Anyone try those home mold test kits?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Alf S, Mar 7, 2005.

  1. Alf S

    Alf S Cinematographer
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    It seems everyone around us here (work, friends, family) has been sick for pretty much the last 1-2 months..Sinus infections and other allergy related stuff seems to be running rampant.

    Many have taken weeks to get better.

    However, my wife has now decided on her own that it's NOT just standard outdoor allergies (note we're peaking out at 10 out of 10 on allergy websites in our area)...she thinks our house is the cause.

    I've seen no signs of this, I don't smell anything out of the ordinary, I don't find lingering wet spots on flooring, walls, roofs etc.

    She decided to buy one of those $10 home mold test kits at Home Depot to "prove" whether or not we have mold growing somewhere in the house.

    We started the test Friday night (it's a petrie(sp) dish type of test) and nothing was growing on it all weekend..today my wife says she sees some tiny specs in the dish...The lab that sells this charges $30 to test the findings, but in the directions it shows most mold results as some MAJORLY nasty looking blue fuzzy critters growing...not just a couple of specs. I say it's normal stuff that our state is known for having outside (mold).

    Has anyone dealt with mold issues at home? Tried the kit..if so what kind of results did you find?

    I think I've got a hypocondriac (sp) wife who can't live with the fact that allergy and cold season is running rampant and in time, things will calm down.

    Thanks for any info you may have folks.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Mort Corey

    Mort Corey Supporting Actor

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    If you own this home, whatever you do, do not report or mention your suspicions to your insurance company. With or without filing a claim they will put you on file (Clue) which could jeopardize your future rates, availability and possibly even being able to readily sell your property sometime in the future. Just FYI.

    I've never tried the kit but I know in my area they do have specialized inspectors for mold problems.

    Mort
     
  3. Dave Farley

    Dave Farley Second Unit

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    Long, and a little rambling as I'm in a bit of a hurry.

    Have you had your heating and air conditioning system checked for mold?

    I was having GREATLY increased asthma/allergy problems last fall. I was even on prednisone twice in three months. That's unheard of for me and I've had it 25 years. I started to notice that I was much worse on warm, humid days and rainy days as well. I checked the house thoroughly and couldn't find anything. I then started noticing a musty odor on humid or rainy days.


    Background

    My house is on a slab and the cold air return ducts are nothing more than clay tile in concrete channels under the slab. A really, bad, stupid idea that was used in 1950 when the house was built. Due to some water issues, I had dug down to the footer around the entire perimeter of the house in the summer of '03. I had it waterproofed. For the next year I had no water problems under the slab and no odors. The musty odor came back late in the summer of '04.

    The house sits below all the other properties here and the backyard is like a sponge. In a rain, the drain system just can't keep up and some water eventually gets through and into the returns behind the foundation walls. I have a lot of landscaping to be done this spring because of the water issues, but that's for another thread.

    I contacted my HVAC guy in fall of '04 and he came and checked it out and said to have the house checked for mold due to my symptoms and the odor now coming from the underground ducts. I called in a mold specialist in early December who has a great reputation here and works in corporate office buildings, schools, government buildings, etc.

    He started checking out the ductwork and spotted a strange, green, fuzzy growth in the area immediately under the furnace. He stuck a meter in some of the return openings down on the walls near the slab floor and the moisture content set it off. We found black growth in some of the other openings to the returns. The growth was always on wood. You couldn't see any water but it really smelled after rains. I had him take swab samples of what he found and they were sent off to a lab.

    I paid him to do an air test. They use a 'sniffer' for five minutes inside and then repeat it outside to get a comparison. All you can hope for is that the various types of mold outdoors only occur in your home at equal or lesser levels. What you look for is higher levels inside than out, mold types indoors that don't occur outside, and levels of any mold in higher than 'safe' concentrations. All molds can be allergenic but mold is everywhere and a fact of life. Some can be illness-inducing and some can be potentially deadly. Most are not and it depends on the individual, especially when it comes to the 'benign' and allergenic molds.

    The results that came back were fairly encouraging. He assured me that I didn't need mold remediation in the house. He had just done a house in my area, complete with the Tyvek suits. That can be very expensive, not to mention inconvenient and stressful. They have to go over everything, even the DVD cases[​IMG] [​IMG]

    I had three types of mold indoors that didn't occur outdoors. Two were allergenic but not toxic. One was toxic(Chaetomium) but in a low enough level as to not be considered dangerous, yet. They also found Aspergillus. That's quite a nasty type of mold. It's toxic and can cause a fatal lung disease.[​IMG] Again, we had a level lower than outdoors and still below the danger level threshold in California. My state allows a much higher level of Aspergillus than California, so this was encouraging. Since I have allergies and asthma, molds can be a serious health headache for me, and they are. I get sick from them so this problem can't be left to linger.

