Category Archives: Black Mold or Toxic Mold

How Things Went from Bad to Worse: A Client’s Story

leaking roof

We performed a mold assessment for a family whose home experienced significant water intrusion in November of 2015. Our clients were in the process of having their roof replaced when a fast-moving storm came in just after their old roof had been torn off. The roofing company installed tarps on the unfinished areas of the roof, but the high winds blew them off, subjecting the home to a significant amount of water intrusion. The water ran down the ceiling beams, into the walls and saturated their floors, furniture, electronics and other personal items. The roofing contractor wanted to avoid a claim on his business insurance policy, so he told the homeowners that he knew how to dry out the house and he would take care of it. He brought in a heater and a couple of fans and instructed our clients to turn up the heat in their home. Our client trusted that the roofing contractor indeed knew how to dry out their home properly and they followed his instructions hoping the dry out would be successful.
Unfortunately, not only was the dry out unsuccessful, but the newly installed roof leaked a couple of months after installation, causing water intrusion for the second time. At that point, our client filed a claim with their insurance company to try to get the situation handled properly. During this time, the family had multiple unexplained health issues that they now believe were most likely due to microbial conditions that occurred after the water intrusions. Their daughter started to get sick frequently and experienced sinus issues, nose bleeds, burning and itching eyes, headaches, and burning throat conditions. She also was told to use a nebulizer due to her asthmatic condition. Her mother was perplexed by this because her daughter has had asthma for several years that had been controlled up until this time and she had never needed to use a nebulizer. Other family members also started experiencing unusual symptoms during this time.

After filing their insurance claim, the insurance company sent out a water restoration company to dry out the home. Our clients were told that the home was now dry and everything was fine. Our clients were highly concerned because the suspected that the walls were not adequately dry and they were not confident that the roof issues had been permanently corrected. So, they brought in a water restoration company and a different roofing contractor for an unbiased opinion. It was determined that there were still wet building materials within the home and they suspected an even bigger problem, hidden mold growth within the walls and under flooring materials. This is where Mold Inspection Sciences came in.

After a full assessment and laboratory testing, we confirmed that the Living Room wall was still actively wet, mold growth was present in multiple areas within the home and ambient air testing of the lower level showed elevated airborne mold spore counts when compared to the outside control sample. Sadly, after following up with our client, she stated “my husband came down with a headache that was so intense he could not move, his throat and eyes burned, he felt sick and very tired, then he started to have problems remembering what was just said to him – he got extreme brain fog”.

At this time, our clients are still working to come to a resolution with their insurance company, but for now, they have had to leave their home until proper mold remediation can be performed.

Mold Inspection Sciences was honored to help this family and we sincerely hope that their health improves and they are able to be back into their home very soon.

Craig Cooper

by Craig Cooper, Mold Inspection Sciences

What If There’s mold On My belongings?

Moldy Furniture

Many times when clients’ tests come back positive for mold growth, the next concern typically is “I think mold may be on my belongings. Can I get rid of the mold or do I have to throw my belongings away?”

The small porous stuff (such as clothing, stuffed animals, bedding, etc.) can easily be washed. You can use your choice of vinegar, bleach, Borax, tea tree oil, or whatever other cleaning agent. But the items need to be washed on the hottest setting possible and permissible. Then hang the items in the sun while still wet to help get rid of germs and odors and to fade any staining.

For small non-porous items (such as toys, dishes, the shower door, etc.), a little elbow grease, some hot water, and your preferred cleaning agent will do the trick. You may even place the item in the dishwasher (remember you can put larger items in by taking out the upper rack). Be sure to thoroughly dry the items with a well-absorbing towel, well-circulating air, or even in the sun.

As far as larger items go, there are a few different options. The first option is to break the item down to try to put items into the washing machine and use a little elbow grease where necessary. Another option is to hire a restoration company to clean the items. You may want to get valuable furniture reupholstered. And if the item is not worth the time or money to clean, simply replace it.

All in all, belongings can be salvaged with proper cleaning. It may take some time and patience, but mold doesn’t mean you need to throw everything away.

Heidi Aspedon, Customer Service Representative

Heidi Aspedon, Customer Service Representative

What if the Mold Is In My Walls?

mold_wall_hiddenI get these questions a lot: what if the mold is in my walls, and how will you find it. First, let me say- good question! This is a common concern and you are not alone, so let me see if I can explain. It is not uncommon for us to get a call that goes something like this: I have been feeling ill for a while now and I just cannot shake it; I don’t see any mold but we did have a roof leak a few months ago (insert your water intrusion issue here). This is where we will discuss your issues and specifics of where you are having issues and what your concerns are. During this discussion the question inevitably comes up, “But if you can’t see the mold, how do you know it’s there?”

