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How to Test for Mold

How to Test for Mold

How to Test for Mold

Mold contamination is a common household problem that could potentially result in consequences for your health and your finances.

Because mold is so common, it’s easy to brush off the seriousness of a mold outbreak, but the truth is that most people underestimate the threats posed by mold growth, and they aren’t sure where to begin when it comes to mold removal.

This short guide will explain the importance of mold testing and what homeowners should watch out for if they suspect that mold is present in their homes.

What is Mold?

red brick wall covered in green mold

Household mold is a fungus that grows in dark, damp environments, which causes the biodegradation of natural materials.

This property is why molds play important roles in biotechnology and food production because they break down other organic materials to allow the transformative processes that are essential to create a wide range of foods, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and other products.

So mold isn’t all bad, as humans have been able to make use of it to make all kinds of things, but undetected, uncontrolled mold growing in your home is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Why?

Because molds reproduce quickly by producing late amounts of spores, which are both hard to detect and easy to spread. Before long, mold growth can easily get out of control, causing damage to your home and host of potential health symptoms for its occupants.

Types of Mold

Stilton cheese with blue mold

There are thousands of known types of mold species. Certain kinds of mold are rather benign, while others are downright dangerous. They have a diverse range of appearances, lifestyles, and characteristics, but they all need moisture for growth.

It should be noted that has actually given a lot to humanity over the years. Take, for example, Alexander Fleming’s accidental discovery of penicillin. Fleming might have never discovered this life-saving antibiotic were it not for the Penicillium rubens mold. Also, molds are used in cultures around the world to make foods, ranging from soy sauce to sake to sausages like salami.

The type of mold that homeowners need to watch out for is the so-called “toxic mold” that can produce mycotoxins. Molds of this kind, like Stachybotrys chartarum, are commonly referred to as “black mold,” and they are usually found in cellulose-rich building materials, like wood, drywall, ceiling panels, carpeting, wallpaper, and insulation, from water-damaged or damp buildings.

Common Causes of Mold

white brick wall with green mold and mildew

Mold can only thrive in the right conditions, the most important of which are moisture and a food source such as drywall or any organic material. This is why signs of mold tend to appear in places that are damp, often wet, or where water accumulation has occurred.

Food sources include but are not limited to drywall, baseboards, window trims, and wood studs. Common areas where mold is typically found are areas that were exposed to water from water intrusion, floods and plumbing leaks.

Health Problems Caused by Mold

drawing of petri dish with mold spores

Mold is commonly found in trace quantities in all sorts of places, but it only begins to present a health hazard when you have a situation where a large quantity of mold spores are present. In large amounts, mold spores can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems.

For people with allergies or sensitive systems, exposure to mold particles can cause coughing, itchy or watery eyes, headaches or migraines, sinus problems, nasal blockage, sneezing, and fatigue.

Depending on the type of mold, the presence of mycotoxins could also be an issue, which is a major health concern for people and pets alike. The mycotoxins produced by black mold in particular are believed to be the cause of several neurological problems. People have been making connections between toxic mold and health problems for nearly a century, and it has been linked to “sick building syndrome” in recent years.

Identifying Mold

fungal mold spores

In large quantities, mold particles can be easily identified by their earthy, musty smell. When it comes to visible mold, most people can quickly recognize it by its fuzzy texture rather than its colour because it can appear black, green, brown, white, or some mix of all these colours.

Very often, mold is hidden in places that we can’t easily see, like the cavity within a wall. While there are warning signs for this kind of mold, like stains or bubbling paint, the way to find out if you have a mold problem is to contact a company that specializes in mold detection so they can properly deploy the appropriate mold test kit and begin air quality testing.

Mold Testing

If you suspect that you have mold in your home, the first thing to do is to go about a visual inspection of the areas prone to mold growth. Small, enclosed spaces, like the area beneath sinks, or spaces with high humidity levels, like the basement, are the first places you should look. After that, check areas where condensation could accumulate, like around window frames, or anywhere that has been exposed to water damage.

Generally speaking, during a mold assessment, a visual assessment is completed to determine if mold is visually present in the area of concern. If mold concerns are visually present, mold can then be tested by either collecting a bulk sample of the contaminated material, collecting a surface tape lift sample over the mold contamination, or by collecting an air sample. All samples will be collected, labeled and shipped with a chain of custody to an accredited laboratory. A qualified mold consultant will be able to assist you with any mold testing and reporting as required.

Air testing for mold is also performed following a mold remediation project. Following completion of mold removal, the air quality inside a contained work area is measured to see if mold concentrations inside the work area are within acceptable limits.

Contact a mold professional for a mold assessment within your property, or if you require post mold remediation inspection and sampling.

Mold Remediation and Mold Removal

gray mold growing on citrus fruit

If you believe mold is present in your house, it’s important to contact a professional mold removal company. Only a specialized company will have the expertise, experience, and resources needed to bring your mold problem to a definitive end.

The first step for mould removal is to plan out what the objective is and how it is going to be achieved. Mold contaminated materials should be removed. The mold removal plan should address issues such as protecting the workers and property owners, isolating the work area, minimizing disturbance and release of mould spores, ensuring proper decontamination and clean up and proper handling and disposal of contaminated materials. Prior to starting removal activities, it is important to determine and control the water source or moisture source. All mold contaminated materials must be removed with minimal disturbance of mold spores, and the materials must be handled and disposed of while following best practices.

The level of removal is part of the pre-job planning process. There are typically 3 levels of removal; low, moderate and high risk removal activities. The risk level is based on several factors, but generally it is based on the size of the work area, the level and type of mold contamination, and the sensitivity of the site and people occupying the space.

For protecting mold removal workers, proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and protective respiratory equipment are required and used on each mold removal project.

Contact a Calgary mold removal specialist so they can test for mold throughout your home. Once the mold testing is complete, they will be able to take the necessary steps to stop the mold in its tracks and restore your home to pristine condition.

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