10 Questions To Find A Qualified Mold Inspector
by Brian Karr
Mold is a dynamically evolving field, and while it’s getting more publicity every day for its effect on human health, the awareness hasn’t yet reached a critical mass. However, if you’re suffering from lyme disease, CIRS, MCS or a variety of other health issues, the impact mold can have on your health may be devastating. If you’re reading this article, then you are probably aware of these things. So let’s move on…
You’ve decided that you need a mold inspection. Now what?
There are so many mold inspectors out there, but there aren’t many who really know what they’re doing. The majority of inspectors don’t do a lot of “inspecting”. Instead, they come into your home, collect a couple air samples, and leave. They may be in and out in less than an hour! In my opinion, this is a complete waste of your time and money. The information they can provide with only a few air samples is minimal at best (there will be another article talking about this in the near future).
So that begs the question. Who do you call?
Unfortunately I can’t give you a list of every reputable mold inspector out there, but I can help you determine which ones may be thorough and comprehensive. It’s all about interviewing them before they come to your home.
With 10 simple questions you can filter out companies that won’t provide the comprehensive inspection and testing methodologies you deserve!
1. Can you describe your inspection process?
This is such a simple question, but you can learn so much from their answer. The visual assessment is the most important part of the visit. Without a thorough and comprehensive inspection, how would they know where to sample? Here are some things to listen for. If they don’t mention these, then they likely aren’t the company for you.
Do they start the inspection on the exterior of the home? Pathways for water intrusion can be present on the exterior that can impact the interior of the home. This is a critical part of the inspection process.
Do they use infra-cameras and moisture meters to aid the inspection process? These tools help guide an inspector to identify potential source areas of mold growth and develop a sampling strategy.
Do they inspect the HVAC system? The HVAC system is a vital component to your indoor air quality and often overlooked. If they don’t look at it, they are doing you a disservice.
Do they inspect the attic and crawl space? These areas may not be part of the occupied living space, but they contribute to the air quality within the home.
2. How long should I expect for a full home inspection?
If their answer is anything less than 2 hours, then they are likely not performing a thorough and comprehensive inspection. Our average time for a full house inspection ranges from 2.5 to 5 hours depending on the size of the house. Sometimes we’ve been at homes for 8 hours!
3. What percentage of your clients suffer from Lyme Disease, CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome), MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) or any other serious medical condition that can be impacted by mold?
If the bulk of their clientele are people dealing with similar issues as you, then they will understand your situation and the need for a thorough inspection and complex sampling methodologies. About 75-80% of our clients suffer from these or other similar issues.
4. What is MSqPCR?
Mold-specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction. This is a sampling methodology used to identify the species of molds that may be present within your home. It’s basically DNA formatting of mold. If they don’t know what this is, then they are not educated enough to provide the deep dive inspection you deserve.
5. What are ERMI and HERTSMI?
Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) is a panel of 36 molds developed by the Environmental Protection Agency. It uses MSqPCR to identify species of molds that may be present, then compares those to an index to provide a score that rates the relative moldiness of your home. Some doctors prefer to see an ERMI score.
HERTSMI utilizes the same sampling method as ERMI, but the panel only consists of 5 molds. Some doctors utilize this sample as a way to determine if a home is safe for reentry after remediation has been completed.
The advantages and disadvantages of these methods are for another article, but if the inspector you’re interviewing doesn’t know them, then move on.
6. What are mycotoxins?
Mycotoxins are a secondary metabolite of certain species of molds. A secondary metabolite means that mycotoxins are NOT ALWAYS produced by these mold species. Molds typically produce mycotoxins when they are stressed, in other words, when there is competition from other molds for a food source. Mycotoxins are basically biotoxins that are meant to kill living organisms (other molds). Unfortunately, we are also living organisms, and they can have a big impact on our health.
If your inspector doesn’t know what these are, then move on.
7. Can you test for mycotoxins in my home?
Odds are if they know what mycotoxins are, then they know how to test for them. But ask just in case.
8. Can you test my HVAC system for mold and mycotoxins? How do you do it?
Let me give you a hint. The answer should be yes. The HVAC system is a huge part of what contributes to your indoor air quality.
Dust sampling collected from the air handler unit and ductwork is the preferred method for testing these systems. Doing so will allow the use of MSqPCR to identify mold species, as well as the presence of mycotoxins. If they say they test the system by collecting an air sample from next to a supply vent while the HVAC is running, then they aren’t really testing the system.
9. Do you write remediation protocol?
This is a fancy way of asking if they write the work plan for how to fix any problems they identify. If they don’t write protocol, then they aren’t doing their job.
10. Do you perform remediation?
If they say yes, it’s time to hang up the phone. This is a huge conflict of interest. Performing the testing and remediation allows them to write their own protocol and increase their scope of work… meaning charging you money for work that may not need to be done. It’s important your inspector is an impartial 3rd party.
1. Do you attend environmental medical conferences that focus on mold & mycotoxins and their effect on human health?
I understand that mold inspectors aren’t doctors, but we learn a lot from attending these conferences. Our company attends several of these spread out across the country every year. In my opinion, you want someone in your home who understands what you’re going through, and someone who is constantly learning and implementing the most advanced and appropriate sampling methodologies. That way they can help you provide your doctor the information that they need to best be able to treat your health condition.
2. Can you refer me remediation companies, doctors, or attorneys?
This isn’t part of the inspection process, but we feel it’s an important offering. Detecting mold is the first step. But where do you go after? Who can help?
We help guide our clients through the entire process. We can provide remediation companies for consideration, doctor referrals if you are suffering from health issues, and even attorney referrals if you are in a situation that escalates to that point.
Breathe Easy. Be Healthy.