“Mold inspectors” are a dime a dozen. Are you looking for a mold inspector?
There are lots out there. However, in my personal experience and battle with toxic mold illness, I’ve come to discover very few actually know about toxic mold, much less how to remediate and get rid of toxic mold appropriately.
My Mold Inspector Experience
When I first thought I was living in toxic mold, I hired a mold inspector to come out to my rental home to find the “problem.”
I had no idea how to test for toxic mold, so surely a professional mold inspector would know how to test for toxic mold.
The mold inspector showed up at my door to walk the residence and collect 3 mold samples throughout the place—3 air samples.
Long story short, this is what my HVAC air conditioning unit looked like.
Specifically: trichothecenes (also known as “Stachybotrys chartarum). While there are several molds that are black in color, this is a black mold that gets a lot of press because it has been linked to a number of serious health issues (like breathing difficulties, brain fog, IBS, vertigo and more).
However, the mold inspector’s fancy air sample test ONLY picked up on the aspergillus mold that was on the wall from a water leak. It didn’t even wince at the black mold…and it wouldn’t be until I ran a proper mycotoxin test at home to get the full picture.
The bottom line: Many mold inspectors don’t test for the whole picture of mold toxicity.
5 Things Most Inspectors Don’t Know About Mold Toxicity
Here are 5 Things Most Inspectors Don’t Know About Mold Toxicity, plus how to hire the right team for the job.
#1. Toxic Mold is Best “Caught” with Dust Sample Test (NOT Air Sampling)
Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals that certain species of molds produce under certain conditions. In fact, mycotoxins are actually sources of “biological warfare”— weapons used throughout history. These chemicals are attached to mold spores, mold fragments and dust particles that blow around and settled out in the household dust. Mycotoxins are heavy and fall to the ground and inhabit any porous item imaginable (carpet, furniture, clothing, wood, etc.)—rather than get caught in the air.
For this reason, using a mycotoxin dust sample test—known as ERMI or EMMA mycotoxin testing— is much more accurate for detecting toxic mold than an air sampling of the home. Air sampling only gives you a 5 minute snapshot of what might be circulating in their air and isn’t a full picture of what might be happening throughout your entire home.
The caveat: If an air sample DOES happen to detect mold in the air, it’s a pretty good sign you have a bigger (mycotoxin) problem on your hands since air sampling is the least sensitive marker for mycotoxins.
Some specific mycotoxins a dust sample can help you with include:
- “Stachy”—black mold, the most toxic of all
- Ochratoxin—a suspected human carcinogen that affects the kidneys and lungs
- Aflatoxin—another potent human carcinogen
- Sterigmatocystin (STG)— an IARC Group-2B carcinogen that affects the liver, kidneys, immune system and causes respiratory inflammation
Beyond mycotoxins, the lab test company that I recommend for all of my patients also offers a dust sample mold test that can detect both toxic breeding molds and allergenic molds in the environment.
Most cloth tests will run you about $300 per sample, and you can test an entire home with one sample, or purchase multiple samples and break it up into multiple rooms if you want to test the kitchen, laundry room, bedroom, etc. separately.
In practice, I find the mycotoxin test to be perfectly good enough for helping patients assess the toxicity of their environment to get started.
#2. Toxic Mold Can Hide in the Wall, HVAC, Fridge & More
Most mold inspectors will do a visual inspection, looking for overt signs of mold—such as indications of water damage and leaks in the ceiling, a look at outside of the HVAC (heating-venilation-air conditioning unit), checking for fuzzy blue and purple in your shower, and external home inspection to make sure no pipes have busted.
However, did you know that toxic mold can be hiding in the walls? Crawl spaces? Inside the HVAC? Behind your fridge? Inside your front-loading washer? And more. It’s not always seen with the naked eye!
Rephrase that: Toxic mold is OFTEN not seen with the naked eye.
This is where a toxic mold literate inspector is essential, and unfortunately, they are few and far between. Instead of looking to a mass market mold inspector (like ServePro), I highly recommend consulting with an Environmental Specialist or Building Biologist, as well as mold literate local inspector.
For my Texas folks, I highly recommend: Jeff Adams of Adams Home Inspection. Eric Althouse of Air Intellect is also one of the best in the industry, and is connected with mold inspectors nationwide. You can email him here.
As for other inspectors, a referral is always the best place to start, or at the very least seeing if your mold inspector at least knows about several of the items discussed in this article.
#3. You Can’t Clean Toxic Mold with Bleach or Steam Cleaning
If a mold inspector tells you to clean toxic mold with bleach or just steam clean your carpets for some remediation support…run! Bleach spreads mycotoxins and steam cleaning often can “stir up the pot” of mycotoxins in your home. No. No. No.
Mold remediation for toxic mold (if it’s “bad”), typically involves setting up a containment to fix the problem and re-placing with completely new materials, along with an environmental ‘clean up’ using a mix of fogging, non-toxic cleaning products and a good air-cleaning (cleaning out the HVAC).
Sometimes (if caught early), toxic mold can be taken care of by simply removing the contaminant (such as replacing the front-loading washer rubber insert with a clean one, or tossing out the porous items with toxic mold on them), but if the mycotoxins have contaminated the whole home, you will need to find the source of the mold issue with your inspector and either fix it or move.
From there, ongoing mold maintenance is a must.
#4. Most Porous Items Are Affected by Toxic Mold
Carpets, rugs, drapes, clothes, books, wood, bedding and linens, and more. Mycotoxins love anything they can nestle into.
I even became sensitive to mycotoxins on silverware, dishes, my blender—literally everything. For me, I was so sick, it wasn’t worth it to keep much from the toxic mold event, and in my “rebuilding” phase post-mold, I’ve become much more of a minimalist.
To this day, I still keep my clothes in plastic bin containers so they can remain cleaner and more mold free.
#5. Toxic Mold Can Happen in Brand New Houses
It’s true. In my quest to find a “clean” home in Austin, I tested over 30 brand new homes (built within the past 2-3 years or newer) and 98% of them came back with trichothecenes (black mold). For real.
Austin, Texas climate is certainly its own beast, but the moral of the story is: Just because it’s a new home, does not mean it’s mold or mycotoxin free.
If a mold inspector tells you there’s “no way” mold could be an issue in a newer space, say, “see ya later!”
How to Hire the Right Mold Inspector
So now that you know about a few things many mold inspectors will miss, here are some questions to ask your potential inspector to see if he or she is the right person for the job:
- How can mold be a toxic health issue? (Yes!)
- What types of testing do you do? (You don’t want JUST air sampling; ideally you want ERMI or dust sampling)?
- Have you heard of mycotoxins before? How do you check for them?
- What’s your mold inspection process like? (You want them to say they take pictures and that they send the samples to a lab to be verified—you DON’T want immediate results! Also, full mold inspections should be followed up with a verbal and written report).
- Do you also offer mold remediation and cleaning services? (You want them to say NO! It’s a conflict of interest)
Detoxing from mold and hiring a mold inspector can seem like the wild Wild West, but with a little bit of knowledge and guidance about the process, you can get the right test done for you.
If you’d like a partner in crime on your journey or a one-time mold consult to help you put a game plan together, reach out to my virtual functional medicine clinic today and we will help you kick mold for good!