What To Know About Mold Swabs and Air Quality Testing
Air Quality Testing
Air sampling tests the concentration of mold spores in your home’s air. Samples are taken from the air and are later examined under a microscope.
Air tests can tell you if you have a mold problem even if you cannot find the mold growth. However the amount of mold spores in the air can change drastically in a small amount of time, giving varying results at different times.
Mold Swabs /Surface Samples
Surface testing takes samples from household surfaces to find the amount of mold growth and spores deposited around the home. Samples are collected by swabbing. The sample is then examined in a laboratory.
Like with air testing the results can vary because mold growth and spores aren’t spread evenly across surfaces in the home and can change over time. Unlike air testing though, surface tests can’t identify the exact concentration of mold spores in the air.
Why You Should Test for Mold
The main reasons for having mold testing performed in your home are:
- You notice signs of mold such as a mold smell or mold symptoms
- To identify the species of mold in your home
- To help you find where mold is growing-
- To test indoor air quality by measuring the amount of spores in the air
- To test if mold in your home has been fully removed
Identifying Mold Species
Another reason for mold testing is if you want to find out what kind of species of mold is in your home. This is important for toxic molds since extra caution needs to be taken to safely remove toxic mold from the home. Two well-known toxic molds are Stachybotrys (often called toxic black mold) and Aspergillus. If you see mold which looks like a toxic species or if you are suffering toxic symptoms then you should have it tested before you try to remove it. The only way to identify the species of a mold colony for certain is to have a mold professional look at a sample of it under the microscope.
What Happens in a Full Mold Inspection?
If you suspect you have a mold problem, you can also bring in professionals for a mold inspection. Mold inspectors can search for mold in hard-to-reach areas of your home. They can search:
- Walls and Wall Cavities
- Foundation Walls and Crawl Spaces
- Air Conditioning Systems and Heating Vents
- Attic Spaces and Chimneys
A visual mold inspection can give you incredibly thorough answers about any fungal infestation in your property. Some mold inspectors will even perform an air quality test to increase their understanding of your situation. Mold inspections are your most expensive option for mold testing, but they can provide you with the most comprehensive answers.
How to Test Air Quality in The Home
There are many factors that can affect the air quality in your home. For the health and safety of all, it’s necessary to have the air quality in your home tested. The rule of thumb is the higher the indoor air contaminant concentration, the higher the health risks. The air pollutants in your home can come from harmful gases in the air or from mold growths. Mold and mildew can grow anyplace — on furniture, building material, wet carpet, inside the heating and cooling systems, as well as a host of other places. These mold spores can be very harmful. Harmful gases can be even more dangerous. The two most prevalent gases in homes are radon and carbon monoxide [source: Colorado State University]. Here are some ways to test the air we breath.
- Carbon Monoxide Carbon monoxide is a very dangerous, colorless and odorless gas that is generated from incomplete combustion of fuel in household devices, such as stoves, furnaces, water heaters and fireplaces. Carbon monoxide can get into your lungs and inhibit the transport of oxygen through the body. Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can result in death. The only way to detect the presence of carbon monoxide is to purchase a carbon monoxide detector. This works like a smoke detector, sounding an alarm when the carbon monoxide level rises.
- Radon Radon is also a colorless and odorless gas that rises naturally from the soil and enters the home through dirt floors, cracks in the basement floor and walls, and drainage systems. It is thought to be a major cause of lung cancer. The only way to test for radon is to purchase a radon detection kit.
- Biological Pollutants Mold, mildew, viruses, bacteria and pollen are all considered biological pollutants. Mold and mildew grow in damp conditions resulting from high humidity, water-pipe leaks and constant condensation. Visual inspection and odor are the only ways to detect biological pollutants. When mold and mildew are found, you must clean the area thoroughly with ammonia, or some similar cleanser, to kill off the spores
How Easy Is It to Use a Home Testing Kit?
Most testing kits follow a similar process that is quick and easy to follow. In most cases, you will just need to take these steps:
- After opening your testing kit, you will follow the directions for collecting air or surface samples from around your home. The kit will have all of the materials that you will need to collect your samples.
- Take your samples and package them in your mailing envelope that comes included in your kit, and send them to the laboratory. The testing fees will be included in the price of the kit.
- You will usually receive the results of your samples in 7 to 10 days after the testing is completed. This package will include a detailed report of the findings of the tests as well as specific suggestions on how you can improve these problems that they have detected. If you have further questions about the results, a contact number or email address is often included with the results.
As you can see, this combination of materials will give you all of the tools you will need in order to make your house a healthier place.
Combustion air pollutants
Secondhand smoke – From anything that burns tobacco, as well as what a smoker exhales. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 compounds, and at least 40 of those are carcinogens. Besides the risk of lung cancer for anyone breathing it, secondhand smoke increases the risk of respiratory infections, especially in infants and children. For kids or anyone with asthma, it can be particularly harmful.
Detection is easy enough. Tobacco smoke is easily seen and smelled. It seeps into fabrics, hair, and furniture. The yellow residue can cling to windows and mirrors.
Prevention is fairly simple. Don’t smoke in your house or allow anyone else to smoke inside. If you live in an apartment complex or other situation where a neighbor’s smoke comes in your home, you’ll need to find ways to seal up air leaks. Investing in a good air purifier placed near the source of entry is another solution.
Carbon monoxide – This gas, in high concentrations, can cause unconsciousness or death. Low concentrations lead to headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, weakness, and confusion. It’s so dangerous because it’s colorless and odorless.
CO is emitted mostly by things that burn fossil fuels: stoves, fireplaces, kerosene heaters, gas-powered generators, cars, etc. Prevention lies in keeping flues and chimneys clear of blockages and never running gas-powered vehicles or machines indoors. However, some indoor gas appliances can malfunction and emit dangerous levels of CO.