    The mold remediator told me to have the ducts filled in. He wanted to use biocides in them first to kill anything in there. He also wanted to clean the supply ductwork and use biocides in those. After talking to a number of people and doing research, I decided to pass on the biocides. I didn't like what I read. They are poisons after all(even EPA has warnings about them under duct cleaning) and I'm pretty sensitive to certain chemicals and allergens. A retired couple that my father grew up around died from the pesticides used in their home after a major bee infestation was discovered. The house was tented and fogged. They waited ten days to return and both were dead within two days. Both had a freak sensitivity to the residuals from the pesticide that wouldn't occur in most. Biocides leave residuals as well. I'll pass since the house isn't contaminated with mold yet.

    Luckily, due to the cold winter here, the humidity is low indoors and dry underneath the house right now, so I've had a reprieve. I'm having the underground ducts filled in with concrete later this month. I'm having borax(one of nature's mold killers)used, along with white vinegar at the duct openings before they're sealed. I'm just not comfortable with the Anabec, Anabec X-70, and Oxine that they wanted to fog everywhere.

    Luckily my new Carrier furnace and AC, installed in June of 2004, are lemons and are going to be replaced for free. How's that for luck?[​IMG] I'm actually glad due to the fact that they may have had potential growth in them due to the cold air return duct opening immediately below the furnace. In the end, my old ductwork will be filled in, a new, and expensive[​IMG] return system will be run through the attic, and the furnace and AC will be replaced. The supply ducting will be cleaned professionally without the biocides. I'm getting it done this month.

    Take a good look around your home. Check all dark, damp areas. Check your bathrooms thoroughly. Check under the kitchen sink. Check the coil box or ductwork where your AC coil sits. Check your air filter for anything odd and a musty odor. Check around any indoor plumbing. Most of all, check the basement. Check everywhere. Mold typically needs a food source and humidity over 50% to live. Dark, damp areas with wood, paper(cellulose)products are the worst. Control the humidity(under 50%) and you've gone a long way toward avoiding it. Check anywhere with wood or cellulose products(food for mold) that may have gotten wet. Drywall, certain types of insulation, wall studs, wood, old newspapers and magazines, etc.

    I hope this helps. You probably don't even have mold but it's worth a check. I don't know that I'd rely on just the test you're using now. If you call someone, just be careful. There are a lot of crooks out there who will tell you that you're contaminated. Make them prove it and get a lab to confirm it if things go that far.
     
  4. Alf S

    Alf S Cinematographer
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    Thanks Dave for the info.

    We don't have a basement..it's just a concrete slab construction house built in 1983.

    Our HVAC system was replaced in 2001 and I haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary..no odd smells, no sounds of water in the ducts (common problem in these parts).

    I always use the Merv 11 3M Filtrete filters and haven't noticed anything odd smelling/looking on them..just household dust.

    We're considering having the ducts cleaned and sanitized since it's been 6 years since we last did that.

    Oh and as for the petrie dish..it has four pin head sized dark dots forming on it (after almost 90 hours). Not sure if it's worth $30 to have it tested.

    The test kit said I should put a kit outside to test the air and compare it to the indoor sample..I may do that soon.

    I'm still convinced the house isn't possesed...there are a BUNCH of friends, co-workers, kids at my daughters school who are exhibiting the same symptoms we are (running nose, head colds).

    Looking forward to getting this nasty sick season over with!!

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    An independent Industrial Hygenist will cost you $600-$1500 to do an inspection. They are the most likely to give you an accurate response.
     
  6. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Just hope you don't have the zacklies Alf [​IMG]
     
  7. Dave Farley

    Dave Farley Second Unit

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    No problem Alf. If you've got ductwork under the slab, I would have one of those sniffer tests done indoors just for good measure. They can even run a camera down there to look for problems.

    I use the Filtretes myself. I use the red one with '1085' on the side as the HVAC dealer threw a fit when they saw that I had a purple one ready to go in. They said it causes too much restriction on the blower and can cause premature failure. They didn't go as far as to say it would violate the warranty but I decided to exchange it for the red one to be on the safe side.

    I don't know a lot about the dish tests but I've heard about them. They're supposed to be pretty good but I'd imagine the results will be pretty localized to the area where the test is performed. You can have an air sniffer test professionally done inside and out. They'll place it near a vent to see what your HVAC system is pumping out. They run it for five minutes inside and out. It cost me $300. It's a little expensive, but in my case it removed any doubt.

    If you decide to get the ducts cleaned, just make sure to read up on it so you can make an informed decision on the benefits/necessity/risks to the sanitizers and biocides.

    I hear you on the weather. This has been a cold winter. One of the coldest I can remember. It was 50 the other day, which was a surprise. Today, low 20's.[​IMG]

    You're probably right on the sick thing. Your family could have just have had one of those years where everyone gets hits hard. It's certainly happened here before. Checking for the mold can't hurt though.

    [​IMG]
     

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