On my homepage blog, I outlined the health issues related to biotoxin exposure and reviewed the resultant Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) in susceptible individuals. This blog is a continuation of dealing with mold exposure and goes into detail about environmental mold testing. It is meant to be a resource guide for those who are concerned they may have mold in their dwelling.
I recently listed to a podcast with Chris Kresser and Mike Schrantz on how to test for mold. Mike currently owns and operates Environmental Analytics, LLC, an environmental consulting firm. Through my studies and this podcast, I’ve compiled some caveats and considerations related to environmental testing for mold.
Many people use air sampling, which may be helpful in some situations, but has several limitations.
- Not all molds float in air (some are heavier, some are lighter, some settle out quicker, some dry, some are too “stick.”)
- The sample itself may be accurate, but limited by a “grab sample.” A “grab sample” only collects about 5 minutes’ worth of air and may not represent the whole house.
- Some heavier molds may be on the surface and only show up minimally in the air sample, making the air sample appear normal
Dr. Shoemaker, the “guru” on this topic, recommends ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) using the lab Mycometrics. This method involves getting a sample of dust off of surfaces or using a vacuum to collect dust. Then, you send it in for assessment via a DNA test.
The main issue with ERMI is quality of labs and that the test is dependent on good quality of probes and primers. Therefore, you must pick your lab wisely.
Other Caveats and Considerations of Mold Sampling:
- You should collect more than one sample
- Some mold is hidden within walls/foundation and may not be detected
- Some mold can only be detected under certain conditions (temperature, moisture, etc.)
- Neither methods consider the mold outside the home and the change inside, only a professional can do that
- ERMI is an average of what molds are considered a problem, some people may be sensitive to some at lower levels or another species not tested
A complete review of mold in the home is thoroughly outlined by Harriet Ammam, a toxicologist from Washington State Department of Health. She states that there are four categories of health effects of mold: allergy, infection, irritation (mucous membrane and sensory), and toxicity. She lists the following caveats, though some of them have been revised as more research has been indicated:
·Few toxicological experiments involving mycotoxins have been performed using inhalation, the most probable route for indoor exposures. Defenses of the respiratory system differ from those for ingestion (the route for most mycotoxin experiments). Experimental evidence suggests the respiratory route to produce more severe responses than the digestive route (Cresia et al., 1987)
- Effects from low level or chronic low level exposures, or ingestion exposures to mixtures of mycotoxins, have generally not been studied, and are unknown…
- Effects of multiple exposures to mixtures of mycotoxins in air, plus other toxic air pollutants present in all air breathed indoors, are not known.
- Effects of other biologically active molecules, having allergic or irritant effects, concomitantly acting with mycotoxins, are not known.
- Measurement of mold spores and fragments varies, depending on instrumentation and methodology used. Comparison of results from different investigators is rarely, if ever, possible with current state of the art.
- While many mycotoxins can be measured in environmental samples, it is not yet possible to measure mycotoxins in human or animal tissues. For this reason exposure measurements rely on circumstantial evidence such as presence of contamination in the patient’s environment, detection of spores in air, combined with symptomology in keeping with known experimental lesions caused by mycotoxins, to establish an association with illness.
- Response of individuals exposed indoors to complex aerosols varies depending on their age, gender, state of health, and genetic make-up, as well as degree of exposure.
- Microbial contamination in buildings can vary greatly, depending on location of growing organisms, and exposure pathways. Presence in a building alone does not constitute exposure.
- Investigations of patients’ environments generally occur after patients have become ill, and do not necessarily reflect the exposure conditions that occurred during development of the illness. … (you can read the full article and list at the link below)
Testing with Experts:
Due to the caveats, self-testing is rarely accurate. You can try and find professionals in your area by visiting the following site: http://www.acac.org/find/database.aspx. Look for professionals with CIEC, CMC, or CMI certifications. Another option would be to set up a consult with experts here: http://environmentalanalytics.net/contact-us/
What Happens if Mold is Found…or if it Isn’t but Symptoms Are Present
Ah-ha, that’s a good question! In my homepage blog I go through these tips, so visit it here.
Chris Kresser. RHR: How To Test Your Home for Mold, with Mike Schrantz. February 2016. https://chriskresser.com/how-to-test-your-home-for-mold-with-mike-schrantz/
Lin K-T, Shoemaker RC. Inside Indoor Air Quality: Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI). https://www.mycometrics.com/articles/ERMI_Lin_Shoemaker.pdf
Ammann, HM. Is Indoor Mold Contamination a Threat to Health? http://www.mold-survivor.com/harrietammann.html
CDC. Mold: Cleanup and Remediation: http://www.cdc.gov/mold/cleanup.htm
Atadtner A. Mold Testing – Air Quality Lab Interpretation. Healthy Building Inspections and Testing. February 14, 2013. http://healthybuildingscience.com/2013/02/14/mold-testing-air-quality/
EPA. About the National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL). https://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/about-national-exposure-research-laboratory-nerl
Meheust, D., J. Gangneux, T. Reponen, L. Wymer, S. Vesper, AND P. Le Cann. Correlation between environmental relative moldiness index (ERMI) values in French dwellings and other measures of fungal contamination. SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT. Elsevier BV, AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, 438:319-324, (2012).
Additional references on ERMI: https://nlquery.epa.gov/epasearch/epasearch?querytext=ERMI&fld=&areaname=&areacontacts=&areasearchurl=&typeofsearch=epa&result_template=2col.ftl&force=no&filter=sample4filt.hts