DON’T PAY TOP DOLLAR FOR MOLD TESTING. . . .

Unless You Want It Done Right!

Now you know the rest of the story!  This paper explains why the bargain basement price for mold testing is not necessarily the best.  There are reasons why the price is so low.  Read on.

Ask Why the Mold Testing Price is So Low

Mold TestingThe low price results from several factors.  First of all, the personnel may not have the extensive education, training, and certifications that the higher priced testing companies do.  Second, they may not have to adhere to a code of ethics of a professional certification board.  Third, the types and numbers of samples may be different.  Finally, the report and consultation budget may be cut drastically.  In conclusion, it is a case of apples and oranges – the two cannot be compared.

Mold Testing Prices

The prices can be significantly different.  For example, in our market the low price is $300 for a “mold test” in a small to medium size home or office.  The realistic price to test properly is $750 to $1,150.  That is quite a difference!  It is, but the devil is in the details.  First, the low price work is:

  • 2 air spore traps inside & 1 outside
  • brief report with lab results
  • scant or no interpretation of results

In comparison, the realistic priced work includes:

  • 2 air spore traps & 2 air culture samples inside + 2 of each outside
  • 2 surface tape samples in AC system
  • temperature & relative humidity at same 4 air stations
  • inspection for water intrusion & visible mold
  • moisture mapping with infrared camera & moisture meter
  • American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA, aiha.org) accredited lab analysis
  • detailed report with interpretation of results & consultation

That is quite a difference!

Credentials

The low priced company’s staff most likely does not stack up to the realistic priced company.  The staff members may not all have 4 year degrees and if they do, the degrees are not necessarily in biology or a related field.  Both companies should have Florida licensed Mold Assessors (required by law & officially called Mold-Related Services Assessors).  However, the low priced company’s staff will not have a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH, American Board of Industrial Hygiene, www.abih.org).  The credential is extremely difficult to get but courts recognize CIHs as expert witnesses.  That means their work is court defensible which is extremely important in today’s litigious society.  No one plans to go to court, but many end up there!

Final Note

ESC is not the low priced company and it does mold testing right.  The firm has taken over more than one job from owners who realize they just threw their money away on low priced testing.  There is even more information in papers on our web site.  They are in our blog section and can be found by clicking on  https://www.escflorida.com/esc-services/building-testing/

Environmental Safety ConsultantsSo there is a discussion of point counting building materials for asbestos.  If you need any assistance, ESC (www.escflorida.com) is here.  On staff, we have a board Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and three Florida licensed Mold Assessors.  ESC has been providing mold testing services to our clients for over thirty years.  We have the credentials and experience to help you with your asbestos needs.  Our firm is just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away (escinc@verizon.net).  Contact us today!

Certified Industrial Hygienist & Industrial Hygiene

What is Industrial Hygiene?

Certified Industrial HygienistThe term raises a lot of questions from the general public.  They often include whether it is similar to dental hygiene or if it is a prescribed procedure for manufacturers to wash their hands?  It has been suggested over the years that perhaps industrial hygiene be replaced with occupational hygiene.  Maybe so, but that is not self-evident either.  Industrial hygiene concerns the recognition, evaluation, and control of hazards in the work environment.  It has evolved over the last couple thousand years and like a lot of things, exploded with the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800’s.  It involves identifying hazards on the job that can affect the health of workers.  It has grown out of the manufacturing sector, was applied directly to the construction and maritime industries, and now includes virtually any work environment with the recognition of hazards from asbestos, radon, mold, silica, indoor air quality, and, yes, most recently the novel coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is a CIH?

A CIH is a Certified Industrial Hygienist, or a credentialed industrial hygienist.  Although anyone can label themselves an industrial hygienist, not everyone can say they are truly a CIH.  It takes a bachelors or masters degree in industrial hygiene, or in biology, chemistry, or engineering, with the core science and industrial hygiene courses to become a CIH.  Then, one must work under another CIH for five years.  After that, an application is completed and submitted to the Board for EHS Credentialing, www.EHSCredentialing.org (formerly American Board of Industrial Hygiene, www.abih.org).  The final step is to take the examination which covers core competency and actual practice.  But wait, there is more!  Continuing education is required and quite rigorous.  Upon satisfactory completion of that requirement, re-certification is required every five years.

Why use a CIH?

The reason is because a Certified Industrial Hygienist has the education, training, experience, and credentials to properly complete your industrial hygiene work.  The work should be court defensible.  What?  Not planning on going to court?  Unfortunately, in today’s litigious society, it doesn’t matter.  Especially in the world of employee exposure to hazards.  Since the CIH credential came about in 1956 from the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH), courts have come to recognize the expertise and credibility associated with that credentialed professional.  I have personally been allowed to testify in a case in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Florida while the non-CIH was denied.