Let me begin to answer this question with how the inspection process works and how we determine if the environment exists for mold in your home. The first step in any inspection is a discussion with you, the homeowner, about what your concerns are and where you think the issues are. Then your inspector will begin with the outside of the home; here they are looking for any avenues for water to enter your home. After covering the outside they will move inside and do a visual inspection along with testing for moisture in building materials (walls, floors, etc.). This moisture hunt is how we determine if the environment exists for mold to grow. You see mold needs two primary things to grow, water and food. The water we can find with our moisture meters and other equipment, the food, well, that’s the home itself. The primary sources of food for mold in your home are any carbon-based (and particularly any cellulose, or wood- based) substance. In today’s structures, food sources for mold are readily available (sheetrock, wood wall studs, wood flooring or wood decking). Now if you have an attic space or crawl space, we check those areas too, but our primary concern is your living space and the air you are breathing.

It’s at this point that we can make any recommendations for sampling. This will let us know if that stuff that looks like mold really is (this will be a surface sample) and it will let us know if the air you are breathing contains mold levels above what you are being exposed to outside (this is an air sample). It’s this air sample that lets us know if there is hidden mold and answers the earlier question of how will you find the mold in my walls. Let me explain how this works in a little more detail. As in any scientific comparison we need a control, something that gives us a baseline or “normal” for your particular home. We do this by taking an air sample from outside the home. This gives us a snapshot of the molds in the air around your home at that particular time and date. Now that we have something to compare to, we can look at the lab results from the sample we took inside the home. We are looking to see if it shows any levels that stand out as elevated above what the outside sample told us was in the air at the time. It is this comparison that lets us detect hidden mold. You see, if mold is growing in the walls we can detect the spores in our air samples. If the levels are higher than outside, then we know we have a source for that particular mold somewhere in the room. In some cases, however, we do encounter situations where an air sample in a room that has wet building materials will come back as normal from the lab. If this is a room or area where we or you feel there could be a hidden issue, we have another type of air sample that can be taken directly from the wall cavity; this will verify the presence of mold inside the wall.

So there you have it, the inside story of how we determine if you have hidden mold in your walls.

Gabe-Sisney-Profile-Pic-300x276

Gabe Sisney, Texas Operations Manager

How We Helped a College Student and His Mother Battle Mold

College StudentBeing in the environmental consulting field, we encounter all sorts of situations and all types of people.  We regularly work with homeowners who believe they may have a problem and help them to set forth a course of action when issues are found, we assist people after cleanup projects have occurred in verifying that work was performed correctly, we work on behalf of property owners to ensure their tenants environments are safe, and we oftentimes are called in by the tenants themselves who believe they are at risk due to mold and moisture issues that are not being properly addressed by the property owner.  Regardless of who our client is in any of these situations, we follow the same guidelines and provide recommendations in an unbiased manner.

In certain cases, we are lucky enough to actually be a part of bettering people’s lives, and I can tell you those are the projects that we appreciate the most.  We have encountered people and situations that when all is said and done, we can go home happy with our head held high knowing that we did something good.

When I think back over all of the thousands of people we have worked with over the years, one story always comes to mind that puts a smile on my face, and I wanted to share that with all of you.  This one happens to come from a renter’s point of view.

We were originally contacted by the mother of a renter.  Her son was an aspiring college student who was living in a student rental home.  Unfortunately, he had been dealing with pretty significant health issues that his doctors were having a hard time pinpointing the source of.  Eventually, the idea of potential mold exposure was brought to the table, and some advanced testing confirmed that he was being exposed to mold, and the first question that typically comes up in these situations is what are the living conditions like.  Apparently there were a lot of known moisture issues in his rental home that were not being addressed properly by the landlord, so it appeared that was a potential source of the mold exposure.

The mother then made many attempts with the landlord and eventually the associated city inspectors to have the home properly assessed and any potential issues resolved.  But, as we hear from many of our clients, she was told that her concerns were not justified and that the home appeared to be safe.

Frustrated, the Mother in our story continued her pursuit of addressing the problem, and decided that having an independent assessment of the home performed on her behalf was her next best option which is obviously where we come in.  She hired us to perform a detailed mold inspection and testing of home, and through our methods we were able to confirm that there was in fact a mold problem within the home where her son was spending large amounts of time.  Additionally, at the request of her son’s doctors we performed highly specialized DNA based method testing within the home which was able to definitively link the mold within the home to the son’s specific mold exposure.

