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Selecting a Certified Mold Inspector in San Francisco

Posted in: Water Damage and Mold by Bay Area Mold Services on April 4, 2012 | No Comments

Professional mold inspector San Francisco

Mold inspection and testing can be done for a variety of reasons including as a precautionary measure to insure the air quality of an indoor environment. It can be utilized in the event that an individual is either selling or purchasing a home or commercial property. And the most evident reason to get a mold inspection and testing is if you know or suspect mold to be present. It is clear that this service can help substantially in determining whether an indoor environment is safe for its occupants. However, to ensure that the inspection and testing are of the highest quality, it is imperative you select a certified mold inspector in San Francisco to perform the work. This type of mold professional is referred to as a a Certified Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP).

If you are planning on obtaining the services of a San Francisco mold inspection and testing specialist, it is important to verify that the inspector is certified, experienced and thoroughly trained. Some of the following affiliations and/or training programs that you should look for in their credentials include Certified Mold Inspection and Testing Professional (CMITP), Certified Microbial Consultant, and Respirator Fit Testing Instructor (3M Corporation). They should be affiliated or members of the organizations like the Indoor Environmental Association (IEA) and the Indoor Environmental Council (IEC). The inspector should have also been trained and certified by a reputable facility like The American Indoor Air Quality Council (AmIAQC). An individual or San Francisco mold inspection company who has participated in a program such as this has extensive knowledge of the proper protocol and standards associated with the mold inspection and testing process.

An inspector should also have some experience or knowledge of the following fields, exposure assessment, Indoor Environmental Quality, Microbial Assessment and Remediation, Microbiology/Mycology, HVAC, Building Science, Legal Communication and Health Effects. An inspector should have access to or be a member of a multi-disciplinary team that can help to complement the inspectors existing expertise. The team should consist of individuals who have specific certifications and degrees including Masters or Doctorate degrees in Biology, Microbiology and Environmental Sciences; Licensed General Contractor for all areas serviced; Chemists, medical doctors, industrial hygienists, and toxicologists. If an inspector has such knowledgeable individuals at his disposal, he will be able to give the customer the most accurate evaluation of a property. This will also aid the inspector in detecting the damage, what caused it and who should be liable to fix the problem. Some individuals that may be responsible for the damages include construction managers, architects, subcontractors, mechanical engineers, landlords, property management and product manufacturers. In some cases it may be determined that the customer’s insurance company is responsible for the damages. Even employers who have exposed their employees to toxic materials can be held accountable for the compromised health of their employees.

The certified inspector in San Francisco Bay Area that you employ should be affiliated with professional IAQ organizations that establish standards and protocol for proper mold inspection, testing and remediation. The Indoor Environmental Association (IEA) for example is an association that develops and ensures that specific standards for Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and related industries are followed. The IAQ industry includes a series of fields including IAQ inspection, surface and air testing, and of course laboratory analysis of the samples that are taken during a routine indoor environmental assessment of a residential or commercial property. Some of the services considered to be part of the IAQ industry include mold inspection, mold testing, mold investigation, mold remediation and restoration, mold reporting, lead testing, soil and water testing, asbestos testing, water damage inspection, industrial hygiene inspection, dry rot removal, mold abatement San Francisco, moisture testing/humidity testing, moisture detection/leak detection, post-remediation clearance testing and inspection, water-proofing, mold proofing, and mold prevention/control. All the above services should be done by an IEP that is associated with organizations like that of the IEA. This will ensure that the ethics and quality of work to be performed will be done by an inspector that follows the highest standards in the industry.

Some other professional affiliations that an inspector should be a member to include Indoor Environmental Consultants, Inc. whose main focus is to ensure the quality of indoor environments. They wish to constantly improve the quality of services rendered and strive to provide indoor environments that keep occupants healthy. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) is yet another organization that promotes the professionalism and thoroughness of IEPs. This organization which was founded nearly 37 years ago is considered one of the most prestigious and respectable inspector associations out there. This society’s main goal is to inform the public of the importance of proper, professional home inspection. It is a not-for-profit entity that supports the establishment superior practices and a strict code of ethics that is to be adopted by all existing members. “The Mission of ASHI is to meet the needs of its membership and promote excellence and exemplary practice within the profession.” There are over 6,000 members and ASHI is considered one of the most renown and professional organizations for home inspectors throughout North America. State legislation has even been passed as a result of the standards set forth by ASHI. An inspector that is a member of such an organization will follow the most meticulous protocol in the industry.

