Mold inspection is an old industry. However, due to new scientific discoveries that have consequently led to increased public awareness and concern, resurgence in the in this field of expertise is currently taking place. This has led to an influx of interest into this rapidly evolving industry that has subsequently resulted in companies sprouting like mushrooms all over the land. Unfortunately, unscrupulous & over-eager individuals are jumping on the bandwagon hoping to cash in on the business as well. It is therefore important to separate the fact from the fiction when choosing an inspector to do the job for you.
Be informed; you will be surprised to know that there is a lot to learn with regards to this industry. Due to the sheer number of players, choosing a mold inspector randomly can run tantamount to a waste of money. So what then is there to know about the industry?
A. Understand the health risks – Mold per se is not very harmful. In fact, not all mold species are deadly. Only those classified as toxic molds are. Furthermore, it is the tiny spores, which easily go airborne, that pose a risk when they make contact with the human body especially when they enter the respiratory system.
When this happens, a variety of health problems can initially ensue ranging from skin rashes, running nose, eye irritation, cough, nasal congestion, asthma, to breathing difficulty.
Prolonged exposure can lead to more serious problems. Not all mold species are equally hazardous. There are some, particularly those that produce mycotoxins, which can be very deadly. In more severe cases, the symptoms can elevate to memory loss, attention problems, irritability and depression, neurological disorders, tingling or burning of nose or mouth, nausea, vomiting, bleeding in the lungs, and muscle spasms to mention some. In extreme cases, especially for those individuals who already have lung problems prior to being exposed, such prolonged exposure may lead to death.
We mention this as the first step so that you will realize the possible consequences that might result if the act of choosing a fully qualified inspector is taken for granted.
B. Identify the existence of the problem – Before you go on calling a mold inspector, there are some survey tasks that you can perform on your own.
What is the probability of your house having any mold colonies?
One almost sure determining factor is the existence of a leak. Another one is a high moisture level. The moment the humidity of the air in an enclosure reaches certain level, mold growth can begin in no more than 48 hours.
Air conditioning ducts that have not been cleaned for quite some time can be a breeding ground for mold. And since these ducts presumably have access to most if not all rooms, the transportation and propagation of mold spores would be very easy. Regular cleaning of air conditioning and heating systems must therefore be implemented to avoid such risks.
If you smell musty odors in any of your frequently enclosed areas, such as basements and sub-floors, chances are molds have already established a colony.
If any of the symptoms mentioned above under Health Risks are observed, it would be advisable to hire an inspector if your own ocular inspection does not reveal anything. Such symptoms, if indeed caused by molds, could only mean one thing: that the spores have gone airborne and now pose a serious health hazard.
C. Be familiar with the ideal qualifications – Due to the gravity of the problem you should not settle for anyone less than one who has the right qualifications. As mentioned earlier, the demand for such expertise has gone up recently resulting in the escalation in the number of interested players. Individuals from “related” professions have come forward to claim having expertise in the field.
It is therefore important to separate the true experts from the experts of related fields. What does it take to be a qualified mold inspector? While there are a number of certifications and standards out there, four are increasingly becoming more and more popular:
- IAQA (Indoor Air Quality Association) Membership
- IESO (Indoor Environmental Standards Organization) Standards of Practice Certification
- Board Certified by the AmIAQC (American Indoor Air Quality Council)
- E & O (Errors and Omissions) and GL (General Liability) insured
This is aside from being a Certified Mold Inspector and member of the National Association of Mold Professionals (NAMP).
D. What to avoid – As with any system of approach in attaining a particular objective, the situation of having a conflict of interest in any of the approaches should be avoided. One point of contention is the hiring of a mold inspector who is also a mold remediator.
As much as possible one agency must do the mold inspection while another agency should perform the mold remediation. The logical reason is obvious: it is hard to imagine that a mold inspector will rule against conducting mold remediation if he can earn from the latter service as well.
The ideal steps in availing of mold remediation services do include mold inspection, only that it be done by a separate entity. Here is a recommended procedure:
1. Mold inspection should be conducted by Company A, with the objective of identifying the scope of the mold infestation, the severity of the infestation, and the recommendation on whether or not a mold remediation operation is necessary.
2. Mold remediation should be conducted by Company B, a company that ideally you have scouted out yourself, if an affirmative recommendation is made by Company A for such an operation to proceed. Company B should document the result of the whole operation along with recommendation if needed.
3. Re-inspection should be conducted by Company A to make sure that Company B was successful in carrying out the remediation operation.
E. Have a general knowledge on the essential equipment – It is not necessary to be really knowledgeable on these matters. However, it would help to know if you’re dealing with professionals who are up-to-date with the latest or somebody who is stuck with traditional methods. All things being equal, you would be more comfortable if you know that information is being gathered by state-of-the-art gadgets. With that, you can be sure that the information will more accurate, more detailed, and you will get your results faster.
Some of these devices can measure the following: structural moisture, air particulates, and thermal variations.
Basically, structural moisture determines how high the moisture content of a particular area is. As mentioned earlier, high humidity levels easily foster the growth of mold colonies. High particulates can be used to determine the presence of mold spores in the air. Finally, thermal variations, usually measured by highly-sensitive temperature sensors can give you accurate readings of the temperature of a particular area. Cooler areas have relatively higher relative humidity levels. Subsequently, high humidity levels can give rise to mold colonies.
F. Know the law – If you are a tenant, real estate agent, landlord, or somebody who is interested in buying or selling a house, it is important that you know your rights and obligations to avoid any legal impediments that you may encounter just because you weren’t familiar with laws related to molds. That is, you must know who is expected to initiate a mold inspection, when it is expected, and how to go about hiring an inspector
If you plan to sell a house, make sure that you cover your back. That is, it would be prudent to hire a mold inspector to ensure that you aren’t giving away something that can be a source of law-suits in the future. If it is found that mold colonies started at the time that the house was in your custody, you can be charged.
Landlords are sometimes subjected to frivolous legal actions by lawyers who persuade their clients into filing law-suits for due negligence regarding mold infestations. To avoid such actions, an annual inspection should be conducted and the proper documentation be implemented. That way, you would have something to show when the need arises.
Building contractors are liable for any construction defect even years after the completion of the project. In California, for example, the period can go up to as long as 10 years.
There is a lot that you need to know about molds and mold inspection. You don’t just grab a phone directory, run through the Yellow Pages and choose the one with the biggest ad space. Sometimes you need to hire one, sometimes you don’t. Knowing basic information about the subject can save you some money as it is not all the time that it is necessary to avail of their services. On the other hand, having basic knowledge can also help you determine if and when you do need to. Basic knowledge can also help you choose the true experts and avoid unscrupulous individuals. As you can see, running you fingers over the Yellow Pages just won’t do the trick.