A Professional Mold Assessment
To begin we should define a mold assessment and remind consumers that “All molds are created equal. It is not necessary to determine what type of mold you may have. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.” This is according to Center for Disease Control, CDC. Consumers should be aware that anyone using the terms “Black Mold” or “Toxic Mold” are preying on their fears.
The purpose of a mold assessment is to clearly establish the
- Cause & origin,
- Location, and
- Extent of mold growth
A mold assessment is not the identification of the type of mold by sampling.
A mold inspector doesn’t simply look for visible signs of a mold problem, but instead looks for signs of the possible cause of the mold problem. There can be many cases with no visible evidence. However, a professional mold assessor will know what and where to look. A professional mold assessor will look for water damage, pathways for water movement, and the sources of moisture that are essential for the growth of mold. Moisture and mold go hand in hand; without moisture there can be no mold growth.
If mold is identified in the clients home the mold inspection report should identify the cause of the moisture supporting the mold growth so that the cause can be corrected and the mold once remediated will not return. The next step is to identify the extent of the mold damage. This involves the use of a site plan as described by the ASTM D-7338 Standard Guide for Assessment of Fungal Growth in Buildings. The report will be used by the remediation contractor as a scope of work or remediation protocol.
A Mold Remediation Protocol outlines the needed actions for any necessary mold remediation. Each plan is individually prepared based on the mold assessment of the property and the size and area of the mold contamination. A properly prepared Mold Remediation Protocol should be written according to the ANSI Approved IICRC S-520 standard and reference guide for the remediation of mold damaged structures and contents.
When incomplete or poorly written, the mold remediation protocol can increase the cost of the mold remediation for the property owner as well as create possible liability for the remediation contractor.
Red Flag #1
Mold inspections by the mold remediator
The first “RED FLAG” when hiring a mold inspector is the “Free” mold inspection from the mold remediator. Nothing is Free. These free mold inspections are generally from mold remediators wanting to provide you with expensive mold remediation. This is a huge conflict of interest and should be avoided at all cost. These inspections typically include little more than the collection of mold samples to confirm the presence of mold and often to use the type of mold to scare the client into believing their mold issue is far more severe than they ever thought. These guys will make a mold mountain out of a mold hill.
To protect the citizens of Florida from these scams, Florida Governor Crist signed Mold legislation (SB2234) into law. The new law regulates the Mold Inspection and Mold Remediation Industry. The statute became effective July 1, 2010. Under that statute it clearly states that the assessor cannot provide the remediation.
Florida Statutes and Rules Chapter 468, Part XVI, Florida Statutes
468.8419 Prohibitions; penalties.—
A person may not: Perform or offer to perform any mold remediation to a structure on which the mold assessor or the mold assessor’s company provided a mold assessment within the last 12 months.
Perform or offer to perform any mold assessment to a structure on which the mold remediator or the mold remediator’s company provided a mold remediation within the last 12 months.
Accept any compensation, inducement, or reward from a mold assessor or mold assessor’s company for the referral of any business from the mold assessor or the mold assessor’s company.
Offer any compensation, inducement, or reward to a mold assessor or mold assessor’s company for the referral of any business from the mold assessor or the mold assessor’s company.
One would think that the statute would prevent the continued mold assessments by mold remediators. Unfortunately, this remains the mold industry's #1 conflict of interest.
Red Flag #2
The sample only mold inspection.
Unfortunately, many believe that a mold assessment is simply testing for mold. Many simply collect a few samples for mold and provide the client with a laboratory report. These mold samplers provide no relevant or necessary information that would inform the client of the cause and origin of the water supporting the mold or the extent of the mold impacted building material. Sampling definitely does not provide a scope of work or mold remediation protocol.
The government position on mold sampling
The Center for Disease Control, CDC. - There are no accepted standards for mold sampling in indoor environments or for analyzing and interpreting the data in terms of human health. Molds are ubiquitous in the environment, and can be found almost anywhere samples are taken. It is not known, however, what quantity of mold is acceptable in indoor environments with respect to health. CDC does not recommend routine sampling for molds. Generally, it is not necessary to identify the species of mold growing in a building. Measurements of mold in air are not reliable or representative. If mold is seen or smelled, there is a potential health risk; therefore, no matter what type of mold is present, you should arrange for its removal.
