Have you watched television lately? I know in a world where most of us are watching Netflix or Apple TV, instead of live television, we miss many of the commercials and breaks in the action. But, if you have watched live TV lately, you have probably encountered a commercial featuring the Mold Test Kit by My Mold Detective.
Because the commercial doesn’t say much about how the testing works or what it bases its science on, I became suspect. So, I decided to investigate it myself to see if it was a legitimate product and way of actually finding out if your home or workplace had a mold issue. When I see something like this product going mainstream to the point where it is advertised on national television, it excites me, because it means that enough people are questioning the safety of their environments to warrant its being advertised to such a large audience.
(Disclaimer: The following comments and opinions are strictly my own. I am just a Mom and a blogger, not a mold professional , a doctor, or an infectious disease expert. My insights on this product are just that—insights based on my personal experience with testing for and cleaning for mold in my own life.)
First off, I looked the product up on Amazon. Here is the manufacturer’s description of the product, and how it operates, as found on the Amazon.com website:
“Finally a Mold Test Kit that tests for mold in your air like the professionals do. My Mold Detective’s Mold Test Kit utilizes the same air sampling methods that industry professionals use to test air quality in homes and businesses and utilizes industry-standard air sample cassettes. My Mold Detective’s Mold Test Kit is not just another Petri dish sampling method that is outdated technology and unreliable, it is professionalism boxed and brought to the Do-It-Yourself populace in a simple 3 step process. Now you can stop ignoring the musty odors, allergic reactions and occupant complaints, and give the air you breathe the attention it deserves. • Features: Re-usable 15 liter Air Pump which collects measurable quantity of air (not an unreliable Petri dish that uses gravity) Benefit: consumer test results are identical to what Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Professionals receive when testing in homes, hospitals and schools • Features: Kit Includes 2 air sample cassettes. Benefit: Used for comparing indoor air quality with the outdoor air quality which is the same method used by all IAQ professionals • Feature: Kit Includes 1 Tape Lift sample. Benefit: test for mold suspect surfaces – identify what is growing on walls, ceilings, vents or you personal contents such as your shoes, furniture, etc • Feature: Spore Trap Air Cassettes technology. Benefit: measures not only for the presence of mold, but also the concentration levels of mold on a microscopic, spore-size level.”
Okay. Sounds pretty good, right? Unfortunately, there are some concrete problems to these tests and its testing methods.
First, this test doesn’t account for the importance of a physical and visual inspection of the environment. Keeping with that idea, let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way—look to and listen to your body when it tells you that your environment is affecting your health in a negative way. Look to the symptoms of mold-related illnesses, for example. According to the trusted Mayo Clinic website, and its description of the symptoms, if you are experiencing chronic fatigue and weakness, headache, light sensitivity, joint pain, itchy skin and/or throat, asthma symptoms, nasal allergy symptoms, coughing, sneezing, persistent skin rashes, and chronic acid reflux, just to name a few, and can’t find the source of your problem and no treatments have worked to alleviate your problems, then it is highly likely that you have mold in your environment that is making you sick.
Also, if you find that your symptoms get better when you leave your home or office, and/or get worse when you return or are there for a prolonged amount of time, then become your own mold detective, and start really digging. You need to find out what in your environment is making you sick. Also, if you can see visible mold growing somewhere inside your home or in your HVAC system, or can smell mold in your home or office, you have an issue and need to hire a professional to take care of it. It becomes a real safety hazard to clean it yourself, I don’t care what a mold test says.
That brings me to my next problem with this type of testing. This test kit and type of testing is based upon an outdoor “control” sample that is sent in with the indoor air samples for particulate comparison.[/fusion_builder_column]
If the outdoor sample is not taken correctly, or is contaminated in any way, it affects the validity of the entire test and results. For example, a home that I owned was tested in this manner by a “professional.” He collected his outdoor control sample from our front stoop. This was a huge problem, because that stoop sat right underneath a large oak tree, got very little light or air circulation and was under a water-damaged awning. In other words, our sample, upon which all of our testing was based, was contaminated and full of mold and many different types of mold at that. If you would like to read for yourself about all of the specifications for outdoor control sampling and for the many factors at play in actually collecting a viable sample, visit this link for the International Association of Certified Indoor Air Consultants. If nothing else, it will make you think twice about attempting to do this yourself with the hopes of finding usable data.