ESC Certified Industrial HygienistSo there is an overview of industrial hygiene and what a CIH is!  Stay tuned for our next in depth blog on industrial hygiene testing.  If you need any assistance, Environmental Safety Consultants (www.escflorida.com) is here.  We are a Florida licensed environmental engineering company with a CIH on staff.  We have the credentials and experience to help you complete your industrial hygiene project.  We have a proven track record with a Florida licensed environmental engineer and environmental scientists on staff.  We specialize in industrial hygiene, indoor air quality, asbestos, lead paint, silica, noise, and more.  We are just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away (escinc@verizon.net).  Contact us today!

An Introduction to Mold Assessments

 

In our first blog article on mold, we explored Mold Myths.  In the next one, we provided a general description of Mold Assessments.  Now, we will take those Assessments to the next level.  That is, we will go into more detail on how ESC interprets information and data.  Keep in mind that while these Assessments are based on published scientific literature and guidelines, they remain the professional opinion of Environmental Safety Consultants, Inc. (ESC).

We will address several areas of the Assessment in this article.  These include moisture content, inspection findings, on site (in situ) readings, laboratory results on various types of mold samples, and interview information.  Keep in mind that the Assessment needs to be conducted by a Florida-licensed Mold-Related Services Assessor (MRSA) not also serving as the Florida-licensed Mold-Related Services Remediator.  For a lot of reasons, and certainly if there is a potential for litigation, you may want to make sure the MRSA is also a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH, see www.abih.org).  You can also find CIHs in the Consultants Directory (www.aiha.org).

Mold AssessmentsBuilding Materials

Further details on the moisture content of building materials are provided here.  Remember that the thermal imaging camera identifies materials that are cooler, perhaps due to the evaporation of water.   A moisture meter then confirms or refutes the presence of water.  Either the survey or penetrating mode works for this purpose on these meters.

In the survey mode, readings are taken from the surface of the building material, whereas in the penetrating mode, pin holes or larger holes are made and the readings are taken at a certain depth. The common unit, wood moisture equivalent (WME), provides a standardized way to measure readings. Readings of 16 to 20% WME are considered borderline moist while those exceed-ing 20% WME are usually considered excessively moist.  This level of moisture is capable of supporting the growth of mold.  Mold could be present in the building material, wall cavity air, etcetera at this level.

Surface Samples

Surface samples are of two basic types – cello-tape or sticky tape samples and swab samples.  Both types collect living, dead, and dormant mold.  A third party laboratory accredited by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) can analyze both types under a microscope.  The examination evaluates the sample for the genuses or genera of mold, percent coverage, and growth structures present.  ESC usually has the swabs streaked on nutrient agar plates (i.e., Petri dishes) in the laboratory.  They are then held under controlled conditions. An evaluation is made for the genuses or genera of mold, percent coverage, and extent of growth (Colony Forming Units or CFUs).  Whatever the analysis is, ESC uses internal criteria to determine if significant mold contamination is present.

Spore traps collect living, dead, and dormant mold in the air.  Reports include the genera of mold, concentration (counts or spores per cubic meter), and growth structures. ESC typically compares these results to those for two outside air samples collected on different sides of the building.  Comparisons of the total concentrations of all mold, concentrations for each genus, and genera indicating wet or damp conditions begin.  If several wet or damp indicators are found inside, the concentrations inside are much greater than outside, and if the diversity of the population is different inside, this may indicate unique conditions, and, thus, significant mold contamination.

Nutrient agar plate samples collect living mold spores with a sampling device such as an Anderson 1-stage microbial impaction device.  For five to seven days the plate grows under controlled conditions in a laboratory before an evaluation. Comparison to outside plate samples and interpretation is the same as for spore trap samples.

ESC’s Role

ESC then evaluates all results – inspection, interview, in situ readings, and laboratory results to prepare the report. We then interpret laboratory data using six to seven criteria. The laboratory results are only part of the story, though.  Equally important are the inspection results, in situ readings, and interview information from the building occupants and owner.  The report provides details on the testing, results, conclusions and recommendations.  The report may include a Remediation Protocol (a cleanup plan).  ESC submits the report to the client and is available for discussion as required.

esc floridaSo now you have details on Mold Assessments.  If you need any more information, Environmental Safety Consultants (www.escflorida.com) can assist.  Our engineers have the credentials and experience to answer your Mold Assessments questions and steer you in the right direction.

We are a Florida-licensed Engineering business with three Florida licensed Mold-Related Services Assessors on staff, as well as a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH, American Board of Industrial Hygiene, www.abih.org).  We are just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away (escinc@verizon.net).  Contact us today!

 

Mold Myths

Mold Myths Background

Environmental Safety Consultants (ESC) hears many mold myths and offers this article to reveal some mold myths. To explain, these myths come from clients, other mold assessors, and mold remediators.  Further, these myths are on the definition of mold, testing procedures, and remediation or cleanup solutions.  And, some of the more notorious myths follow. But first, we define mold.

