A family has been experiencing health issues and having allergy like symptoms ever since they moved into their new home.
They go to their local big box store and pick up a mold test kit for $19.95. The kit is basically just a petri dish. They follow the directions and open it and leave it out overnight and (like right out of a sci-fi movie), the petri dish starts growing a rainbow of nasty disgusting mold. Then of course the panic sets in. OMG! We have mold in our house! How long do we have to live? Call your parents we will stay with them until our house sells. But wait, we can’t sell our house if it has mold, we would have to disclose it! This explains why we got so sick this winter. Is that why the bird’s feathers fell off! What are we going to do?
No exaggeration here my friends!
These overreactions actually have happened. What I tell each and every homeowner is to just relax, take a deep breath and calm down. They don’t have to sell their home; or worse yet, move in with the in-laws. This whole petri dish thing could just be a false alarm. I then bring them back in their memories to High School and Science class.
Why? Because inside every home, there are mold spores floating in the air we all breathe.
This is normal. If there are mold spores outside as there is in pretty much every part of the world, with only a few exceptions, there will be similar spores inside, when we open the doors to come into the house, drive our car into the garage, or even open a window. It is normal for the mold in the air to start growing in the petri dish. So finding a petri dish full of mold of a rainbow of colors does not necessarily mean you have a mold problem in your home. Even homes with good Indoor Air Quality, will grow mold in these petri dishes. So do not panic, just yet.
If you send the kit to the lab and the fee for that is normally anywhere from $30-$45, (Not included in the price of the kit) what are you paying for? Well, the lab report will tell you what species of mold are growing in your petri dish. AND THAT IS PRETTY MUCH IT! Is this helpful? Maybe? If the lab report says you have Stachybotrys or even certain species of Aspergillus growing, it would be good to know as these can be potential toxigenic molds and can cause some nasty health issues. However, this is probably the only thing the lab report can help you with.
Some very important data is missing when you use home test kits, as opposed to hiring a professional to come out to take air samples in your home.
You really need to know, not just what types of mold (species) are inside and outside, but more importantly you need to know HOW MUCH of each mold is in the air you and your family are breathing. Again, we go back to the science of it all. If there is let’s say 1,000 spores/m3 outside of mold species and the inside counts are 80,000 of any one species of mold, that would be an indicator that there might be an issue, which wouldn’t be good for your health and could also be an indicator of a hidden source of mold growth.
The services you get with a mold professional is much different in that he/she will collect calibrated air samples inside your home, normally one on each floor of your home in addition to any areas of concern such as areas with prior water intrusion as well as collecting an outside (background) air sample. Remember, we need something to compare the inside results to. He/she will then send the samples to the lab. The lab report you get back will provide you with a list of each mold spore type found and specific counts as well as how they compare to the background sample. This is done for each area air samples are collected in. All of this information will assist in determining whether you have a mold problem in your home.
At RDS Environmental, our mold professionals not only perform the above testing, but we perform a complete visual inspection of your home.
We concentrate on areas where water intrusion most likely can occur, (i.e. bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, basements). We take humidity and moisture meter readings throughout the home. We also will take a surface sample of any visible mold growth we find to identify its species. In doing this it allows us to know if the surface mold is still producing spores and could potentially be causing airborne mold amplification in the home.
Our inspections include a full report of the visual observations, laboratory reports and any recommendations for remediation based on the findings; a lot more than what a single petri dish test can provide.
Yes, you will pay more than the cost of a home test kit, but you will not be throwing your money away. A home test kit can provide you very limited information (or worse unneeded panic and a possible move to your in-laws). Wouldn’t you really want to know for sure, that you are living in a safe environment?
Isn’t it worth the peace of mind? And don’t’ panic if your results come back that you have a mold problem, even really bad mold conditions can be remediated.
The truth is that a home mold test kit is not reliable since it only reveals the presence of mold in the house but fails to give you detailed information about the problem.
Great post. I have mold issues at my house.