An inspector with the above mentioned credentials, affiliations and experience will most likely use the services of a reputable lab for the analysis of the samples they take. This insures that the collection and inspection process is of the highest quality whilst not losing the integrity of the samples by sending them to an unaccredited lab testing facility. Make sure that the lab is accredited by one of the following organizations, the National Board of Industrial Hygiene (NBIH), or the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). That way you know that you will be getting the most accurate and quality readings of the microbial spore levels in your home.  An environmental investigation should be meticulously prepared and all testing must comply with protocol for results to be accurate. The IEP should use the service of an accredited microbiology laboratory. Identifying what species of mold is in a home requires a lab with specialized skills. The quality of work done by the lab chosen by the IEP will reflect their competence as a San Francisco environmental assessment specialist. If the lab they choose is not properly accredited or they do not perform quality testing, this will compromise the results as well as the remediation process that may follow. Also make sure the lab used by your inspector of choice is a member of a reputable organization like the American Society for Microbiology.

It is important during the inspection and testing of a property that the inspector collects at least 4 varying samples that include bulk, surface and airs sampling methods. The Institute Of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) indicates that the role of a Indoor Environmental Professional “is to perform an assessment of the fungal ecology of property, systems and contents at the job site, create a sampling strategy, sample the indoor environment, interpret laboratory data and determine Condition 1, 2 and 3 status for the purpose of establishing a scope of work (pre-remediation assessment) and/or when necessary to verify the return to normal fungal ecology.” Taking at least 4 samples allows for an IEP to have a base of comparison for what levels are normal for a home what levels indicate poor indoor air quality. For example, a sample should be taken inside and outside a home to determine if indoor air levels are at or below the levels that exist outside a home. If the level of mold spores or other contaminants inside are far higher than outside, it indicates that the source of the poor air quality is inside the home. It can also help to determine the scope of work for possible remediation in the future. That way when remediation does occur, the contaminant can be removed properly and completely from the residence or commercial building. Some individuals who enlist the services of an IEP are interested in obtaining documentation to either prove or disprove the presence of mold. The reason for this material interest may be a result of litigation where physical evidence is required to prove a customer’s case. Taking at least 4-samples again will allow for a base comparison to exist, thus allowing the inspectors report and subsequent laboratory analysis to be considered a legal document.

It is very important for the inspector to consider the source or reason for contamination. They should always use the most up-to-date equipment like an infrared thermal imaging camera, a digital moisture meter or aerosol cassette.  If an undiscovered leak is the cause of severe mold growth within a home, it is imperative that it be found and fixed; otherwise the mold growth will continue to return. An inspector should be able to view a property with mold growth and determine the origin of the problem. Based on this hypothesis the inspector will determine the best collection method for a particular property.  Scientific analysis of the samples collected should allow for an understanding of what is afflicting a particular home and what steps should be taken next. Depending on the circumstance a skilled inspector may collect additional information about the property including interviews with occupants of the affected home and engineering plans to determine where problem areas might be. Providing the inspector detailed information about the problem or your suspicions will aide him/her in determining the scope of the damage.

An IEP should be incredible helpful and informative with their clients. They should explain some of the preventative measures that can be taken to avoid severe microbial contamination in an existing home or during the construction process. During the inspection process the IEP should also inform the client on any structural abnormalities that may be causing water damage and of course mold growth to occur. He should inform the customer of the types of samples he/she will need to take, how they work and how many will be collected.  Like a doctor whose Hippocratic Oath states “do no harm”, the IEP must approach inspection and testing in the same way. Invasive testing, sampling and inspection techniques should be avoided at all cost. In many instances an individual may have already hired a mold inspector in San Francisco who has opened up wall or ceiling cavities to determine if mold is present. They may also strip wall materials and create openings in walls to see visible mold. This should never be done and if you hire such an individual, you should tell them to stop immediately if they begin to use such techniques. The reason this can be so detrimental, aside from the structural damage that it causes, is that it can expose occupants in the building to substantially higher levels of airborne mold spores. What would have been a relatively simple San Francisco mold removal process, now becomes a much bigger problem due to an inexperienced “mold inspector.” This can greatly increase the complexity and cost of remediation.

When determining what inspector you should hire to perform an environmental assessment of your property, it is imperative that you select a certified, fully-trained and experienced inspector. This will ensure that the job is done right the first time and subsequent testing and remediation will be far less costly. Make the right choice the first time and avoid the hassle.

What is Black Mold?

Posted in: Health Risks of Mold, Science of Mold by Bay Area Mold Services on December 12, 2011 | No Comments

What is Mold?

Mold, or mould in other parts of the world, is a common kind of fungus that grows naturally anywhere there is moisture and some kind of organic material on which the mold can feed. Mold decomposes dead biological matter, like fallen leaves. Mold spreads from one place to another by releasing tiny seeds, called spores, which float in the air and land on other places that might serve as a new home. If mold is in your basement, bathroom or any other part of your house, it can cause a visual blight, a musty odor, and put contaminants in the air. People who inhale mold can suffer from mold allergies (sore throat, itchy eyes, coughing, wheezing, and sneezing) and people with asthma can experience sudden asthma attacks.

