An article on the affect of mold on health in the New York Times Topics section advised homeowners to use home-test kits to detect the presence of mold. But home-test kit results are unreliable. Here’s why:
– Mold is naturally occurring and present in almost every environment. Home mold test kits that use ‘settle plate applications’ (set the dish out for 24 – 48 hours and spores are supposed to fall into the dish) generally do not measure airborne particles accurately.
Spores vary in size, shape, and most importantly weight. Heavier mold spores will fall out of the air more quickly, and therefore are represented in greater numbers in a home-test kit dish. Since most environments contains some amount of mold, it’s difficult to determine whether the mold spores you collect are from a dangerous indoor colony or just part of the outside environment.
– Do-it-yourself mold test kits often cause people to make uninformed decisions. The levels of spores that are analyzed by the lab are not accurate and they cannot detect hidden mold, so the homeowner cannot properly assess the situation. People often do either too little or too much based on these results. Just because you have mold does not mean you will need costly remediation. When a professional takes a sample of spores, they forcefully draw air into a spore trap. Home-test kits rely on air currents in a room over a 24 – 48 hour period. Property owners need to be sure of the situation, and these home-test kits do not provide certainty.
The bottom line is if you think you may have mold, contact a professional testing service – preferably one with a Certified Microbial Investigator (as certified by the American Council for Accredited Certification). With a professional environmental testing service, you will get interpretation and analysis of the mold, allowing you to make informed choices. Your decision can make all the difference between potential health problems for you, your family, or your tenants, and a very messy and expensive cleanup – let alone a potential lawsuit. The wisest course is to have the job handled professionally, properly, and quickly.