This page is not intended to train or equip the reader. This page shall not be relied upon to conduct or direct sampling or sampling procedures.  This page is only available to you for the purpose of informing you that without proper understanding of the limitations and benefits of sampling there is a less than likely chance the collected samples will be reliable.

Your continued reading of this web page indicates you acknowledge and clearly understand this disclosure and such information shall not be construed as encouraging or prompting anyone to perform sampling or interpreting lab results.

Information provided herein are the opinions of EATechs and may not be reliable. Use the information at your own risk. If you relay upon such information you further agree to hold harmless EATechs, its employees, sub-contractors, and agents from any harm, damage or any other damages that may arise out of using this information.

Is Sampling Beneficial

Sampling is very beneficial and can aid the consultant in various ways if: 1) The sample results are framed within the limits and benefits of the sampling media and equipment of choice, 2) If the sampling consultant is knowledgeable of the influence the equipment may impose upon the sampling results, 3) If the sampling results are framed within the strengths and weaknesses of sampling protocol, 4) if the consultant understands the conditions under which he/she will be conducting the sampling, 5) If the sampling consultant is able to understand how the sample location will impact the sample results, 6) if the consultant has developed a sampling plan which will govern how and why he/she is sampling and 7) if the consultant has considered other factors that may pose an influence upon the client’s discomforts.

Is Sampling Always The First Approach

Sampling should never be the first approach.  This is what really separates the professionals apart.  Again, before samples should be collected other factors must be considered or ruled out prior to sampling. If sampling is the preferred method there remains other questions to be answered: 1) Why should the consultant conduct sampling 2) How many samples would best represent the environmental condition(s), etc.  There are so many factors that come into play and must be considered before sampling is engaged. Throughout our years of training we have come to understand the best answer that can be offered to our clients is “It Depends.”

What About Samples I Buy At A Department Store (Do IT Yourself) Or On The Web?

The purchase of such devices, in the opinion of EATechs,  is most beneficial to the seller or lab who has contracted with the seller to sell the mold sampling kits. The majority of the kits are gravity (or settling) plates.  Settling plates are of no real benefit when it comes to determining spore concentrations within the air.  What is the purpose of collecting mold samples? It it to prove there is mold in the air? Mold is everywhere.

Others will sell low grade pumps which may lack calibration, reliability, and consistency can not be confirmed.  The sampling results (when collected by other than a non-bias consultant) may be interpreted as bias or a/an unclean sample(s).  Where did the innoculi originate, what was the concentration, and what was the exposure rate?  Lack of the public’s understanding of this trade only allows for redistribution of sales. Years prior labs were popping up everywhere than the economy began to tighten up and labs began to consolidate to survive.  At this time many labs are struggling in this economic shift resulting in whatever services it can develop that may help attract sampling collection.

Such questionable kits direct the sampler to forward the samples to the lab who is offering the questionable kits.  Because the media consistency and integrity can not be evaluated by a professional and the samples returned to the lab of origination there may be an appearance of a conflict of interest (C o I).  As professionals elimination of pre-contaminated samples is paramount.  The unsuspecting consumer is unaware of these quality control set in place by the professional consultant.  What does this mean? It simply means when the general public conduct self sampling there is no quality control to confirm accuracy and integrity of the samples and sampling media.

Media Selection

The media selection is very important. Various species will thrive on specific media based upon available nutrients.  Will one culture plate fit all of my needs – NO!  EATechs’ consultant(s) will determine what media will best produce the expected results – depending upon the complaint area.

Can I Just Send The Samples Into The Lab And Have The lab Decipher The Sample Results

Labs who attempt to decipher your samples position themselves to be seen as reckless.  Without understanding the environmental conditions and many other factors.  It is difficult enough for the professional consultant, who was present at the time of the sampling, to decipher the results – how much more the lab who was not there.

There are many variable associated when it comes to sampling and and deciphering sample results.  Those who have purchased the kits end up calling EATechs to better understand the results.  Sampling is best left to leave such an important and misunderstood procedure to the professionals.

Sampling: What Do The Lab Results Mean?

First of all; what is it your consultant will be trying to prove? If a hypothesis has not been developed what do the results really mean?  Consultants are called in to help resolve complaints.  Simply collecting samples (air or otherwise) and looking for mold or other contaminants is like taking a butterfly net outside and scooping the air to see if there are any butterflies out there.  So with real estate, location, location, location such understanding also relates to sampling. It would be better if the butterfly hunter were to locate the butterflies before placing the net into action.

When air samples are collected and the lab returns the sampling results – what does it all mean? Too many times a consultant will conduct a sampling regiment and conclude there is/are no problems based upon industry accepted documents.  They incorrectly translate these documents into standards. There are no Occupational Exposure Limits (OEL’s) or Threshold Limit Values (TLV’s) associated with mold or mold exposure.  Why?  Because there are to many factors that need to be seriously considered.  An exposure to certain genus or species may affect one group although not affect another. One limit of exposure may trigger one group while 80% will not be impacted.