What is Black Mold?

Black mold, or toxic mold, refers to Stachybotrys chartarum or Stachybotrys atra. The name “black mold” can be confusing because many different kinds of mold are black in color and sometimes Stachybotrys looks green, grey, or white. Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control, Stachybotrys mold is technically “toxigenic.” The fact remains, however, that Stachybotrys (black mold) is very harmful to a person’s health. If you are exposed to black mold, you could suffer from a variety of upper respiratory tract problems, even pulmonary hemorrhaging (bleeding of the lungs). When you inhale the black mold spores floating in the air, they can infect the lungs and make you gravely ill. In San Francisco black mold removal is of the utmost importance. If you allow black mold to grow in your home, you will inhale the mycotoxin-containing spores of black mold, and you may fall ill to “black mold sickness” or “sick building syndrome.”

Are All Black Mold Toxic?

Just a few years ago, many Americans, including the well-educated in the San Francisco Bay Area, had no idea what black mold was. The term “black mold” didn’t enter the national consciousness until the late 1990s and early 2000s, when reports began surfacing about the health problems children developed as a result of black mold exposure. Since that time, “black mold” and “toxic mold” have been discussed at length in the media. Most people know that black mold can be bad for your health. Yet many people are uninformed about the specifics pertaining to this household hazard. Can you tell what black mold or toxic mold is just by looking at it? Are all mold and mildew varieties toxic? What is involved in the safe removal of mold?  As with any potential danger, the first step to protecting yourself is understanding exactly what you’re dealing with.

When it comes to mold varieties, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the vast majority of mold types are perfectly harmless. In fact, mold has probably been much more helpful than harmful to life on this planet. As a simple multicellular fungi, mold has existed long before other life forms on this planet, including humans. Mold’s main purpose is biodegradation, the breaking down of organic material. Mold grows on tree branches that fall on the ground, helping to decompose them and eventually return their minerals to the soil. Certain kinds of molds, called yeasts, help us make cheese, bread, and beer. During the regular course of the day, while walking through a park, opening your refrigerator, or working in an office building, you encounter numerous kinds of molds, and none of them cause any harmful health effects. Without realizing it, you’ve probably eaten many slices of bread that contained small, unnoticeable growths of mold, and look—you’re still here!

But before you start singing the praises of mold and all of its contributions to your health and comfort, you should hear the bad news. The bad news about mold in San Francisco is that some varieties are, in fact, dangerous to your health. The worst part is that the most dangerous molds can grow inside your home. Estimates about the number of mold species on Earth range from about 400,000 to over 3,000,000. The vast majority of mold varieties have yet to be named or catalogued. Only about 1,000 kinds of molds live inside homes, and of those, only about a dozen are considered dangerous.

So-called “black mold” is actually one of two species of mold, either Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as Stachybotrys atra) or Stachybotrys chlorohalonata. Although it is commonly dark in color, Stachybotrys is at first white, and can sometimes look greenish or brown as it grows. This kind of mold is particularly bad for humans because of the kind of spores it produces. Spores are tiny, almost invisible particles of mold that detach from the mold site, float through the air, and land on other potential host sites. Stachybotrys is considered a toxigenic mold, or “toxic mold,” because it releases spores that contain a mycotoxin metabolite. While most molds do release spores into the air, only the rare kinds of molds that release mycotoxins are dangerous for people to inhale. The list of indoor “toxic molds” that produce mycotixins includes: Alternaria, Aspergillus (flavus, Fumigates, niger, ochraceus, cf. ustus, versicolor), Chaetomium globosum, Memnoniella echinata, Penicillium (brevicompactum, chrysogenum, expansum,  polonicum), and Trichoderma.

Toxic black mold growing on wall in San Francsico building

When mycotixin spores enter a person’s lungs, they can cause a multitude of health problems. The most common symptoms of black mold exposure include flu and allergy-like symptoms: irritated eyes, wheezing, coughing, sneezing, headaches, asthma attacks, and drowsiness. People with respiratory problems or immune weaknesses (such as people with bad seasonal allergies or asthma) are particularly susceptible and can experience the most severe reactions. Infants and the elderly can develop symptoms easily, as well. Repeated exposure to high concentrations of mycotoxin mold spores has been linked to long-term respiratory problems, which may become fatal to humans or animals. Black mold and toxic mold spores are dangerous for anyone to breathe.

