statistics and mold testing

How Mold Companies Get Rich Selling Consumers Junk Science!

 

The Misuse, Abuse & Statistical Insignificance of Mold Testing

This is the single most important article you will read on our website in regards to mold testing.

If you are a New Jersey homeowner and think you need testing done, do not do anything until you’ve finished reading this article in it’s entirety! There are so many myths, misconceptions and bold faced lies that you will be exposed by mold companies. And we need to put an end to all the speculation, confusion and nonsense once and for all. Because we are getting tired of seeing homeowners getting ripped off and spending thousands of dollars on completely unnecessary mold tests.

 

How seriously significant are mold tests?

 

The last thing we want to do is baffle you with complex statistics & math.

But this is something most mold removal companies will never tell you about. Mold tests are not just used as a ploy to scare homeowners. The way they are conducted most of the time they are statistically insignificant & extremely inaccurate. The reality is, right now in New Jersey there are dozens if not hundreds of mold companies who will try to sell you mold testing that you do not need. It’s the first thing many companies recommend. They will come out to your house, pretend to to a legitimate mold inspection (in 15 minutes or less!) and will immediately start talking about how important is is for them to collect air samples.

Some companies might try to sell you just 2 mold tests for $800. Other companies will try to sell you thousands of dollars of unnecessary mold testing.

 

If you have mold in your home, you need to make yourself an educated consumer.

 

Let’s take a typical situation. A mold inspector comes out to your house. He does a brief walk around. Shines a flash light. Maybe they even take out a moisture meter, boroscope, infrared gun or some other device in effort to impress you. Then they explain the alleged importance of mold testing. Here are some famous lines you will commonly hear:

 

1) We need to perform mold tests to isolate the source of the problem.

2) We need to collect samples encase there are any other problems in your home.

3) Mold tests need to be done encase there are any toxic strains growing in your house.

4) The tests need to be done for the safety of our crew.

5) We can’t perform proper mold remediation without doing testing first.

 
Now, at face value, this may sound sensible, realistic and pragmatic. To you the homeowner. But to an experienced mold inspector, it is very easy to see why none of the above lines are true. We’re going to save our most important piece of advice for the end but let’s start addressing the exact reasons why:

 

1) Mold tests do NOT need to be performed to “isolate” the source of any mold problem.

This is junk science. Here is how you identify the source of a mold problem. You do it with a thorough mold inspection conducted by a real mold inspector. Not a salesman.

You don’t just buy the tools and show them off in peoples homes. You spend years learning and devoting yourself  to the science of microbiology. You go to school and get a degree. And unfortunately, most mold inspectors are not microbiologists, they are salesmen. Just ask your next mold inspector “what did you major in in college”? Most will say business or psychology… not biology. In most circumstances you can identify the source of a mold problem merely with your own eyes. Or even a simple instrument called a “moisture meter”. The inspector walks around your home poking walls, floors, ceilings and can quickly isolate the source of the problem. A good mold inspector likes to get behind things. They may ask to rip off a small piece of sheetrock. They will look at the wooden frame in your attic or basement. They will know from experience just by the way things look, and just by using a moisture meter that “x marks the spot”.

 

2) If you look hard enough, you can find over 100 problems in any given home.

Some companies will try to collect air samples from multiple areas in your home. “Just encase” there are any other problems. But if they are going to go this far, you might as well ask them to test for radon, asbestos, lead, termites, fleas and fire hazards while they’re at it. We are not trying to minimize the importance of your overall safety and security. But for reasons we will explain at the end, you will understand why we are so against mold testing.

 

3) 100% of mold has the ability to be “toxic”, so all mold needs to be remediated regardless of testing.

This is a scientific fact. It’s been said by EPA and many other reputable organizations. But mold inspectors have this terrible habit of focusing primarily on “black mold” aka stachybotrys chartarum. The problem is that aspergillus, pencillium … and only just every species of mold in the world can be toxic. A lot of people are scared by this idea of “invisible killers”. NBC once did a show on it. But these circumstances only happen when unreputable mold companies don’t do their job right. Which is most of the time. So the fact that it’s still doesn’t happen a lot goes to show how rare it really is.

