How to Detect Mold & Other Common Questions

This month's blog post covers more commonly asked questions about mold, how to detect it, and how to manage it within the home. This is to help our clients learn more about their homes current state and how it should be handled.

Hello everyone.

In today’s blog I will discuss more everyday questions that I hear from practitioners as well as clients. Unlike myself, most people don’t deal with mold every day.  My oldest child has often called me The Mold Man, and with this experience I want to help people get through these difficult circumstances.   Sometimes these questions don’t take up enough space to fill up an entire blog, so I am will try to answer them in these blogs that cover several topics.  

1.      How to Detect Mold in your home  

There are five main tests options for testing mold, which are spore traps, surface sampling, ERMI, HERTSMI-2, and EMMA-part 1. I will detail out the strengths and weaknesses of all of these options.  The first two tests are spore traps and surface sampling.  These utilize microscopes to identify which types of spores are in the home.  The spore traps are set up throughout the home and will catch spores that are currently airborne in the home.  However, if the mold is not currently releasing spores than this test could provide less accurate results.  Surface sampling often refers to tape samples, where you place tape over a sample and then send the tape to be analyzed under the microscope.  This is helpful in identifying visual molds that are in the home.   The final three tests are PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test which looks for DNA from fungal species in dust samples.  The ERMI test is based on data from the EPA and the 2006 HUD American Healthy home survey.  There are 36 different molds in these tests.  There are 26 water damage molds and 10 common molds.  The benefit of this test is that the client receives a lot of data.  The downside is that some remediators scare clients with results that show high amounts of common molds.  One additional benefit of a ERMI is that you can calculate out a HERTSMI-2 score with these data.  

HERTSMI-2(Health Effects Roster of Type-Specific Formers of Mycotoxins andInflammagens-2ndversion) was developed by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker to look at what he decided were the five most dangerous molds.  The data from this report can be used to produce a score by using the spore counts from the five different species, ie:  A spore count of Aspergillus versicolor of over 500 will be 10 points.  Some individuals use a score of 5 and below as safe, others use a score of 10. The big downside of the HERTSMI-2 is that many pathogenic species of mold are left out of this analysis.  Through my studies I have seen that Penicillium species are one of the most common sources of mold illness (also see table 1).  Ochratoxin A, the most common mycotoxin found in humans, is produced by species of Penicillium.  

The final mold test is the EMMA-part 1.  I call this part 1because the EMMA is actually two tests, a mold test and a mycotoxin test.  The mold portion is currently 11 mold species.  It is my opinion this is a comprehensive test, however, like theHERTSMI-2, they need to add Penicilliums pecies to the test.  

2.       Killing mold isn’t the most important thing  

A lot of mold remediators focus on removing and eliminating mold from homes.  These methods involve extensive tear-out, hydrogen peroxide, or ozone to kill the mold.  One of the problems with these methods is that they don’t remove the proteins that the mold will leave behind or even worse it ignores the toxins (mycotoxins) that the mold has produced.  These techniques may kill the mold, but the home may not be any safer.  

3.      How to get rid of Mold or How to Kill Mold  

 

Removal of mold involves sanding, pulling out damaged material, and ULPA filtration (which is better than HEPA).  Part two is removal of the mycotoxins.  This is done through our proprietary formulas Surface Guard and Air Guard. These formulas use enzymes produced from bacteria to degrade the mycotoxins.  This allows us to clean a property without using strong chemicals, which many of our clients are sensitive.  Recent studies have shown that these enzymes can be very efficacious in the removal of mycotoxins.  As seen in Table 2, which is from Lyagin and Efremenko, there are three different enzyme classes that are very good at removing mycotoxins (1). Utilizing this method, we are able to degrade mycotoxins throughout the house without exposing the home to harmful chemicals and reducing the amount of tear out needed.  Part Three is prevention.  We utilize environmental scientist to develop a plan to prevent future outbreaks.  This can involve building structural changes such as increased ventilation.

4.      Is White Mold harmful?

White mold could be multiple different species (as seen in Figure 1). Some of these do not produce toxins such as Cladosporium, Rhizopus, Aureobasidium ,and Mucor.  These types of molds can lead to respiratory symptoms because they can affect the allergies.  In addition, Mucor infections can be very serious.    Others types of white molds are Aspergillus, Penicillium, Alternaria, Fusarium, and Chaetomium.  These all produce very toxic mycotoxins that could cause a whole host of symptoms.  

Resource List

1. I.Lyagin, E. Efremenko, Enzymes for Detoxification of Various Mycotoxins: Origins and Mechanisms of Catalytic Action. Molecules24 (2019).

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