Mold spores can be very dangerous to your health. As such, it is important to undertake mold testing in your premises on a regular basis. Tests to determine the presence of mold cannot be done just by anyone without the right equipment and sufficient know-how. Here, we discuss some principles related to mold testing, some proprietary mold test kits, and a glance of the latest gadgets used in this rapidly re-emerging industry.
Air and Surface Sampling
There are two main types of mold tests: air and surface. Each one is essential but ends up producing inconclusive results when used separately. An ideal mold testing operation should require tests on both the surface and the air in the region where mold is found.
Since air sampling only allows you to measure the spore content on the air, it would not give you an accurate picture as to the extent of mold growth. For example, what if you had taken the sample at a time when the spores haven’t yet substantially been released to the air? This would not in any way give you a clear picture with regards to the extent of mold colonization on the surface.
In the same way, since surface sampling only allows you to measure mold content on the surface, it would not give you a good picture as to the extent of spores released in the air.
Therefore, if the main purpose of conducting mold tests is something as important as to aid you in future legal issues then it would be best to have an accurate and conclusive picture of the actual situation. For this reason, both air and surface methods have to be performed.
Below are some of the more commonly used proprietary mold tests.
MOLD Trace™ Mold Test
This mold test makes use of the MOLD Trace Test kit, and is intended as an initial test for potential mold growth on interior finishes such as drywall. This test can be performed when you notice discoloration on a surface where you suspect the presence of mold. In most cases, testing on what is visibly a clean surface will generate negative results.
This test kit is easy to use and allows you to obtain results in 10 minutes. These results are based on a colorimetric biomechanical reaction. While this principle enables you to get results quickly it also has its disadvantages. When allowed to react with some organic substances such as untreated wood, excessive house dust, food and the like, it can give off a false positive result. It is also quite limited in that it cannot allow you to distinguish between different types of molds.
MoldScan™ Mold Test
The MoldScan Mold Test kit is one of the most preferred test kits by Certified Industrial Hygienists and Certified Mold Inspectors. One major reason is its ability to identify over 20 types of molds, not to mention that it can also detect hidden mold. It is so reliable that the data you can obtain from the results is considered as legally defensible.
One kit contains a Bio-Pump, a tripod to set the Bio-Pump on, and Air-O-Cell cassettes. Air-O-Cell is a kind of sampling cassette that collects airborne aerosols such as mold, spores, pollen, insects, etc. The moment the start button on the Bio-Pump is pressed, it would take this device only a maximum of 10 minutes to gather data. After samples have been collected, these are then sent to a qualified laboratory for analysis.
PRO-LAB® Professional Mold Test Kit
This kit allows you to perform either surface or air sampling. Both sampling methods require you to implement a common procedure in preparing a Petri dish setup. Note however that although the same preparation procedure is done, each method would require a separate setup. That is to say, you would need one Petri dish for surface sampling another for air sampling.
For the surface sampling method, mold samples are wiped off the infested area and unto the dish. On the other hand, the air sampling method would require you to simply hold the dish across the path of air flow. This is presumed that the flow originates from an air vent.
Once the samples are collected, they are sent to a certified laboratory for analysis.
Tox-Check™ Surface Mold Testing
These test kits use mold testing films, as opposed to Petri dishes and poured liquids of other proprietary test kits, on which a mold sample is wiped on. For this kit, a sample is wiped off the infested surface using a clean swab. The swab is then wiped on a covered film. When done, an activating liquid is squeezed on another film located at the bottom side of the first. After 3-7 days, mold will start to grow. Special attention is given to those that turn brown on the films as they indicate the presence of deadly black “toxic” mold.
If you would like to determine the specific mold types found in the sample, you may send them to a laboratory
Inexpensive Test Kit: Clear Scotch Tape and Plastic Bag
Not all test kits are products of mold inspection companies. Since most of the reliable test kits include the final step of sending the collected samples to qualified laboratories, there should be an inexpensive way to simply collect samples. There is, and the only essential components are a clear scotch tape and two plastic bags, one small the other one large enough for the first bag to fit in.
The recommended specification is a 3/4 inch-wide clear scotch tape. Frosted, invisible tapes should not be used for this task. For the bag, any stiff freezer bag will do.
One strip of tape should be used for every sample. Since there will typically be various mold species in an infested area, and since numerous areas would likely be affected, you will have to collect numerous samples. Make sure that you get samples for the dominant species present although you should also take samples of the other species as well.
To prepare, fold the tape on itself such that you have a section that is non-sticky and a section that is. Never touch the sticky section which is where the molds samples should be collected.
To collect samples, push the sticky section into the mold colony. Do so firmly enough to collect a substantial amount and gently enough so as not to squash the molds. As soon as each sample is collected, stick the tape to the outer side of the smaller bag, place inside the larger bag and send to a laboratory.
Gadgets of the Modern Mold Inspector
With the advent of new technological advancements, some have of these have found their way into the mold inspection industry as handheld gadgets used for mold detection. Here are some of the more popular mold test kits.
Infrared Thermal Imaging Cameras – This is easily the most expensive handheld device that is included in this list, wherein a typical unit can be priced at around $7,000. For this reason, this is one gadget that you can’t expect the average inspector to have. It makes use of the principle of thermal radiation. Different temperatures exhibit different wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. These wavelengths are captured by the device and graphically interpreted as a multi-colored image on a screen, which is aptly called a thermal image.
In other words, a cool spot would be represented by one color while a slightly cooler spot would be represented by another. In this manner, areas in your house that have high concentrations of moisture would be distinct from areas that have lower concentrations. Normally, high moisture concentrations correspond to a high probability of mold infestation. Since this is a non-intrusive device, i.e., you don’t have to peel off walls to determine the moisture levels there, it can speed up the job of the mold inspector.
Moisture meters – This plays the same role as infrared thermal imaging cameras in that it is used to determine moisture levels. Again, high moisture levels can, although inconclusively, mean that a mold colony has formed in that area. Unlike thermal imaging cameras that can be used at a distance from the area that is to be scanned moisture meters require the user to be closer to the area in question. Some are even designed to be intrusive. Intrusive meters require the user to punch holes into the walls in order that accurate readings can be made.
Airborne Laser Particle Counters – These devices can detect particles that are within a pre-set range of sizes. Some handheld counters can even detect six (6) particle size groupings at the same time. Since the size range, usually expressed in microns, can be adjusted, this device can be used to detect other minute particles as well. Some of these particles are: pollen, bacteria, cat allergens, viruses, settling dust, cement dust, fly ash, smog, tobacco smoke, soot, and many more. These devices are not aimed to detect the presence of molds directly. Rather, they determine the presence of mold spores which easily go airborne. Once they are detected in huge amounts, the actual mold colony can be assumed to be close by.
Having read the salient points in the field of mold testing, we hope you can make the right decision when the time comes for you to avail of mold testing services.