Many San Franciscans have a vague knowledge of what constitutes a dangerous variety of mold, much like their understanding of poisonous plants and spiders. Just because a shrub has three leaves, it’s not necessarily poison oak. Just because a spider is black, it isn’t necessarily a black widow. The same kind of reasoning is true for black mold. Many thousands of kinds of molds can be black in color, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the fungus you’re looking at is toxic black mold. As mentioned earlier, Stachybotrys can be a number of different colors, so the fact that a mold is greenish cannot eliminate the possibility that it is in fact Stachybotrys.

One distinguishing feature of Stachybotrys is that it grows on cellulose-rich surfaces. This would include wood products—such as drywall and floor paneling—but would all but exclude surfaces made of tile and plastic. For instance, many people have a black mold growing on their shower curtain. Should you be worried? Most likely the mold in your shower is not the toxic mold people ought to be concerned about, but rather one of the many garden-variety molds that are simply a blight to look at. If mold is the result of a larger moisture control issue in your home, however, it may be cause for concern. Since the varieties of mold that are bad for you can look like the kinds of molds that are mostly harmless, it’s impossible to detect black mold with a mere visual inspection. So how can you know for sure what kind of mold is in your home? How can you tell a toxic mold from a harmless mold?

The only way to know for certain whether black mold is present in your home is to get professional surface and air testing done, with the results analyzed by a third party lab. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s pamphlet A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home states that “sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations.” The EPA advises that homeowners hire mold testing professionals if they feel as though the mold problem is a serious concern or if they suspect that it is affecting their health. Additionally, some mold infestations may be hidden, perhaps growing behind a wall or in a crawlspace. According to the EPA, “if you believe that you may have a hidden mold problem, consider hiring an experienced professional.”

If you have any suspicion that the mold you’re dealing with is harmful, you should not attempt the removal of mold yourself. Disturbing areas of mold growth by scrubbing or removing building materials around the mold can cause the area to release even more spores into the air. Certified professionals can be hired to conduct a safe mold removal procedure, called mold remediation. The process of mold remediation includes the use of personal safety equipment and the installation of containment chambers, which will keep mold spores from traveling to other areas of the building. Any removal of mold that goes beyond the surface should be conducted by a professional.

Of course, it’s always best to keep mold—black mold especially—from growing in your home in the first place. The most important thing to remember is that mold requires only three things to grow—moisture, organic material, and time. Given a little dust, some humidity, and 24 hours, mold can begin growing on practically any surface. Since you can’t stop time, and your home is made of organic material, the best way to stop mold growth is by limiting the amount of moisture in your residence.  This can be as simple as common sense maintenance: Keep the most humid parts of your home—such as your kitchen, bathroom and laundry room—well ventilated. Don’t let leaks go unrepaired. Quickly dry any areas where flooding has occurred. Other times it may become necessary to have a professional moisture reading done with an infrared moisture reader.

Even though mold is common, and most molds are generally not toxigenic, there are times when you should be concerned about the presence of mold. Stachybotrys, otherwise known as toxic mold or black mold, should be taken seriously and dealt with by trained, professional San Francisco mold technicians.

Moisture and Humidity in San Francisco

Posted in: Weather and Mold by Bay Area Mold Services on | No Comments

San Francisco, and the Bay Area generally, is a wet place. Fog and rain are a common occurrence in the region, even in the warm months of the year. When you have that much natural moisture in the air, mold is bound to become a problem. Combine that with the fact that San Francisco contains many old homes, some dating from the early 1900s, when San Francisco re-built after the famous 1906 earthquake. Older buildings gradually break down, meaning frequent roof leaks, plumbing leaks, and emergency water damage problems. These kinds of things can also lead to mold, especially black mold and toxic mold. If leaking or moisture from the weather is causing trouble with mold at your home or business, get a mold inspection or a mold test to determine if your living environment is safe.

Water Damage and Mold Growth

Posted in: Water Damage and Mold by Bay Area Mold Services on | No Comments

Mold inspection and mold testing services are oftentimes performed after a water damage event. People in San Francisco who may need a water damage response (or water extraction, cleaning and drying services) can develop a mold infestation quite easily. Because mold can grow within 24 – 48 hours after a water damage event, any kind of flood or plumbing leak that causes water damage should be followed by a mold inspection that contains mold testing. If an area has been wet for an extended period of time, or if water has soaked into building materials, like wood or drywall, mold will almost certainly follow.

If you have experienced water damage at your San Francisco Bay Area property, responding quickly to the event with proper water extraction and drying as soon as possible will lessen the chance of a severe mold problem. However, it does not eliminate the risk of a problem. The solution is to seek out a professional mold inspection company in San Francisco to conduct air mold testing and surface mold testing to determine if a problem exists.

Bay Area Mold Services can perform such services if a water damage event has occurred at your home or business.