Explained: Mold Testing

Air Sample Mold Testing

A “sporetrap”, a device that collects air samples, is the most commonly used method. The device vacuums an amount of air through it and across a sticky substrate. Any particles or moldspores found in the air will be “trapped” on the sticky surface within the sporetrap. The sporetrap can then be sent to an analysis laboratory.

At least two tests must be performed when air samples are taken. One should be conducted inside your home, and one outdoors. The outside test is to find out if there are any molds present in the environment. The two results can be compared to determine if there are different types and concentrations in the home’s air. Mold is everywhere and isn’t usually a problem if the types and levels are comparable to those found outside.

Surface Sample Mold Testing

There are three methods that surface mold testing can be done:

  1. Bulk sample: A portion of the sampled area can be physically removed and sent to an testing laboratory.
  2. Swab sample is an item that looks very much like a cotton swab. The surface to be sampled is rubbed. The area measured is usually very precise. These swabs then go to a laboratory to be tested.
  3. Tape samples: In this instance, a clear tape is placed on the surface to be removed. You can be sure that any mold spores will not stick to the tape. The tape is then sent off to the laboratory for analysis.

The surface samples are taken to a laboratory where they are processed and transferred onto a microscope slide. A staining solution is applied to the slide so that mold spores can absorb it. The spores are then analysed.

Warning! DIY Home Mold Test Kit

If you believe that you have a mold issue and don’t want your hard-earned dollars wasted, you can go to your local big-box store and purchase a DIY mold testing kit. There are several reasons not to purchase a DIY mold-testing kit.

A mold test is not a mold sample. Some DIY testing kits can provide false positive or false negative results. Your kit is used. You leave it where you suspect there may be a problem. After that, wait for the collection to occur. After you have finished, wrap it up and send it to the lab. Is there any contamination that may have made it into your sample? What about when the sample was packaged? Was it in the mail? You can’t be sure so you can’t trust the results.

Consumer Reports says that home-test kits are “Not Recommended”. They say that some kits can leak and that they don’t have expiration dates. The accuracy and reliability of your results could be affected by the media in which they were packaged.

It is impossible to measure airflow. Guidelines and standards in the mold testing field refer to moldspores per cubic meter. DIY test kits are not capable of measuring or controlling how much air is crossing the sample.

You don’t have a control sample. Now, how do you compare the results with your own sample? What is the difference between a lot of mold and a tiny amount?

Not accredited laboratory certifications. Most DIY-labs aren’t endorsed by an accredited agency. Many DIY laboratories do not have a chain of custody. This includes the transfer of the item, acceptance by the laboratory of it, and critical data like the date, analysis time, and lab location.

What do you do with dead mold spores, DIY Kits don’t take into account non-viable mold. Even though they are not viable, dead mold spores could still be harmful to your health. It is possible that molds such Stachybotys and Chaetomium may not be detected in the test results.

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