Mold: Common Questions & Answers
There is a lot of information out there about mold. Unfortunately, much of it is incorrect and could end up costing homeowners a lot of money and compromising their health. RTK Environmental has created a list of common misconceptions and questions. Take this quiz and see whether you’ve been getting good advice or not on these frequently asked mold questions.
Question: Is all black mold toxic?
Answer: No, but it is still a health hazard. Mold of any color can be classified as either a “toxin” or an “allergen.” While toxic mold can create the most serious health problems, all types of mold and mildew can cause health issues, especially among those who suffer from allergies and asthma. Mold is a leading cause of airborne allergies.
Question: What are the symptoms of toxic mold exposure?
Answer: Symptoms vary and depend largely on how sensitive your body is to mold exposure. The most common symptoms include cold and flu-like symptoms like chronic cough, shortness of breath, sinus congestion, chronic fatigue, and weakness. But studies show that toxic mold exposure can also cause difficulty concentrating, a tingling or numbing sensation on skin, headaches and light sensitivity, joint pain and stiffness, poor memory or difficulty finding words, fibromyalgia, and multiple chemical sensitivity, which causes varying symptoms due to low-level exposures to commonly used chemicals. It’s a long list, for sure.
Question: Can you take care of a mold problem by yourself rather than hiring a professional?
Answer: It depends. There’s only one way to fully understand the extent of your mold problem and that is to have a professional, independent mold inspector conduct a test. Why? Mold spores are lightweight and tiny and spread easily, so it’s very easy for someone not accustomed to working with mold to cross-contaminate “clean” areas of their home. You can probably clean a small patch by yourself. The EPA provides more information on this subject.
Question: Once mold is remediated, will it come back?
Answer: It could, especially if a water-damaged site was remediated too quickly and was not allowed to dry thoroughly. In such cases, moisture was trapped inside when the person conducting the remediation sealed up the walls. Sometimes remediation companies are too eager to get back their equipment and fans so they can move on to the next job. Mold thrives in damp, warm, dark areas. To fully dry an area, it usually takes on average between one and three days or more. That’s why a best practice is to conduct post-remediation mold clearance testing to ensure the area was remediated properly.
Question: Do I only need to test before I renovate and remediate a mold issue and not after?
Answer: Wrong! Of course you should test before a remediation to pinpoint exactly where the mold is and have a blueprint for removal. But, testing after the remediation and renovation is just as important. By testing after the job is done, you can be assured that remediation was done properly to avoid future problems. Your health depends on it!
Question: Is it cheaper to hire a company that does both remediation and testing?
Answer: It’s a bad idea that can cost you thousands more! Homeowners should hire two separate companies for testing and remediation, according to an article in Angie’s List which states: “Hire one company to do the testing and another to remediate to eliminate any conflict of interest.” Unfortunately, companies that do both may offer cheap or free mold testing and then make up the difference through remediation services. Companies that both perform testing and remediation are known to exaggerate—or even fabricate—a mold problem to profit on a costly remediation job. These companies are banking on homeowners who are not educated. This problem became so widespread that in New York State, a consumer protection law now makes it illegal for the same company to test and remediate the same mold job. Laws vary by state, so be sure to check out your local laws.
Question: Do mold companies and inspectors need to be certified?
Answer: This varies by state. Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee and Texas are the only states that require state licensure. To be safe, be sure that your environmental testing company holds the Certified Microbial Investigator (CMI) accreditation from the American Council for Accredited Certification. Choose carefully. To find out if the individual or company you want to hire is certified, search for them on the ACAC site.
Question: How can I be exposed to mold?
Answer: There are several ways. Skin contact is the first way. People who are highly allergic to mold may develop a rash where the mold has made contact with the skin.
Another way is by inhaling mold spores. Finally, you may ingest food that contains mold. Avoid foods like mushrooms, cheese, dried fruit, and fermented products if you have a mold allergy.
Question: What should I expect during a mold inspection?
Answer: Relax—a mold inspection is a fairly easy process. Reputable mold testing companies often provide specific instructions to prepare you for the inspection. You may need to close all outside doors and windows, and leave internal ones open. During the mold inspection, you’ll discuss with your inspector your concerns, symptoms, and discuss anything that may be pertinent for the inspector to know. A thorough investigation and visual assessment of the area will follow. Next, the inspector will take air and tape lift surface samples, which will be sent to an independent lab for analysis. Once the results are in, you should get a thorough, clear report with the findings and recommendations for remediation.