Also, only a few areas are tested. Testing just a couple of areas is flawed because if you test improperly on one, none of the results provide useful information. It seems that the only fix for this is to do a bunch of tests—which means spending more and more money on a test that may or may not be helpful.
On the same subject, there are very few, if any regulations or qualifications required for people to claim that they are in the mold remediation business. Many folks claiming to offer “professional” testing will come to your home, and without a visual or structural inspection of the premises, ask you, the homeowner and “non-professional,” where and what you would like them to test for mold. If you encounter this with anyone you are trusting with you or your family’s safety, I would advise you to not use them or their services. They do not understand mold and cannot help you.
Unfortunately, I did not have the knowledge that I have now when I had this done, and we dished out $800 for results that gave us little to no information and results that didn’t inform of us of the most important element in solving any mold problem: the source.
If you read or watch YouTube, you already know that finding the source is the critical first step in removing mold. In some cases the mold reproduces at rates faster than it can be physically cleaned. All mold spores have a source, and identifying the source is the goal. These types of tests only give a micro-example or estimate for a single point in time and a single location. If you are not yet aware of the source of your mold problem, this test does not account for the variability of airborne molds with amounts and types that are subject to change over the course of hours or less, just depending upon small factors, like how long the door was left open or how long the A/C ran prior to testing. For example, your test for the kitchen air may come back that the mold counts are within the proper limits for an indoor environment, but that could be because the usually closed-off kitchen had all of its doors open to the rest of the home for hours prior to the testing. Also, according to a trusted mold information site, inspectapedia.com, “Caution must also be used in interpreting surface testing results, since mold growth or deposition may not be uniform over an area and may increase or decrease as time passes. Unless many samples are taken over a period of time and the investigator has been mindful of building operations and activities during the testing, the results might not be very representative of typical conditions. On the other hand, tests reflecting typical conditions may also miss evidence of problems that only occur infrequently.”
I will say that DYI tests should be done to determine if there are dangerous levels of mold or not. What these kinds of tests are good for are to help “justify” remediation expenses once mold has already been identified and deemed unsafe, or to test post remediation to make sure that clean-up has worked. Tests can also provide helpful data to find hidden mold, but a TAP test or air sample test done the way I describe in my previous post is sufficient for this type of testing and doesn’t require as many moving parts, or for samples to be sent to a lab to find the information you need. If hidden mold is found, experienced investigators should be called out immediately to perform a thorough visual inspection.
Finally, my last line of caution to you, this product claims that plate testing is outdated, because mold plates rely on gravity. New flash! The mold spores float. Air flow is what the plates test. TAP tests also do the same as the lifting tape or swabs that this test includes.
If you are considering purchasing this type of test for its ability to provide you with the types of mold present and whether or not it is toxic—ALL, I repeat ALL strains of mold can be toxic to humans. According to a recent article in Prevention magazine, “There is already plenty of evidence that all molds can potentially cause rashes, headaches, dizziness, nausea, allergic reactions (like hay fever), and asthma attacks. In people with weakened immune systems, they can cause serious lung infections.” Also, if a type of mold present does produce mycotoxins, not enough is known about how much of the mycotoxins must be present to harm health. Therefore, it is simply safest to assume at this time that any molds may produce mycotoxins or other harmful substances in some circumstances and they ought to be removed.
So, after this long-winded post, to wrap up, I want to say that on the one hand, My Mold Doctor is providing awareness and a product that could offer insight for someone just starting to explore whether or not something in their environment is making them sick. But, on the other hand, if you are at a place where you recognize that there is or may be a mold issue, go ahead and get a licensed, recommended and ethical specialist to your home to do a complete physical investigation, so that they can find and diagnose the issue. Just like any health problem, the issue cannot be treated until it is properly identified. In my opinion, it really doesn’t matter what kind of mold it is, if it is robbing you of your good health.