Mold Testing Explained

Air Sample Mold Testing

A “spore trap” is the most popular method for air sample testing. The device vacuums air through its own pores and across a sticky surface. The spore trap will trap any particles or mold spores that are in the air. The spore trap can then be sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Two tests should be done when air sampling is being done. One inside and one outside. The outside test is used to identify the presence of molds in the environment. The results of the outside test will show you if the indoor air contains different types or concentrations. Mold can be found everywhere, and it is usually not an issue, as long as the types and concentrations are similar to what is in the air outside your home.

Surface Sample Mold Testing

Three methods are used to test surface samples for mold:

  1. Bulk Samples – A bulk sample is a portion of the area that has been taken and then sent to a laboratory for testing.
  2. Swab samples– An item very similar in appearance to a cotton sampler is used to rub the surface to be tested. This area can often be measured precisely. The swabs can then be sent to a laboratory for testing.
  3. Samples – In this instance, a special clear tape is applied to the surface and then taken off. The tape will stick to any mold spores. If this happens, the tape is sent to the laboratory to be tested.

These surface samples are transferred to a laboratory and then placed on a microscope slide. The slide is stained with a staining agent to absorb the mold spores. Analyzing the spores is then possible.

DIY Home Mold Test Kit Warning

You don’t want to spend your hard-earned money if you suspect you have a mold problem. Instead, go to your nearest big box store to buy a DIY mold test kit. There are many reasons not to buy a DIY mold test kit.

A mold inspection does not give you a sample. 

Many DIY testing kits can produce false positive or negative results. After you have used your kit, you should let it rest somewhere you suspect you might have a problem. Then wait for the collection time. You then package the kit and send it to a laboratory. Are there any contaminants that got into the sample? Was the sample contaminated by packaging? What about when it arrived in the mail? It’s impossible to know the outcome for certain, so you can’t really rely on them.

Consumer Reports stated that home testing kits were “Not Recommended”. They reported that some kits leak, and that there are no expiration dates. The media they are packed in can affect the accuracy or reliability of the results.

Airflow is not measured. Mold testing industry standards and guidelines refer to mold spores/cubic meter of air. DIY kits do not have the ability to measure or control the airflow across the sample.

No control sample is available. What can you do with your sample and results? Is there a big difference between a lot and a small amount of mold?

There are no accredited laboratories. Many DIY labs are not accredited. There is often no chain of custody regarding the transfer of the kit, acceptance by the lab of the kit or other critical data like the date, time and location of the lab.

What about dead moldspores? DIY kit doesn’t include non-viable moldspores. However, even if the mold is dead or non-viable, it can still have an impact on your health. The results may not show molds like Chaetomium and Stachybotys.

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