With this new proof in hand, our client was able to remove her son from the unsafe environment without fear of penalty and get him on track with getting healthy.  But, our mother wasn’t done there.  She also used the information to prove that the home was in need of professional cleaning and as a result actions were reportedly taken which prevented any other students from going through what her son had to.

Often times we don’t hear back from our clients once we assist them in identifying mold and moisture problems and the issues are addressed.  In this case though, our client ended up reaching out to us months after the fact.  She went out of her way just to thank us for the help we provided, and she also wanted to tell us that her son was on a steady track to recovery and was doing very well.  She actually gave us proof of our goal with all of our clients, which is making a difference through ethically sound business practices.

Brandon Apple

by Brandon Apple, Mold Inspection Sciences

A Complete Mold Diagnosis

Mold diagnosis for your homeYou have decided to have your mold concerns diagnosed by a professional. In a sense you have decided to take your home to the doctor. You are expecting a complete diagnosis so that you know how to move forward in resolving your concerns. Usually, the complete diagnosis will include an investigation and testing.

A mold investigation will paint you a partial picture of what might be going on in your home, much like when you go for an office visit with your doctor. The doctor will tell you it appears that you might have strep throat, but you will need a strep test to confirm. The doctor will need to order the correct prescription based on the testing results. You would certainly want to be taking the correct medication in order to get well. The same applies to the recommendations your inspector will make as far as testing any visible mold like growth or the air in your home, based on his findings during the investigation. Your inspector will need to gather as much information as possible in order to advise you on the steps for remediation (your home’s prescription).

Sometimes mold testing is not necessary. Sometimes a strep throat test is not necessary. Sometimes an x-ray of your lungs is recommended to see if something else might be causing your sore throat. Sometimes air testing, swab testing, or wall-cavity testing is recommended and could be essential for a complete diagnosis and prescription.

If you were to have air samples taken without an inspection, you would find out if there were specific mold spores in the air you are breathing, but would not have a clue to what might be causing them or where they could be coming from. With the inspection, your consultant could help pinpoint the problem area by possibly finding wet building materials, a plumbing leak, a roof leak, etc. If you were to just have an inspection and did not have any of the recommended tests performed, you would find out that you might have a plumbing leak or wet materials, but would have no clue if there was any hidden mold somewhere or in the air you are breathing. You would have a partial picture. You might be taking the wrong steps to remedy the situation, like taking a prescription for a virus when you have an infection.

A complete diagnosis of your mold concerns is essential in order to paint you a 3-D picture of what may be going on in your home. The mold inspection will be to find any issues that are conducive to mold growth, such as wet materials, moisture, and humidity, which can pinpoint possible sources. The samples or tests will tell us and you what types of molds are present and their concentration. Your inspector and project manager will review the findings, photographs, conclusions, and the lab results. They will put all of this together in your report and will then let you know what your next steps should be to begin the healing process of your home.

Tina-Yaeger

by Tina Yaeger

Why Do I Need to Get a Mold Inspection?

“Why do I need to get a mold inspection”?  Some of you might be asking this question if you have noticed some staining or something that appears to be a mold like substance in your home.  Maybe you smell something funny? Maybe you are not feeling well and wondering why? You might be thinking, “Oh everyone has mold. It is probably nothing to worry about”. It might not be anything to worry about, but without a mold inspection and testing, you will not know. By waiting or ignoring your concern, you could potentially make what might be a small easily fixable issue something much larger and much more expensive.  Have you ever heard a funny sound in your vehicle and thought, “Oh that is probably nothing” and waited a few more days to see if the sound went away? You finally decide to take your car to the mechanic, only to discover that if you had brought it in sooner, the part that broke might have been fixed with much less cost.  Have you ever had a cough or sore throat that lingered and waited to see the doctor because you did not want to spend the money for the doctor to just tell you what you already knew? “You have a cough. Get some rest.”   Sometimes in our lives we have to go ahead and get a diagnosis from a doctor, a mechanic, or a Mold Inspector just for peace of mind, but also to potentially save yourself or your possessions from further damage.  Your home is one of your most valuable possessions. It requires maintenance just like your car, and just like your body.  If you neglect issues such as a potential mold problem, you could be putting your home and yourself in a worse situation.  A mold inspection is just like going to the doctor or taking your car to a mechanic. Calling a professional to diagnose your home is worth the price for peace of mind and could potentially save you from spending more money down the road.