The same species consuming available nutrients of a certain substrate may produce toxins, yet the same species consuming nutrients of another substrate may not produce any toxins.  On the other hand, during the course of the life expediency of the mold cycle toxins may be produced at one particular point it the life cycle and yet not before or after an influence or factor triggering a reaction, i.e. competition for available substrate nutrients and competition.

Now add into account the variable substrates and available or limited nutrients. Now lets add in another factor; the same individual who has been healthy all of their lives now exhibits a conditions that taxes their immune system (immuno-compromised).  Is the 10 over background realistic for all populations as some believe or interpret the guideline to suggest?  Not at all.  That guideline is for the 80% healthy population within a confined space that do not produce complaints.  Those that call for help are normally not within the 80% range. These quoted documents are no more than guidelines (a starting point).  So what do the results mean?

No Mold Standards

The scientific body has not been able to determine reliable mold exposure limits due to being unable to isolate any mold exposures from other elements or factors that may or may not be realized, i.e. chemicals, VOC’s, mVOC’s, off gasses of building materials from new purchases, pollens, pest and their associated body fragments and excretions, etc.

Allergist have determined that mold does trigger the immune system in susceptible individuals although such test are conducted under isolated conditions.  This is not the same when a client feels or says they are suffering from the “Toxic Mold” that has been discovered at home or work.  Unless all other potential factors are eliminated there is a more less likely chance there will be within the near future mold standards.

Mold and any health impacts upon an individual is not fully understood. What the scientific community does know is mold within a enclosed space is not healthy (See Mold & Water Damage Buildings). According to the Florida’s Department Of Health website there are four kinds of health problems that come from exposure to mold: allergic illness, irritant effects, infection, and toxic effects. According to the Massachusetts Department Of Public Safety’s website: Although mold is a naturally existing substance, it can be harmful to humans.  When airborne mold spores are present in large quantities, they can cause allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections, and other respiratory problems. Continued exposure to mold may result in nasal or sinus congestion, eye, nose, or throat irritations, and adverse effects to the nervous system.  Such concerns and outcry from the community such attention has generated the need to develop cleaning standards.  Cleaning standards are different than health exposure limits.

To determine susceptibility of each individual would take something like each person in a large geographical area (the USA) going to an allergist and having mold injections at various times with various inoculates of each known specie to determine at what exposure each individuals would react to the known species. Than you have to convert the liquid inoculate into spore equivalents.  This may only help resolve spore exposure. Than you must consider other factors – body fragment and other components of mold.

Now lets add in the various stages of the mold’s life cycle and potential to produce toxins.  To conduct the required testing of the various populations would be beyond imagination and the associated cost involved.  Can you begin to see why it is so difficult to determine mold exposure limits?  This is why it is important to choose the right consultant. When the consultant understands the limits and benefits that can be brought to the table you will not rely on unsustainable results.  So what do the results mean?

Price Difference Between Consultants

There are those that have jumped into this profession conducting air sampling that compares to sucking air hoping to find something (Remember the net with butterflies example).  When the economy is flourishing there is more work than many companies are able to take on.  Now that the market is adjusting these companies are losing their clients to more knowledgeable consultants thus forcing them to reduce their pricing.  Based upon the ability of EATechs to bring the required experience needed to help resolve complaints, EATechs has enjoyed growth and the newly formed relationships.

Lets talk more about sampling; where should the consultant begin to sample?  Why?  Under what condition, how do these conditions affect or will potentially affect the sample results?  What is the expected result? If these questions can not be answered you should consider hiring a more experienced consultant. These and many other factors must be consider prior to determining a sampling regiment.

There are both limits and benefits to sampling. If the consultant is unaware of the limits and benefits of sampling media or limits of the equipment utilized to conduct the sampling regiment important data may not be captured. On the other hand, if these limits are not properly understood the consultant may be relying upon unsupported data.  So what do the results mean?

Sampling Media

There are numerous sampling choices to choose from and there are numerous conditions that will dictate which is best to use on your project.  If there is not a good understand of the limits and benefits of sampling there is a better chance the samples will not be reflective of the condition that may be attributing to the conditions.

Equipment & Collection Error

If a consultant doesn’t understand the limits of his/her equipment including the preferred media, how does this come into play.  These factors must be considered when interpreting sample results.

Building Science

Understanding building science and associated pathways are other factors that are so Imperative when it come to determining a sampling regiment.  It has been said that buildings are simply insulated boxes constructed with roofs and windows designed to keep the weather out.  If it were only that simply. There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to building, i.e. residential verses, commercial.  And than you have industrial and space designed for commerce.  Keep in mind, understanding building science offers a great benefit to the client when it comes to determining the cause and origin of client complaints.

Finding The Right Consultant

Finding the right consultant to help resolve complaints is equally as important as achieving the sought after relief.  EATechs’ consultants understand the limits and benefits of sampling as well a good understanding of building science, water damage, thermal bridging, moisture migrating, construction practices, the role of HVAC, and how all of these vocations interrelate affecting the environment that we live and work in.  You choose if you would like to hire a consultant who has the experience you need when you need it most – others will be cheaper.