle the account until you see the clearance report in writing.Never allow a remediation contractor to "encapsulate" mold.Some mold removal contractors include a process they call "encapsulating" or "encapsulation". Plainly stated, it means they paint over mold, (often with a stain killing paint called KILZ, sold in most Home Depot stores). This practice is not recognized by the EPA or any other legitimate authority on mold remediation. The EPA guidelines for mold abatement is very clear, "REMOVE IT". If the mold is removed, there is no need for encapsulation. Unless mold is removed, it is still there. "Encapsulating" mold by painting over it is just a way to cover up any mold that was not removed. Are you starting to get it? Encapsulation is a scam. Ask your contractor before he begins if he does encapsulation. If he says yes, find another contractor.There are a few reasons why your consultant may recommend encapsulation:• He suspects that there may still be traces of mold left in areas that cannot be accessed without major demolition and encapsulating those areas will inhibit spore release. • He suspects there is a possibility that moisture is still a factor in or around the remediated area and, as a precautionary measure, he wants to apply a water seal treatment to the salvaged materials to protect them from that moisture. • There are contractors who process their work to exemplary levels and then apply ‘shields’ for future prevention purposes – these contractors will allow for testing at the client’s discretion as they normally pass whether at the end of remediation or after applying their final step products.
Here are several mold frauds perpetrated by insurance companies and insurance adjusters. a. Hiring testing personnel who are loyal to the insurance companies (not the insured) to do the least possible mold testing in the least likely mold locations in an insured's property so that any actual mold is NOT likely to be discovered. b. Forcing testers to restrict the air flow to purposely lower the spore count in air sampling cassettes. The two most widely used spore traps (air sampling cassettes) are the Air-O-Cell and the Micro-5. The manufacturer of the Air-O-Cell trap recommends the following pump settings: 10 liters per minute for 10 minutes. The manufacturer of the Micro-5 recommends the following pump settings: 5 liters of air for 5 minutes. AMI recommends you always ask your tester to show you the pump settings. c. Forcing the tester to only report findings and lab results to the insurer, then refusing to disclose the findings with the insured.All these scams can be avoided by hiring Pacific IAQ, the North Bay’s most trusted certified mold inspector.
Some contractors claim that applying heat to a structure is an effective way to remediate mold. This is a bogus claim. While mold can be killed by heat, as can every other living organism, there is no evidence to support the notion that heat treating a house will kill all the mold, and heat will not destroy all of the allergens and irritants that are associated with mold growth.
it’s hard to imagine insurance companies doing anything improper or unethical. But like any company in business to make money, what is proper or improper, ethical or unethical, right or wrong, is not defined by moral absolutes or standards. It is defined by legal technicalities. Fairness, integrity, and conscience are nice words to flaunt. But the bottom line is always comes down to profit margins, not nice words.Here are some profit-driven business practices of insurance companies to look out for. (DISCLAIMER: Not ALL insurances companies)1. Hiring only "preferred" inspectors and remediators who are loyal to the insurance companies (not the insured) and who will not look too hard for mold.2. Requiring preferred testers to restrict the air flow of their sampling pump to purposely lower the spore count in air samples.3. Requiring the inspector to inspect only, and not sample.Pacific IAQ will not work under such conditions!
• mold removal contractors who also offer mold inspections and mold testing services • all in one mold service firms which offer mold removal service after their mold inspection service as well as their own clearance certificates and post-cleaning results.Their scam is creating non-existent mold problems and charging you thousands of dollars to fix them.If you suspect you have a mold problem, whether mold is visible or not, one call to Pacific IAQ is all it takes to be sure. Our only interest is in providing our clients with accurate reporting of the data we collect in the course of the inspection process and reliable results of mold tests and samples.
This has always been a tough issue. When a project fails to pass the final sampling, it is primarily the result of either inadequate remediation and cleaning, or there exists a reservoir of mold that is hidden. If the contractor did an inadequate job of remediation and cleaning, then he/she should not only complete the project at his/her cost, but the contractor should also cover the cost of additional testing until clearance is attained. The most important thing for the homeowner to remember is that the consultant (Pacific IAQ) has a contract with the homeowner, not the contractor. All additional sampling costs are invoiced to the homeowner or client, and its up to the client to negotiate the additional costs with the contractor. In the event of one or more failures, Pacific IAQ recommends that the homeowner withhold the contractors final payment until the cost of additional testing has been negotiated.
If the failure is the result of a hidden reservoir of mold, then additional investigation and remediation is necessary. Pacific IAQ always recommends that drywall removal extend at least two feet beyond the last visible water staining or mold growth so that we can be assured that there are no additional mold reservoirs. Occasionally, additional areas are discovered that may or may not be related to the specific problem you are remediating. In these circumstances, the additional work and testing are considered part of the project and are generally paid for by the homeowner or client.
This is the part that is completely out of our control. The cost really depends on the scope of work and the company that you choose to do that work. Our inspection report includes a protocol, or scope of work, for the contractors to follow. We make our recommendations following the accepted industry practices, and will not recommend any work that we cannot justify. One of the primary reasons a homeowner requests a mold investigation is to get a written protocol for contractors to bid on. Without a protocol, each contractor will give you a bid on what he/she perceives as the proper scope of work. There are many remediation companies in the North Bay and not all are equal in knowledge, training and quality. The protocol that Pacific IAQ provides defines the scope of work so that your contractors are bidding “apples to apples”.
The cost of sampling will depend on many factors, such as the number and types of samples collected, the method of laboratory analysis to be used, the type of report needed, and the location of the site. Typical mold inspections average between $800 and $1500, and may or may not include remediation maps or thermography. Some mold inspectors take commissions of up to 10% from the contractor for referrals… who do you think pays for that.
Pacific IAQ is not only the leader in education, certifications and technology… we are also the least expensive. Most companies work on a time and materials contract, so you’re basically giving them a blank check. The owner of Pacific IAQ recognized the need for low cost package pricing. Mold investigations in Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties are all the same price. We don’t charge for travel, we don’t charge for pumps or equipment, we don’t offer or accept commissions or “finder fees”, what we quote is what you pay… period. Of course, projects outside our three-county area of operation incur a small travel charge, but the cost is still lower than the competition. Because this is a heavy traffic web site, and we don’t want to give away too much to the competition, we don’t post our rates on the web site. Please call or email us for a brochure with all our rates.
This is another difficult question since all projects are unique. A kitchen remediation that includes cabinets and granite countertops will cost much more to rebuild than a bedroom wall.