Tina-Yaeger

by Tina Yaeger

25 Square Feet of Mold?

ist1_2542730_handling_hazardous_materialsOver the years there has been a big debate over the “25 square feet of mold” definition in the TMARR (Texas Mold Assessment and Remediation Rules).  The rule was designed to protect the consumer, but there have always been mold remediation companies who have skated around the rule,  by telling a homeowner or building owner that there was less than 25 square feet, they could do the job “cheaper” and save them some money or that they would “not have to get the state involved.” But what the remediation contractors were not telling their customers was that by getting around the rules, their work would not be overseen by or examined by a Texas Department of State Health Services Mold Regulations Inspector or a Licensed Mold Assessment Consultant. I am not saying that all of them who were doing this are bad Mold Remediation Contractors, because that would not be true. What I am saying is that, like always, there are some good and some bad, some who are trying to help and some who are trying to make more money from unsuspecting consumers.

I am very happy to tell you that the Texas Department of State Health Services recently issued a rule clarification on the TMARR Frequently Asked Questions page (See full text below).  In this Q&A, they clearly explain that a Texas Licensed Mold Remediation Contractor MUST follow the Texas Mold Rules even if there is only 5 square feet of visible mold. This is consumer protection! If you hire a licensed Mold Remediation Contractor, this is your guarantee that you, as a homeowner or building owner, will get your mold remediation project done correctly and completely. This forces the remediation contractor to follow the rules no matter what.

Now a Licensed Remediation Contractor must follow a Mold Remediation Protocol on every Mold Remediation  job, no matter how big or how small. Only a Texas Licensed Mold Assessment Consultant can write a Mold Remediation Protocol. If you have a mold problem or think you might have a mold problem, make sure you call a Licensed Mold Assessment Company first!!! Make sure you are protected!

trust mold remediation company“Minimum Area Exemption” in Section 295.303(b) of the TMARR

Question:  Section 295.303(b) of the Texas Mold Assessment and Remediation Rules (TMARR) states, “A person is not required to be licensed under this subchapter to perform mold remediation in an area in which the mold contamination for the project affects a total surface area of less than 25 contiguous square feet.”  Does this mean that a licensed Mold Remediation Contractor (MRC) is exempt from all the mold rules if hired for a project where the mold contamination affects a total surface area of less than 25 contiguous square feet?

Answer:  No.  This exemption only applies to persons who are not licensed to conduct mold remediation, and was meant to allow small projects to be handled more simply and economically.  A licensed MRC performing a small mold remediation project (less than 25 contiguous square feet) is not exempt from the TMARR.  Regardless of the size of the area affected by mold contamination, if a licensed MRC is hired by the consumer, the MRC must follow the TMARRThis includes developing a work plan which follows a protocol developed by a licensed Mold Assessment Consultant (MAC). 

Discussion: All licensees agree to work in compliance with the mold rules as a condition of obtaining a mold license (Section 295.304(b)(2)).  In addition, consumers, whom the law was intended to protect, expect a licensed company they hire to follow the rules.  If a consumer chooses to hire a licensed MRC to perform a small mold remediation project (less than 25 contiguous square feet of mold contamination), there is a reasonable expectation that the job will be performed in accordance with the rules regardless of the size of the project.  In fact, a Certificate of Mold Damage Remediation (CMDR) may only be signed and issued by a MRC “for projects performed under the rules” (See Sections 295.302(6) & 295.327(b)).  Non-licensees may not sign or issue a CMDR.

Licensed MRCs should inform customers that a licensed MAC must first prepare a protocol before the MRC can develop a work plan and begin the remediation.  This is true regardless of the size of the project.  The MRC, after ensuring that the consumer has been provided the Consumer Mold Information Sheet, may only perform a project in accordance with the TMARR, regardless of size.  The MRC must respect a consumer’s choice to hire non-licensed people to do these small projects under the applicable exemption from the licensing requirement, and may not represent that the licensed MRC can perform the work without following the requirements of the TMARR

History of this issue: In the past, the department informally allowed MRCs to be exempt from the TMARR on projects where less than 25 contiguous square feet of mold contamination was involved.  This allowance was made to enable MRCs to compete with non-licensees for those jobs that fall under the exemption from the licensing requirement. In light of more recent developments, including several complaints the department has received from homeowners, the department has reviewed the TMARR and has identified no provision that allows a licensee to bypass the rules in any situation