What is Mold?

Mold is not a plant or an animal.  It is a microscopic organism that is in the fungi kingdom.  Its official name is fungus (singular) or fungi (plural).  That kingdom includes mushrooms.  Mildew is a common term for mold.  Mildew can cause sneezing, coughing, and upper respiratory ailments (www.cdc.gov), just like other mold can.  Therefore, from this point forward, we will use the term mold for both mildew and mold.

Mold Myths

Mold is Always Visible

The first myth is that mold is always visible, which is wrong for a couple of reasons. First, individual mold spores on surfaces are not visible to the unaided eye. They are microscopic. However, large numbers of spores form a colony. And, yes, colonies can be visible to the unaided eye.  Second, mold spores in air are not visible, but, also are microscopic. These spores are visible under a microscope or with the unaided eye when they grow into a colony on a Petri dish.

mold myths
This black mold may or may not be part of the mold myths.

Only Black Mold is a Concern

This is a very common myth, thanks to our media. They have hyped up “black toxic mold”. This genus is Stachybotrus and the most likely species name is chartarum. As a result of the hype, people believe it is the only mold to worry about. Ah, if life were so simple!  Unfortunately, the scientific literature shows that a lot of different types of mold (genuses or genera) can be toxic.  One example is Aspergillus, which can grow into a fungal ball in your lungs resulting in a debilitating disease known as aspergillosis. And there are many more examples.

No Worry Because Mold is All over Florida

Another myth is that mold is everywhere in Florida and you don’t have to worry about it inside your building.  First, mold is everywhere in Florida (and other states!). However, it can become very concentrated in your building. Further, its population can be unbalanced in your building (unlike outside) and made up of just one or a few genera that can prove toxic.

Why does it change inside your building? Firstly, there may be unique conditions, such as excessive moisture. Secondly, there are unique materials such as drywall, carpet, wallpaper, ceiling tile, and insulation which are perfect for mold to feed on and live on. Thirdly, relative humidity or moisture in the air inside may not be low enough to prevent mold growth. This may be due to a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system which is not operated or designed properly.

Remediation Sterilizes a Building

There are a few reasons why remediation should not be expected to sterilize a building.  First, sterilization is not a realistic goal. Buildings are designed to live or work in and cannot be expected to be sterile. As soon as the building is occupied after remediation, mold enters it through doors, windows, cracks, visitors, food, and more. Second, the building was never sterile to begin with. There was a balanced, normal amount of mold in the building. As a result, the occupants did not have health problems from the mold. In conclusion, the remediation goal is to return the building to normal mold conditions, not sterile conditions.

Conclusion to Mold Myths

Now you know some of the mold myths. Further, you know why they are myths and why they just do not hold water!  If you need any more information, Environmental Safety Consultants (www.escflorida.com) can assist.  We have the credentials and experience to answer your questions and steer you in the right direction.  We are a Florida-licensed Engineering business with three Florida licensed Mold-Related Services Assessors, and a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH, American Board of Industrial Hygiene, www.abih.org). Contact us today via telephone or email (https://www.escflorida.com/contact/)!

Why Indoor Air Pollutants Might be Making You Sick

We have all been there. Suddenly, you seem to be sniffling whenever you’re at home or whenever you’re in your place of employment. It comes out of nowhere and doesn’t seem to go away. Your neighbors, co-workers, or other family members are not sick, just you, and it seems to be the worst when you are either in your home or at work. Few, if any people realize that indoor air pollutants might be the reason they immediately seem to catch a case of the sniffles when they get home or arrive at work. Health issues from these pollutants can range from headache and upper respiratory problems to a myriad of other ailments.

Unfortunately, poor indoor air quality is not on most people’s radar screens. Consumer Reports estimates that only 9% of Americans consider it a threat to their health, while 70% aren’t concerned at all. The advent of tight buildings for energy conservation means that indoor air contaminants are trapped and build up.

Furniture, furnishings, and cleaning products are other common sources of indoor air pollutants. A lot of claims as to zero emissions or all natural ingredients are not necessarily based on any established standards. Care must be used in mixing cleaning chemicals since poisonous gases can be produced.

Poor indoor air quality can lead to other issues such as fatigue or thinking problems. This is why it is important to get your building checked if you think you may have indoor air pollutants of concern. These pollutants can be from microbiological organisms, chemicals, or particulates. They can come from leaks, printers, copiers, or combustion sources, among others.

indoor air pollutantsThe risks associated with indoor air pollutants can be great. But even more risky is choosing an untested, untrusted firm to test your building. Environmental Safety Consultants has been in business for over 30 years providing quick, professional testing services for homeowners and companies alike.

Environmental Safety Consultants is licensed, accredited, and certified to provide these services with a staff that has over 100 years of combined experience! Give us a call at (941) 795-2399 or (727) 538-4154 or send us a quick message for a speedy response on any indoor air pollutants questions you might have today.