Mold Testing as well as Mold Remediation
(Finding Mold is Only Half the Battle)
Mold testing and mold remediation are never far from my mind. Now we have left Florida behind and are happily back in our own beds we should be elated, except the mold remains a constant headache and we must deal with that situation sooner rather than later.
Now I am back, I am determined to resolve the mold in our house that has caused some health challenges. This has been an ongoing issue for almost a year now but has become more pressing because right before I went to Florida, I had a dermatology appointment to have an area on my forehead biopsied. This area has been raising, scabbing and healing for several months but it is (or it was) time for it to go. I say was, because while we have been away, it has gone anyway. No trace of where it had been. All I can think is that staying in a house with filtered air potentially solved my skin problem. So now I am home, it is time to tackle this mold issue once and for all. First, I needed more facts about mold. Is it because we have a 1940’s house? Is it because my house is damp? Is it dampness that causes mold? Is it just inevitable that mold and dampness will exist together? This is the Carolina’s after all.
Facts About Mold
Can be found on the CDC website. Facts about Mold and Dampness
Who cares about mold?
Mold seems to be a common theme with Lyme and/or PANS. It’s not unusual for people to test and find mold is a contributing factor to these illnesses. Which is why we set out to look and see if anything in our house was making us sick. We initially did what is referred to as ERMI testing (see below). This test showed our house was contaminated but because it’s an “all-over wipe” test, we had no idea where the mold was concentrated (it’s not visible) and not knowing where to focus our efforts became frustrating. We were suspicious it was in the front bedroom wall because, before we moved into this house we had completely renovated and originally there was an area of the roof that had a hole on that wall, but we really didn’t know how to figure that out. We had contractors come by to quote but everything was so expensive, we couldn’t afford the testing, let alone the remediation costs. In the end, we figured we would just do it all ourselves but first, we really needed to locate the mold source.
Step 1, Testing:
Testing doesn’t need to be complicated and there are a couple of ways it can be done. All the tests we chose were shipped directly to our house. Below are the photographs of how the Conflict-Free Mold (CFM) collection kit arrives and how we used it to test. In contrast, the ERMI test arrives with a Swiffer cloth and the homeowner collects all the dust onto that one cloth, which was what we found was the biggest limitation of using that test. We needed to test multiple collection sites to narrow down where the mold was. On the CFM testing, we got to choose 10 areas to sample: the HVAC, the inside of each bedroom wall, the closets, the chimney and the vents in the bathroom. We also did a control measurement on the outside of the house. When the results returned, the area we most suspected actually had no mold.
The high spore counts for Aspergillus penicillioides (xerophilic fungi) we had seen on our ERMIs were also relatively low when compared to our outside spore counts (taken on a very snowy day in January). This told us we will never be truly away from Aspergillus unless we move. Really, now we know, the major problem areas for us are inside the chimney and around our bathroom vents. This helps our remediation efforts tremendously. It was really good to know our air ducts are clear, the bedroom walls we tested are clear, and our main living area is clear.
Know Mold. Aspergillus Species:
Aspergillus species in indoor environments and their possible occupational and public health hazards “According to the existing literature, the number of fungal colonies in homes that provide healthcare for asthmatic children is higher, especially in children’s beds and the rooms in which children spend most of their time…”
Choose a Mold Testing Company?
Do I prefer the ERMI or the Conflict-Free Mold testing? Truthfully I think both have their place for testing mold and spore counts. If I were looking to purchase a house, I believe the ERMI would be totally sufficient for my needs. It offers a score based on swiping an entire area for a total score. I would want to be able to feel confident that any house I was going to purchase would likely be mold-free. In my opinion, the ERMI is a great tool for that. We actually chose the more expensive ERMI over the HERTSMI kit that the company offers, simply because we wanted to see all possible molds. We chose to pay the higher fee to do more comprehensive mold testing.
In the end, for us, we really wanted to know exactly where to locate the mold – and for this reason, I wish I had started with the Conflict Free Mold test first.
Clearing mold from a house?
Looking at our last results, it is evident we still have a problem. While we have done well using 2 large industrial air scrubbers all the time (and yes we have a BlueDri BD-AS-550-BL Air Scrubber HEPA Air Filtration System Negative Air Machine Airbourne Air Cleaner HEPA Air Scrubbers which are just super attractive and not annoying at all blowing a gale through our living room and bedrooms [not true, it is actually super annoying]) we also purchased a Hi-Tech air machine (I don’t sell the HiTech air machines and I am not recommending everyone run out and buy one, I do know our ERMI scores dropped significantly while we were using it (as you can see below) but technology changes and it’s good to keep doing your own homework on what works the best).
Is Technology A Shortcut worth Taking in Mold Remediation?
Initially, I was suspicious of the abilities of the HiTech air machine, and so I resisted the deep cleaning I knew needed to happen for 6 full weeks until we ran another ERMI to make sure our spore counts were going down. After that test came back, I started cleaning everything I could with an Everclear/water solution and some good old elbow grease. I washed walls, windows, doors, ceilings and wooden furnishings with the Everclear but if it wasn’t completely washable, I threw it out. (Everclear is a brand name of rectified spirit (also known as grain alcohol and neutral spirit) produced by the American company Luxco (formerly known as the David Sherman Corporation). It is made from grain and is bottled at 151 and 190 U.S. proof (75.5% and 95% alcohol by volume). I learned from a rather intense hangover-headache that I needed to either double my gloves or wear those thick hazmat rubber gloves when cleaning for any length of time.
ERMI Testing vs. Conflict-Free Mold:
In total, we ran 3 ERMI tests via Mycometrics and one Conflict Free Mold kit. The pictures below show how the Conflict Free Mold kit arrives. This kit comes with clear instructions for mold testing, also included is a moisture meter, a small compressor for the wall testing and most helpful of all, an hour-long consultation with someone who understands what the results mean when they come back. It took a couple of weeks to receive the test, complete our part, then return all our samples via the prepaid label. We had our consultation to discuss the mold spores in the house. It was all very simple and I have included our mold testing results below.
However, you approach mold, remember just do something…
Whichever test you choose, know that mold is no joke and it can be expensive to have it remediated by professionals. I know enough to wear a mask, clean with proper caution, and never clean mold with bleach. I also thoroughly explored how and what cleaning methods worked best, this was information I got while talking to several mold remediators as well as a building biologist. I then purchased a good respirator, some disposable suits from the hardware store and some really good gloves. It was scary to know that some cleaning methods and especially incorrect removal can make your health problems much worse. When we finally remediate our bathroom, we will do so utilizing respirators, protective clothing, gloves, and our large blue HEPA air scrubbers while removing all the debris through a window straight to the outside. This HGTV site is a great resource, but the caution is always, don’t breathe it, don’t touch it, and make sure you seal and clear to the outside as you go. Wish me luck, a new bathroom awaits on the other side 😀