Is Black Mold too Difficult to Spot?

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Mold Paint Bubbles

Everyone knows mold is a bad thing. Not all molds, but the toxic ones that grow inside our homes and workplaces. Increasing awareness of the health symptoms caused by toxic molds and their propagules has made mold remediation an important part of building maintenance.

Mold detection is the first step of mold remediation. Airborne spores and conidia are the main irritants that can cause a number of symptoms of toxic mold exposure, which is why air sampling seemed to be the ideal way to detect them. However, the most sophisticated air testing devices seem to miss the mold rather than spot it!

Why air sampling is not dependable

The mold spores are extremely fine, and they tend to aggregate. Counting them in a non-viable sampler among other microscopic particles is just impractical. Viable samplers take into account only the live propagules amenable to culture. But most of the spores in indoor air samples are either dead, or they refuse to be cultured! However, that doesn’t make them any less troublesome than live spores when it comes to producing symptoms of allergic reactions such as sneezing and runny nose.

As mold spores are ubiquitous, a benchmark is needed to compare the air quality with. Constantly changing spore count in the outdoor air makes it unsuitable as a standard. Not all types of mold pose the same degree of danger. People tend to react differently to spore exposure too. It is impossible to arrive at an acceptable benchmark, taking into account both the potential of different molds to produce symptoms of mold sickness and the difference in people’s sensitivity to them.

Spotting the Spots ? A Better Strategy

Most mold growths inside the buildings are quite easy to spot. These mold amplifiers give themselves away either with the characteristic discoloration, or by the typical musty odor, or both. When telltale signs are not obvious, air sampling can play a supporting role in identifying problem areas. It is easy to collect several swabs, and test them for highly toxic ?molds such as the black molds Stachybotrys chartarum and Aspergillus niger which can cause neurological symptoms of mold toxicity like memory loss and mood disorders. Immediate remediation measures can be taken, irrespective of whether air contamination is detected or not. The presence of mold amplifiers, either big or small, is always indicative of a corresponding building problem, which requires attention. It may be an unidentified water leakage, or a weak spot in insulation. Such defects can be rectified along with the mold remediation.

Look into Potential Mold Proliferation Areas

For mold detection to be successful, potential sites should be first identified by a visual inspection. The occupants of the buildings can help identify areas that had leaks or flooding events in the past. Residents will be more familiar with specific areas that give out a musty odor during the wet season or places that cause them to sneeze or produce other mold exposure symptoms. Looking into the previous history of the building such as flooding or fire mishaps also will give clues.

Some of the high probability places to look for mold amplifiers are:

Garages with poured concrete floors

Moisture can rise up through several feet of cemented floor by capillary action and increase the humidity inside the garage.

Behind vinyl wallpaper and wall boards

Dampness trapped between the wall and the vinyl covering can cause large-scale mold growth without leaving any perceptible indication on the outside.

Inside heating and air supply ducts

Mold spores find ideal breeding conditions inside the HVAC system. Periodic checking of the ducts will give a good idea about the indoor air quality.

Concealed cold water pipes possibly dripping condensation

When these are not adequately insulated, condensation may form on them during the hot season. Constant dripping on to wall or the roof below can initiate mold growth in hard-to-locate areas.

Above roof tiles with watermarks

Any discoloration or watermarks on roof tiles is an indication of water damage in the past or the present. The area directly above such tiles should be investigated.

Attics and other bird nesting sites with guano deposits

Indoor areas visited by birds and bats may have an accumulation of their droppings. Certain dangerous fungi capable of causing severe respiratory symptoms can grow on these deposits.

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