Testing for mold exposure can confirm whether individuals have internal indications of exposure to harmful fungus. Homes and commercial buildings can be tested to determine whether high concentrations of fungus spores, microbial volatile organic compounds or mycotoxins are present that may make exposure more significant.
The best mold tests are performed by trained medical or mold remediation experts and return results confirmed by lab analysis. This applies to analysis of air, batch or surface samples taken at a location as well as medical lab testing for immunological indications of mold exposure.
Popular Home Mold Tests
Many home or do-it-yourself mold test kits are available to consumers. The design, function and results of each test vary. Viable mold tests are the most popular type of DIY assessments. These tests identify whether high levels of fungus spores are present in air or on surfaces. Any of the following types of samples can be submitted for lab testing:
An air sampling pump draws in and captures air samples in cassettes that can then be sent in for analysis at a lab approved by the American Industrial Hygiene Association. Kits containing petri dishes or settling plates are intended for taking surface samples but may be prone to cross-contamination. Home mold tests based on bulk samples allow property owners to submit material samples such as pieces of drywall or insulation for testing.
There are no home mold tests that indicate personal exposure. Medical lab analysis is necessary to determine whether an individual’s blood or urine shows indications of exposure to harmful spores, mVOCs or mycotoxins. The home testing methods covered above cannot indicate anything beyond the relative risk level of certain species of mold identified as being present at elevated levels in a structure.
Indoor Environmental Sampling and Analysis
Professional mold testing is more detailed and specialized than any DIY test. The accuracy of home mold test results vary widely, and these tests may not offer insight into the concentration of mold spores in indoor air or which species of fungus are growing in a home. These tests may also not differentiate between active growth and desiccated airborne mold spores from past growth.
Having a property inspected and tested by certified experts can provide a clearer sense of the scale and severity of a fungal infestation. Indoor environmental hygienists and other specialists trained in assessing mold damage may take air, batch or surface samples to submit for lab analysis. Air samples may also be taken from a central HVAC system. These results can include information about the species of mold present in a structure and whether growth is active or old, and can be used to guide remediation work.
Even professional mold tests cannot determine whether individuals have been exposed to mold spores, mVOCs or mycotoxins. Such information requires lab testing of biological samples taken from the residents of a home or regular occupants of a commercial building with a mold problem. Only licensed healthcare professionals are qualified to interpret the results of medical mold exposure testing.
Exposure Testing for Affected Individuals
Medical lab tests such as a mold profile may indicate whether individuals have been exposed to mold. This testing may involve taking a blood or urine sample for analysis. The leading test uses advanced mass spectrometry to screen for 11 mycotoxins generated by 40 species of mold, including the following common genera:
Species within these groups may be toxic or merely allergenic. Urine testing for mold is one of the most popular ways to test for mold exposure, as elevated levels of uric acid and other organic acids may indicate exposure to mycotoxins. These tests should be performed in a sterile lab testing facility and the results analyzed by a trusted medical lab.
Blood testing is the other most common type of exposure testing done for mold. The concentration of mold-specific immunoglobulin E antibodies in an individual’s bloodstream may indicate whether the body’s system is responding to biotoxins. Blood-based exposure testing should also take place in the context of medical treatment, and DIY or home testing is not recommended.
Assess Exposure Risk Level
To ascertain the level of risk associated with exposure to mold, it is necessary to determine whether mold is present and the type of mold that is growing. Mold may be allergenic or toxigenic, and may have different effects on individuals based on immunological and genetic sensitivities.
Allergenic mold may have the most significant effect on sensitive or immunocompromised occupants of an infested residential or commercial structure. Ongoing exposure to mold may cause some individuals who do not initially have an inflammatory response to mold spores or mVOCs to develop allergies.
Toxigenic mold poses a risk to humans and animals who breathe in contaminated air. If a home or professional mold test indicates that a toxic form of Stachybotrys chartarum or any other type of harmful fungus is growing in a structure, immediate containment and remediation should take place to reduce occupants’ risk of experiencing health effects.
Clean and Remediate Mold Damage
A positive result on any DIY or professional mold test indicates the need for mold removal. Once again, property owners have the option to attempt mold cleanup or schedule professional residential or commercial mold removal.
Depending on the extent of a structure affected by mold, limited or full containment may be necessary during cleanup to keep and infestation from spreading. If mold affects 10 square feet or a larger portion of any structure, professional removal services are worthwhile to limit exposure risks and ensure that remediation is complete.
Reasons To Do Mold Clearance Testing
Testing an environment where mold exposure has occurred after cleanup to ensure that levels remain low is necessary to be sure that the remediation process is complete. Even after cleanup is over, it is often necessary to adjust indoor conditions to make it less likely that any spores that remain present will resume growth.
When a residential or commercial property owner is regularly cleaning mold-prone surfaces, contents and materials and maintaining low humidity levels indoors, a clearance test can determine whether these measures are sufficient to keep mold infestations at bay. If spore or mVOC levels remain elevated, additional remediation measures, including tearing out and replacing contaminated building materials or replacing contents, may be necessary to solve a persistent mold problem.
FAQs Regarding How to Test For Mold Exposure
Do a home mold test or arrange to have an environmental hygienist or mold specialist take samples from an HVAC system, contents or patch of visible mold growth. Lab analysis can determine which species of mold are growing and the severity of an infestation. Professional tests may take place before and after remediation.
Home mold tests are neither as accurate or precise as professional testing, laboratory analysis and expert interpretation of results. A DIY test cannot definitively identify any type of mold or determine its toxicity level. Indoor environmental hygienists take and submit samples and make recommendations for mold remediation based on results.
If you suspect your home has mold, start by inspecting the premises while wearing PPE such as a face mask, respirator, goggles and disposable gloves. Try not to disrupt any growth, as this can spread spores. You can also have a mold specialist look for hidden mold before resorting to testing.
Sensitive individuals and people who have weakened immune systems may experience immediate allergic or inflammatory reactions to mold. Toxic infestations can cause more serious health problems, including mycotoxicosis or mold poisoning, within a matter of days or weeks. The effects of long-term exposure to mold may be even more serious.
Hiring a professional mold inspector will give you peace of mind. Being in a position where you are uncertain as to the toxicity of mold in your residence can be extremely stressful.
At moldremediation.io, we pride ourselves on being quick, thorough and effective in how we communicate the mold remediation tests that we perform for our homeowner clients.