We’re not trying to minimize the fact that mold can be very toxic and needs to be taken seriously. What we’re saying is that there are so many things taken into account by an experienced mold inspector. Things that cumulatively are 1000xs more significant then running a few random and completely uncontrolled air samples.

 

4) “Safety”? Wait, I thought YOU were the professional?

A qualified mold company will come into your home looking like they’re ready to walk on the moon. Or like they just got off of Apollo 13. However, less reputable companies will say things like, “we need to test for toxic mold for the safety of our crews”. Just ask them, “do your crews wear PPE (personal protective equipment)”? They will have to say “yes” at which point you can just say, “ok, well…. isn’t that kinda like wearing 2 bullet proof vests?” Most police men and women, people who are exposed to danger on a daily basis don’t even wear 1 Kevlar vest nevermind 2. So if a mold company is that paranoid about their safety they either made the wrong career choice or more simply they’re just trying to scare you.

What’s more absurd is when a mold inspector walks into a room and says, “this area looks like it could be very hazardous”. Then they stand there talking about how dangerous molds can be and don’t even take a few seconds to put on a cheap, $1 n-95 surgical mask.

 

5) Let’s talk about what “proper” mold testing really is.

When air samples are collected the lab will test mold spore types and concentrations. And mold spores are as random and volatile as the weather. Turn a fan on, you just increased the amount of mold spores in a room by a factor of 500-100,000. Lift a carpet up, the same thing. Open a window, once again it’s all the same. And this is the primary problem with mold testing.

 

1 “sample” consists of collecting 1 indoor sample and 1 outside or “control” sample.

 

But here is the problem. Mold strains and spore counts in your home are changing every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every week, every month of the year. So the way “proper” testing is done, 90% of the time it’s just not feasible or economical. The mold inspector needs to keep a controlled environment (which is impossible if anyone is living in the home) and they would need to come back once a week, for at least 3+ months collecting samples before they can properly eliminate outliers and all confounding variables. This type of mold testing is extremely expensive.

Even if the property is vacant, the mere act of opening doors and walking around the home will trigger colonies to sporulate which will immediately throw off the counts. So the inspector still needs to keep coming back but usually they can deduce statistically significant averages much quicker than in an occupied home.

 

One Final Note:

 

We talked about the fact that mold testing, the way it is commonly done in this industry is mostly a rip off.

But we need to make 1 last thing crystal clear. MMRG, LLC is not against mold testing. What we are against is the misuse and misapplication of mold testing. There are specific cases where we will recommend that 1 batch of samples are collected. If you have children with asthma or allergies, elderly, or anyone with an immune-compromised disorder (the list is long here) then we will want to collect samples. We will also question the homeowner for any acute or chronic symptom of mold exposure. If we identify symptoms, then we will want to test. If a home has been vacant for many years, then we may need to run tests.

So there are various scenarios where we will conduct testing. But we only do it when we can derive meaningful, scientific data. In most cases 1 batch of samples will tell you very little about a home. But if your child has asthma we will want to make sure that the mold in your home isn’t causing it. And that is something mold tests can help us with since 30+% of asthma and allergies are triggered by mold.

We don’t do tests for remediation purposes. We do them for medical reasons. All mold needs to be remediated regardless of how toxic it is since it poses direct safety hazards to your home. But we will not start remediation in a home containing at risk individuals until we get results back from the lab. Those are sensitive circumstances that require extra care. But most of the time people waste hundreds if not thousands on mold tests when any reputable mold inspector will tell you, “the mold needs to go regardless of testing”.

It’s like having water in the gas line of your car. You’re not going to test how much water is in the gas line before you replace it are you? No, most of the time it makes a lot more sense to just remove the gas and replace it.

 

Any other questions you have may about this topic, feel free to give us a call at: 908-601-1307