John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Robert Weitz, owner of RTK Environmental, an environmental testing and consulting firm. Robert is a certified microbial investigator. Today, we’ll be talking about mold testing and choosing a mold specialist. Welcome, Robert.

Robert Weitz: Thank you for having me, John.

John Maher: Robert, how do you test for mold in the air?

Robert Weitz: Mold testing in the air is done with what’s called a spore trap. A spore trap is a small plastic device that has a little piece of adhesive inside, and what happens when we draw air through that spore trap, the spores in the air are impacted on to that sticky surface. So, I’m obviously putting this in layman’s terms.

A sample is then sent to an independent laboratory. We don’t do any of that analysis ourselves. And then, it’s opened and put under a microscope where literally, these spores come alive and we’re able to see what types of spores are there, and also, the concentration that’s there as well.

John Maher: Are there different approaches you use when you test for molds in a house?

Robert Weitz: There are. Testing specifically for mold in the air is done with a small plastic cassette. It’s called a spore trap. Literally, that’s what it is. We put that on top of an air pump that draws air in at a certain volume and the mold spores impact on to a small little piece of sticky stuff in there. I’m obviously putting this in layman’s terms.

And then, that sample is sent to the laboratory – always an independent laboratory from the testing company – or at least we do it that way. And then, it’s put under a microscope and we look at it, and determine whether or not there are spores there, which there almost always are, because mold is naturally occurring in the environment.

Sometimes after remediation is done, people will say, “Robert, we want you to come back and do final testing,” which is called post-remediation verification. And they say, “Well, I want to make sure there’s no mold left.”

And there can be no mold left on a surface but not in the air. Very rarely do we see a sample that will have no mold spores in it because mold is naturally occurring in the environment. That’s why we take an exterior baseline sample.

Now, long ago in the past, the most commonly used method was called a viable sample. And that’s what you see now in Home Depots and stores like that where you actually purchase a Petri dish, you put it out and you allow mold spores to settle into it. And then, that’s analyzed at the laboratory to determine when it’s there.

It’s kind of a faulted system because number 1, all it does is analyze for what are called viable spores, which are those capable of life, and it doesn’t take into account all of the remaining spores in the air that may be dead, but there’s still an issue when it comes to breathing and allergies, and asthma, and the other symptoms that people can get.

So, the spore trap really addresses all of the spores and gives us a much clearer picture of what we need to do as far as remediation.

John Maher: Okay. So what are the steps in choosing a mold specialist for mold testing?

Robert Weitz: Well, choosing a mold specialist to come in and do your testing, it’s important to have someone obviously who’s qualified. At RTK Environmental, we have certified microbial investigators.

There’s no licensing or regulations really outside of a couple of states that really dictates what’s to be done, so long-term experience is very helpful, quality education is helpful. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to work with the company that’s only been in business a short time because they very likely are not going to have enough experience.

Personally, I’ve reviewed tens of thousands of different reports that we’ve done and looked at different samples. So at our company, we really know what normal looks like and we’re able to determine whether or not something is unacceptable or whether it’s acceptable, especially again, when we compare to that outdoor sample.

So it’s important to find someone experienced, educated, knowledgeable, who’s done a lot of this in the past, and is able to cut through and say, “Okay, this is what needs to be done.” Many people will call a mold remediation company to come in and do their testing because they want to work with the same company. They think that it’s easier to do that.

It may sometimes be easy but it’s a direct conflict of interest, because that remediation company wants to create more of a problem, at least in the consumer’s mind. So that they can then charge more to do additional work that may not need to actually be done.

John Maher: Really great advice. Well, Robert Weitz, thanks very much for speaking with me.

Robert Weitz: Thank you very much for having me, John.

John Maher: And for more information, you can visit the RTK website, at rtkenvironmental.com or call 800.392.6468.

photo credit: jronaldlee via photopin cc

Water should be tested once each year for total coliform bacteria. (CDC)

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