Your parents lied to you when you were little ─ there really can be monsters in the basement. They’re fuzzy, green and black, they love damp, dark places, and they can climb walls. We’re talking about mold, of course!
The scariest mold varieties include Aspergillus, Stachybotrys chartarum and Fusarium molds. In certain situations, these molds can give off something called mycotoxins, which are harmful to your health. Also, because they have smaller spores than other molds, they can stay in the air longer and therefore are easier to breathe in.
Mold removal: Definitely not DIY material
If you run into these dangerous intruders or any of their moldy cousins, don’t attempt a cleanup on your own. Instead, call a professional mold expert. They’ll have the knowledge and tools needed to inspect the area, identify the kind of mold growing in your home, and figure out how to remove it. A pro will be able to take this last step safely and without contaminating the rest of your home ─ something you probably wouldn’t be able to do on your own.
To get advice on how to find a mold removal pro, we turned to our trusted mold expert Jeff May, principal environmental scientist of May Indoor Air Investigations. Jeff is author of “My House is Killing Me!, The Mold Survival Guide,” “My Office is Killing Me!” and “Jeff May’s Healthy Home Tips,” all published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, and a major contributor to The Money Pit’s Mold Resource Guide.
3 things to do before picking a mold expert
So how do you start your search for a local mold expert? Jeff recommends asking neighbors and vendors. Look in your local Yellow Pages. Call a local Board of Health, or the office of an allergist or pulmonologist. Once you have the names of a few companies, be sure to:
- Ask for and call references.
- Request a sample mold-test report. If you don’t understand the report, see if a company representative can explain the results. Be sure the report includes information about the possible location of the mold growth and guidance on how to get rid of the problem.
- Require proof of training or certification. There are a number of organizations that train and/or certify mold and indoor air quality professionals, including:
- American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) in OH (513-742-2020; acgih.org).
- American Indoor Air Quality Council (AIAQC) in AZ (800-942-0832; iaqcouncil.org).
- American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) in VA (703-849-8888; aiha.org).
- Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) in GA (770-447-5083; aeecenter.org).
- Indoor Air Quality Association (AIQA) in MD (301-231-8388; iaqa.org).
Test-it-yourself kits are not always reliable
Finally, a note about those do-it-yourself mold-test kits, available in many hardware and home centers. Jeff says these kits may look pretty attractive when your home is overgrown with mold, but they actually can be poor indicators of indoor mold problems. DIY kits only test for live spores floating around in the air, most of which may be from the outdoors, particularly in the spring, summer and fall. Plus, most of the mold spores that originate from indoor mold growth are dead, so those that land in the test-kit dish don’t grow. Yet such spores are still allergenic and can cause problems.
Bottom line: If you are having symptoms that may be caused by mold exposure, you should hire an experienced professional to do mold testing in your home.