The Center for Disease Control, CDC's current position is that air sampling for mold is nothing more than a snap shot and that such a snap shot is not reliable, representative or worth the cost. The CDC states very clearly that “Any claim based solely on air sampling results is inherently suspect.” The CDC goes on to state that “There is no reason to respond to questionable testing by conducting more of it. I believe that is a very clear position from a reputable source.
“The term "toxic mold" is not accurate. While certain molds are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins (specifically mycotoxins), the molds themselves are not toxic, or poisonous. Hazards presented by molds that may produce mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds which can grow in your house. There is always a little mold everywhere - in the air and on many surfaces.”
US Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, - If you know you have a mold problem, it is more important to spend time and resources solving the moisture problem and getting rid of the mold than to spend it on sampling. If visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building's compliance with federal mold standards.
The Florida Department of Health, - The Florida Department of Health does not recommend mold testing or sampling to see if you have a mold problem, or to see what kind of mold might be growing.
So, should you inspect for mold by just sampling for mold?
No, never for the purpose of mold investigation. Why? There are too many variables impacting the results and the sample size is too small for air testing for mold to be reliable. The type of mold will not change the necessary mold remediation. The genus of mold is just not relevant or necessary unless you are trying to frighten a client into believing that they have “Toxic” mold.
The industry Standard for Mold Assessment
The industry has a standard for the assessment of mold. The ASTM D7338 Standard Guide for Assessment of Fungal Growth in Buildings. The standard was developed to provide a go-to reference for anyone inspecting for mold in buildings. The standard was developed by Subcommittee D22.08, part of ASTM International Committee D22 on Air Quality.
“The lack of consensus standards in the fungal sampling and analysis practice was the driving force behind establishing D22.08,” says its chairman, Lisa Rogers. “All of our efforts are focused on bringing consistency, reliability and accuracy to the practice.”
The ASTM D-7338 states that the assessor provide the Identification of Current Water Damage and Suspect Fungal Growth. All surfaces within the inspection boundary should be systematically evaluated for indicators of moisture damage and fungal growth. If the source is not apparent, intrusive investigation may be required. The ASTM D-7338 states that the assessor provide the Classification of Inspection Observations. Classify each distinct area or area of interest within the inspection boundary as one of the following categories:
- No apparent fungal growth and no apparent water damage;
- Water damage having no visually suspect or confirmed fungal growth,
- Visually suspect or confirmed fungal growth having no apparent water damage, &
- Water damage having visually suspect or confirmed fungal growth.
A site/floor plan should be prepared showing each inspection classification, as determined in 7.5.6.
The plan should be sufficiently detailed to allow each area of interest to the assessment to be unambiguously located.
Documentation of Suspect Fungal Growth—Wherever suspect or confirmed fungal growth is identified during the inspection, documentation should include:
- Extent (for example, approximate square footage of suspect growth),
- Severity (for example, relative darkness or continuity of stain), growth pattern (for example, light versus heavy growth and spotty versus continuous growth), and
- Clues to apparent cause (for example, exterior wall, condensation near a HVAC vent, associated with water staining).
Documentation of Moisture Damage—In addition to documenting the location of moisture damage, as above, further documentation should include:
- Apparent sources of leaks and other moisture sources, and
- Apparent timing and duration (for example, whether the moisture has been resolved, active (currently wet) or the moisture source is likely to reoccur
What should the client receive at the end of their mold inspection.
Mold Inspection Report and Mold Remediation Protocol if necessary
The written report should be written in accordance with the ASTM D-7338 and signed by the licensed mold assessor that performed the assessment. The Remediation Protocol should be very specific to the client’s loss. The protocol should outline the specific material and cleaning process for the mold remediator. The area of loss should never be ambiguous or left to the remediator to define. Each plan should be individually prepared based on the mold assessment of the property and the size and area of the mold contamination. The protocol should include a floor plan clearly identifying the area of loss, the extent of the damage, the mold impacted building material to be removed, and the necessary containment strategy to separate the impacted areas from the unimpacted areas.
Questions you should ask your mold assessor before you hire them.
- Are you licensed by the State of Florida?
- Do you perform mold remediation?
- Will you be conducting a visual inspection or just mold testing?
- Will I be getting a written report from you or the laboratory?
- How do you interpret the laboratory results?
- Will you be performing the mold assessment in accordance with the ASTM D-7338 Standard Guide for Assessment of Fungal Growth in Buildings?
- Are you familiar with the IICRC S-520?
- What qualifications do you have to perform mold inspection?
- What certifications do you have?
- Do you have references from clients within the past year that I can call to ask how the inspection went?