Prior to initiating mold testing you need to have a specific purpose for sampling and the mold testing needs to be conducted by an expert having extensive experience and education in microbiology and environmental health. In most cases, if visible mold growth is observed, testing is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been established for mold or mold spores, testing cannot be used to verify a building’s compliance with federal mold requirements. However, exposure guidelines do exist along with best industry practices for mold evaluations and mold testing. Surface sampling such as swab wipes may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated. As mentioned before, mold testing needs to be conducted by environmental professionals such as a certified industrial hygienist, CIH, who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results. Laboratory analysis of samples need to follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations.
You may suspect hidden mold if a building smells moldy, but you cannot see the source, or if you know there has been water damage and residents are reporting health problems. Mold testing can be useful in such instances, such as, to confirm the presence of visually identified mold or if the source of perceived indoor mold growth cannot be visually identified. Mold may be hidden in places such as the back side of dry wall, wallpaper, or paneling, the top side of ceiling tiles, the underside of carpets and pads, etc. Other possible locations of hidden mold include areas inside walls around pipes (with leaking or condensing pipes), the surface of walls behind furniture (where condensation forms), inside ductwork, and in roof materials above ceiling tiles (due to roof leaks or insufficient insulation).
Mold Testing for Hidden Mold Issues
Investigating hidden mold issues may be difficult and will require caution when the investigation involves disturbing potential sites of mold growth. The removal of wallpaper can result in a massive release of spores if there is mold growing on the underside of the paper. If you believe that you may have a hidden mold issue, hiring an experienced professional is highly recommended.
In the event mold testing will be conducted, a sampling plan should be developed that includes a clear objective, sampling strategy, and addresses the interpretation of results. Several sampling methodologies can be utilized (e.g. air, surface, dust, and bulk materials) on a variety of fungal components and metabolites, using diverse analytical methods. Its important to note that in most cases a mold test provides a snap shot of the mold concentrations during that specific testing time period and testing results may yield highly variable mold levels that can be difficult to interpret. Also, no standards, or clear and widely accepted exposure limits exist with which to compare results for health or environmental assessments it may be difficult.
People may choose to perform testing as part of an investigation to look for hidden mold, or for documentation purposes (i.e., for insurance or litigation). However, mold testing may result in more questions than answers if not conducted by an experienced environmental professional.