The Mold Myth

Why I Don’t Test For Mold

Both the Center of Disease Control (CDC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have stated repeatedly that sampling for mold in the course of a home purchase transaction is pointless. Why? Because mold is in the air we breathe every moment, and taking air samples will only tell what we already know – that there is mold in the air.

As there are no established standards for the analysis of testing results, and therefore no value in completing testing, I believe that providing mold testing services, and charging for these services is not ethical.

Home inspectors that are providing this service are taking advantage of a home buyer that has been frightened by the inaccurate and sensationalized stories that the media has released about “toxic mold”. There is no such thing!

If I see or smell what appears to be mold during a home inspection, I will point this out as a potential health risk, and suggest that it be removed, and that the conditions that supported its growth (moisture) be corrected.  I don’t charge for this – this is all most home buyer’s need to know, and this information is free and valid. If you do want
more information on the the mold, I would recommend that you consult with an Industrial Hygienist for actual meaningful scientific analysis of the mold.

As one home inspector recently posted on a home inspector’s forum:

“Mold is bullshit. Mold Inspectors are bullshitters. Not liars, but bullshitters.”

“It’s a more insidious threat to truth than lying is. Because the liar, after all, recognizes the difference between true and false. And, he’s concerned about that difference. The bullshitter is just not interested in that. That’s not his program. He’s interested in selling his product . . .” Harry G. Frankfurt, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Princeton
University in his book “On Bullshit

This is directly from the CDC website:

I found mold growing in my home; how do I test the mold?

Generally, it is not necessary to identify the species of mold growing in a residence, and CDC does not recommend routine sampling for molds. Current evidence indicates that allergies are the type of diseases most often associated with molds. Since the reaction of individuals can vary greatly either because of the person’s susceptibility or
type and amount of mold present, sampling and culturing are not reliable in determining your health risk. If you are susceptible to mold and mold is seen or smelled, there is a potential health risk; therefore, no matter what type of mold is present, you should arrange for its removal. Furthermore, reliable sampling for mold can be expensive, and standards for judging what is and what is not an acceptable or tolerable quantity of mold have not been established.

Best online information I have discovered on this topic

My personal opinion is that mold gets a bad rap from the media…without mold we wouldn’t have beer, wine, cheese, and bread (and of course penicillin and other medicines)….what kind of world would that be?

Additional General Information on Mold

Molds produce tiny spores to reproduce. Mold spores waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods. When excessive moisture or water accumulates indoors, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or un-addressed. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.

The following is an excerpt from a brochure prepared by the American Lung Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission –

Moisture Control Is Key To Mold Control

Water in your home can come from many sources. Water can enter your home by leaking or by seeping through basement floors. Showers or even cooking can add moisture to the air in your home. The amount of moisture that the air in your home can hold depends on the temperature of the air. As the temperature goes down, the air is able to hold less moisture. This is why, in cold weather, moisture condenses on cold surfaces (for example, drops of water form on the inside of a window). This moisture can encourage biological pollutants to grow.

There are many ways to control moisture in your home:

  • Fix leaks and seepage. If water is entering the house from the outside, your options range from simple landscaping to extensive excavation and waterproofing. (The ground should slope away from the house.) Water in the basement can result from the lack of gutters or a water flow toward the house. Water leaks in pipes or around tubs and sinks can provide a place for biological pollutants to grow.
  • Put a plastic cover over dirt in crawlspaces to prevent moisture from coming in from the ground. Be sure crawlspaces are well-ventilated.
  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to remove moisture to the outside (not into the attic). Vent your clothes dryer to the outside.
  • Turn off certain appliances (such as humidifiers or kerosene heaters) if you notice moisture on windows and other surfaces.
  • Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners, especially in hot, humid  climates, to reduce moisture in the air, but be sure that the appliances themselves don’t become sources of biological pollutants.
  • Raise the temperature of cold surfaces where moisture condenses. Use insulation or storm windows. (A storm window installed on the inside works better than one installed on the outside.) Open doors between rooms (especially doors to closets which may be colder than the rooms) to increase circulation. Circulation carries heat to the cold surfaces. Increase air circulation by using fans and by moving furniture from wall corners to promote air and heat circulation. Be sure that your house has a source of fresh air and can expel excessive moisture from the home.
  • Pay special attention to carpet on concrete floors. Carpet can absorb moisture and serve as a place for biological pollutants to grow. Use area rugs which can be taken up and washed often. In certain climates, if carpet is to be installed over a concrete floor, it may be necessary to use a vapor barrier (plastic sheeting) over the concrete and cover that with sub-flooring (insulation covered with plywood) to prevent a moisture problem. Moisture problems and their solutions differ from one climate to another. The Northeast is cold and wet; the Southwest is hot and dry; the South is hot and wet; and the Western Mountain states are cold and dry. All of these regions can have moisture problems. For example, evaporative coolers used in the Southwest can encourage the growth of biological pollutants. In other hot
    regions, the use of air conditioners which cool the air too quickly may prevent the air conditioners from running long enough to remove excess moisture from the
    air. The types of construction and weatherization for the different climates can lead to different problems and solutions.

Ten Things You Should Know About Mold

  1. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.
  2. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
  3. If mold is a problem in your home, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.
  4. Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
  5. Reduce indoor humidity (to 40-60% ) to decrease mold growth by: venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
  6. Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
  7. Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, may need to be replaced.
  8. Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
  9. In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting (i.e., on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).
  10. Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.

Homes and Molds

The EPA publication, “A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home”,  is available here in HTMLand PDFformats.  This Guide provides information and guidance for homeowners and renters on how to clean up residential mold problems and how to prevent mold growth.

Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned? – excerpt on duct cleaning and mold follows, please review the entire document for additional  information on duct cleaning and mold.

You should consider having the air ducts in your home cleaned if:

There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system. There are several important points to understand concerning mold detection in heating and cooling systems:

  • Many sections of your heating and cooling system may not be accessible for a visible inspection, so ask the service provider to show you any mold they say exists.
  • You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may
    require laboratory analysis for final confirmation.  For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that resembles it. If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced.
  • If the conditions causing the mold growth in the first place are not corrected, mold growth will recur.

More Information On Mold

Advanced Home Awareness Home Inspections provides home inspection and radon testing services throughout the Greater Rochester New York Region – Including Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, and Livingston Counties, and the Northern Finger Lakes Area.

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