This information was prepared by MDH to explain why mold testing is not recommended as the first step in addressing indoor air quality concerns. Many of the questions people ask about mold testing are not answered by mold testing. MDH is often called upon to investigate mold problems and any damage they can cause. This can be done by the owner, occupant, or professional.
Limitations to Mold Testing
There are many methods to detect mold. These methods can detect mold particles in the air, in settled dust, and on surfaces of furniture and building materials. While some methods are able to identify a small percentage of viable (life) molds within a sampled environment they may not be able to detect those that aren’t live or can’t grow on the nutrients provided. While other methods can be used to identify the types of molds present in a sample, they are not as good at determining the exact number. Even the best tests can only provide a partial estimate of the actual amount of molds found in a sample.
The test results only provide a snapshot of the situation at a specific time and place. It is not able to represent other times and locations. Mold levels and types are constantly changing so the accuracy of the results is limited. Airborne molds are particularly susceptible to this variability, which can cause significant changes in the time span of a few hours. You should also exercise caution when interpreting surface testing results. Mold growth and deposition can vary over an area and may increase or decrease with time. The results may not reflect typical conditions if there aren’t many samples taken over a time period and the investigator was mindful of the building operations and activities. However, it is possible for tests that reflect typical conditions to miss problems that are rare.
However, mold testing can be useful in certain situations. For example, it may help to justify remediation costs or prove that cleanup was completed as expected. Sometimes, mold tests may provide clues that can help locate hidden mold. However, it is still necessary to find the growth and remove it. Expert investigators will evaluate the need for testing and, if ethical, advise against it. Although testing can be helpful in an investigation, it should not replace a thorough visual inspection.
Mold testing can be expensive. It is important for consumers to recognize that money spent on mold testing should not be wasted if it isn’t necessary or done poorly. Consumers have the right to protect their interests when hiring someone to test for mold. MDH recommends that people try to solve potential mold problems by themselves first. Two main goals in any mold investigation are to 1) locate the areas of mold growth and 2) identify the source of moisture. These questions can be answered using simpler, more cost-effective methods (see Finding a Mold Problem below and the Mold in Homes factsheet), but mold testing is not a smart use of resources.
What Testing can’t do
The most commonly used methods of testing are limited in their ability to detect and measure. Skilled investigators know these limitations and won’t trust testing when it isn’t appropriate. Many people have unrealistic expectations about what mold testing can accomplish. This can lead to them being taken advantage of by testing that is not done properly or for the wrong reasons. Here are some reasons that mold testing is not feasible.
In all indoor environments, a complex mix of mold particles is common. It is possible to find molds if the appropriate testing is performed. However, there is a crucial distinction between mold growth and accumulation indoors and the normal presence of mold particles. Even when testing is performed correctly, it might not be able to distinguish between “normal” or “problem” conditions. It may even produce misleading results.
Mold can grow indoors and pose a health risk. It is obvious that mold growth can be seen or odors of mold can be detected. This is an indication that something is wrong and should be addressed immediately.
“To determine what type of mold is present”
A portion of the live mold can be identified by testing. This is done by growing the sample in the laboratory. The analysis will not show all the molds present in the sample. Also, the analysis won’t reveal any that weren’t there at the time or location of the sample. Nonliving molds won’t be identified, but they can still cause serious health problems.
Knowing the types of molds is not important from a health-protective standpoint. Indoor mold growth can be dangerous. The problem must be addressed regardless of which types of molds can be identified.
To determine if the mold is toxic
Mycotoxins can be produced by many molds, but not all. Molds that have been shown to be capable of producing mycotoxins are called toxic. Mycotoxins can cause damage to living tissue if sufficient of them enter the body. However, science is still not sure how many of the mycotoxins are required to cause harm, particularly if they are inhaled. It is safest to assume that mold inspection in west palm beach could produce mycotoxins and other harmful substances under certain circumstances. They should be eliminated.
Mycotoxins are not tested for when testing for mold is done. Toxigenic molds can produce mycotoxins or not depending on the environment. However, they do not necessarily mean that other mycotoxins are present or that people will be affected by them. Also, failure to find molds that have been identified as potentially producing mycotoxins does not necessarily mean they are absent. MDH recommends that indoor mold growth be removed safely, regardless of whether any toxigenic species were found.
“To determine the cause of your health problems”
It can be difficult to determine if and how the mold affects the occupants. One reason is that the entire range of health effects caused primarily by molds is not well understood. The extent to which health effects occur will depend on the individual’s tolerance to these substances, how much mold is present in their bodies, as well as the potency and amount of the various chemicals that are contained in the mold mixture. Unfortunately, mold testing alone cannot determine if a particular problem environment is the cause of a person’s complaints.
It is difficult to determine if mold contamination is the cause of a person’s health problems. Other contaminants that are common in damp and water-damaged environments can also contribute to or cause complaints. If other causes are not addressed, it can be dangerous to focus too much on mold. However, if there is a correlation between mold-related complaints and mold-related evidence, it is a sign that mold needs to be removed.
People misinterpret negative or ambiguous results in mold testing. This is one of the greatest problems with this process. This is a serious mistake that can lead to the conclusion that there is no mold problem simply because it was not found. Mold testing is a simple process. It is impossible I should not be used to prove that there is no problem.
Reasons for not testing #5: “To determine if there is safety in the environment”
It is not known at this time if a certain level of mold is safe or if enough is needed to cause health problems. Mold testing cannot determine the amount of mold in an environment. These tests can miss signs of potential problems, and maybe misleading or misused. MDH suggests that you assume that any visible mold growth could cause illness. It is best to eliminate this threat as soon and safely as possible. MDH suggests that an area can be considered safe if it has been cleared of all visible mold growth, and the surrounding areas are thoroughly cleaned and free from mold odors.
“To determine how to fix a mold problem.”
It does not matter what type of mold you have, it just matters how to address the problem. Mold problems must be treated in the same way. Safety precautions should be taken based on the severity of the problem and the likelihood that the mold will be disturbed during removal. All visible mold growth should be taken care of and removed as soon as possible. It is crucial to fix the moisture problem in all cases.
“To make one party respond to the issue”
In most cases, there is no legal obligation to address a mold problem. This fact is not changed by collecting mold test results. Common sense is in favor of indoor mold remediation. However, it is rare that a law or rule requires property owners to do this.
The homeowners decide how to respond to mold-related problems. Owner-occupied townhouses and condominiums are included in this decision. However, issues such as preventive maintenance and liability can be more complicated when associations are involved. Depending on their policy details and other factors, the insurance company may cover these costs. Mold and related health issues in occupational settings are the sole responsibility of the employer or property manager. The terms of a lease agreement might not cover mold or air quality complaints in leased space.
Tenants in rental housing should immediately notify the manager or property owner if there is evidence of mold or moisture. Tenants who are concerned about mold in their rental properties can also contact the local housing department. How local authorities deal with mold complaints in rental properties will depend on whether or not there are any ordinances or codes that apply to the situation and what authority they have.
How to Find a Mold Problem
MDHIt does not hold testing is recommended in many cases, particularly when it comes to indoor air quality concerns. To find the problem areas that need to be corrected, a thorough visual inspection and recognition moldy odors is a better option. You should concentrate your efforts on areas that have signs of moisture (humidity), or liquid moisture (water vapor). Indoor mold growth should be identified to find the best way to remove it safely and effectively.