Mold: Strategies for Investigations and Sampling

For any mold surveys performed, it should be noted that there are no specific protocols for interpreting indoor mold data.  In addition, there are no widely accepted standards that exists for any type of fungal sampling (surface, dust, aerosol).  The dose of any mold disease agent is difficult to document.  Without dose, you cannot establish a cause and effect relationship.

There are three types of mold samples: surface samples (microscopy, culture), which are unable to tell you what’s in the air but on the surface (e.g., tape sample); bulk samples which are good for identifying discoloration as mold or type of mold present (e.g., microscopy, culture, chemical); and air samples, which can be used to evaluate exposure but generally, not the primary step for determining the presence or absence of mold growth (e.g., microscopy, culture, PCR, chemical).  Sampling sites may vary depending on the sample type the investigator deems is appropriate.  Surface samples (e.g., tape lift) are taken of either obvious or suspected mold growth as well as undisturbed settled dust.  Bulk samples can be taken either from vacuum dust or pieces of material (e.g., ceiling tile).  Water or liquid samples can be taken as long as it’s documented how the sample was collected (i.e., whether water was skimmed from the top, biofilm scraped from the bottom, or whether the liquid was agitated prior to sample collection).  Air samples are collected to compare and contrast the outdoor air to the indoor air.

Investigators are sought after to determine the possibilities of whether there is or isn’t visible mold or moldy odors when they arrive at a client site to perform a visual inspection.  Obvious and “invisible” (i.e., potential for leaks into interior walls) signs for mold and water damage, sources for volatiles (i.e., odors) are notated along with the general description of the structure (e.g., interior and exterior construction materials, clean vs. water damaged or dusty, etc.)  Investigators should always keep in mind that exposure does not equal dose.  Everyone is exposed to mold at different concentrations throughout their lifetime as some spores are more allergenic than others.  If you have allergies, it is recommended to go to an allergist to get tested as well as clean the space you occupy (home, work, etc.) to remove as much dust as possible (and maintain that cleanliness).  The Cohen Group is frequently asked to assess spaces for the presence of mold and indoor air quality.  Call our office should you have questions or concerns about exposure to mold or your indoor air quality.