Frequently Asked Questions

/Frequently Asked Questions

Mold and mildew are often confused. Mildew is really only found on certain kinds of plants (powdery mildew.) Everything else in this usage is mold. Some people have said “It’s only mildew, not mold.” It is mold and using mold testing technologies, usually it should be identified during a home mold inspection.

Some of the most common molds found in buildings are: Cladosporium, Aspergillus, Pennicillium, and Alternaria. All of these are considered toxic. Other toxic molds that are frequently found are Stachybotrys, Fusarium, Trichoderma, and these molds produce mycotoxins that are easily absorbed into the skin, intestinal lining, airways, and lungs. Other toxic molds include Coccidioides, Histoplasma, Blastomyces, and Memnoniella. It is important to realize that most molds have not yet been studied for toxicity, and not all species in a genus are toxic. According to Dr. Harriet Ammann senior toxicologist for the Washington State Health Department, even though not all species of mold are toxigenic, it is prudent to assume that when these organisms are found in excess indoors, that they are all treated as toxigenic.

You have about a 10 percent chance of seeing Stachybotrys in an air sample. Part of the reason is that this mold does not give off spores unless it is losing its moisture source. The possibility exists that when an air sample is taken the mold may not be throwing off spores at the time. Air testing is one of the ways to determine what you are breathing. Using advanced mold testing technology, the level of fungal contamination can be determined.

Yes, mold counts can be 100 to 1000 times higher during clean up. It is important to take steps to isolate the mold with plastic tarps and tape before you start cleaning. If it is a large area, move your belongings out of the room before starting. Always use rubber gloves and a good respirator when cleaning and never spray the mold. Put contaminated materials in a sealed plastic bag before walking through the rest of the building, and dispose of it in an outside receptacle.

Numerous molds do not pose a health risk, however some molds produce chemicals called mycotoxins that can cause flu-like symptoms or other health concerns for some individuals. Children, elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible. People with asthma or other respiratory problems will be more easily affected by fewer spores. The basic rule is: if you can smell it, or see it, take steps to eliminate it.

Condition 1 (normal fungal ecology): an indoor environment that may have settled spores, fungal fragments or traces of actual growth whose identity, location and quantity are reflective of a normal fungal ecology for a similar environment. Condition 2 (settled spores): an indoor environment which is primarily contaminated with settled spores that were dispersed directly or indirectly from a Condition 3 area and which may have traces of actual growth. Condition 3 (actual growth): an indoor environment contaminated with the presence of actual mold growth and associated spores. Actual growth includes growth that is active or dormant, visible or hidden.

HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters can remove at least 99.97 percent of airborne particles 0.3 micrometers (µm) in diameter. Particles of this size are the most difficult to filter and are thus considered the most penetrating particle size. Particles that are larger or smaller are filtered with even higher efficiency. Many vacuum cleaner manufacturers provide filter bags that can be used in their models to provide this level of filtration.

If the affected area is small; you can clean it by using a sponge that is soaked in a solution of 10 percent bleach and two tablespoons of detergent in a gallon of water or a liquid Lysol solution. The lab prefers Lysol because it kills the mold much faster and shouldn’t hurt your carpet, wallpaper or paint. Do not spray the mold as this may cause the spores to disperse. Saturate a rag or sponge and make sure the treated area gets completely wet with the cleaner, as some contact time is needed to kill the mold. A good source for information on the health effects associated with different molds is the University of Minnesota’s fungal glossary. You can find it by going to Digital Diagnostic Systems link page on the web and clicking on U of M link. It will assist you in your health related questions on molds. For fungal glossary the Digital Diagnostic Systems web site address is:

The only way to find out if mold is growing inside a wall is to take an air sample from the interior of the wall or remove the sheetrock and inspect inside where you can take a sample from the exposed interior of the mold site. Mold doubles in population every 8 to 16 hours if the conditions are right. The right conditions require moisture and cellulose, which are food for mold. You may notice mold growing on aluminum, or some other surface, that you feel does not have cellulose or moisture. This can be due to the fact that household dust can have enough cellulose and condensation on windows can have enough moisture to provide the right conditions to support mold growth.

There are no established standards by State, or Federal governments, for what are considered a normal number of spores inside a room. All rooms have mold in them and the lab sees numbers as low as 20 spores per cubic meter of air to 50,000 spores per cubic meter of air. The lab receives air samples from all over the United States, and the numbers vary considerably in different climates. The more humidity that is in the air results in higher average numbers. The real question is, are there more spores inside the room than outside the building? If that is the case then it is a good indicator that mold is growing in your building. Nationally certified indoor environmental specialists of American Mld Inspection will work with you and describe what they have discovered during the mold inspection and make recommendations for correcting any problems found.

These are relative numbers of concentration of mold spores determined by mold testing. If the answer 1+ appears it means the laboratory counted between 1 and 50 spores of the organism identified. If 2+ is reported it means between 50 and 150 spores were seen. If 3+ is reported it means 150 to 600 spores were seen. If 4+ is reported it means there were too many spores to count. Please keep in mind the swab was probably rubbed over a one square inch area and represents only that specific amount of area. If a whole wall is covered with the mold, obviously, greater spore counts are present in the room than what was reported.

Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions ) and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Touching mold or inhaling mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds healt effects can also include asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Research on mold and health effects are ongoing in medical schools, laboratories and research centers all over the world. For more information consult a health professional. You may also wish to consult your local health department.

If the area is small, you can try to clean it yourself using methods described below. If the area is larger and/or there are persons in the home displaying symptoms, have the home inspected by an Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP.) Try to avoid companies that conduct mold inspections and also do the repair work. This can often lead to a serious conflict of interest resulting in cost increases and potentially unnecessary work. Inspection of your home and related testing should be conducted by an American Indoor Air Quality Council, Certified Indoor Environmentalist (CIE) of a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH.) These nationally recognized indoor environmental specialists have qualified for certifications that require extensive experience in building construction and expertise in conditions relating to the indoor environment and indoor air quality.


CONCLUSION: Numerous molds do not pose a health risk however, some molds produce chemicals called mycotoxins that can cause flu-like symptoms or other more severe health concerns. Health risk, or hazard, may be present at the sample collection site. Clean up of mold contamination is required regardless of mold type and must include the elimination of moisture. An abatement specialist should be contacted for toxic mold cleanup and/or a doctor/allergist for health symptoms.