New Research Findings on Mold Treatment


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New Research Findings on Mold Treatment

  1. 1. ==== ====For fresh info on the newest findings on mold removal - ====Dont ever think that all research is for the advancement of science. Some research actuallyimpedes progress and makes us go backward. Have you heard about the latest breakthrough ontesting a home for mold with a single dust sample? It is based on DNA analysis of theconcentrations of 36 species of mold. Sounds very scientific indeed. But is this test practical totest a home for mold? We say it is not.As a result of a research project, EPA researchers devised a scale to assess a home for mold,called ERMI©, for EPA Relative Moldiness Index. Then, the EPA patented their so-called"new technology," and now the dust sample test along with the ERMI scale is touted as "thestandard" for the field of mold testing.Some background - The EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD), together with the CaseWestern Reserve University Medical School, conducted a five-year study in the Cleveland area onthe effect of mold exposure on children. Their results show that the incidence of asthma inchildren in mold-remediated homes was extremely low compared to their previous "moldy" homeenvironment. Wow! What a revelation, it took five years to find that out. They should simply haveasked us (or you) and we could have told them and spared the taxpayers the cost of such auseless study. No real harm done here, except for 5 million dollars down the drain. Mind you, weare not disputing the obvious results. What is more alarming is that the test they developed forthat particular study is now being touted as the latest breakthrough in testing homes for mold.Now, that is damaging! As seasoned mold inspectors we feel that this is going to hinder theprogress in accurately assessing a home or building for mold.Research biologist, Stephen Vesper from the U.S. EPA/Office of Research and Development(ORD)/National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL), recaps two studies as follows:Susceptibility to Asthma Controlled by Modifying the EnvironmentIn a just-completed, five-year study in Cleveland-area, water-damaged homes of asthmatics, EPAOffice of Research and Development (ORD) researchers, in collaboration with Case WesternReserve University Medical School, established that specific molds were statistically morecommon in water-damaged homes. When the molds were removed from these homes, thechildren had a significant decrease in asthma symptoms and symptom days. The result was astatistically significant tenfold reduction in the use of medical interventions (i.e., emergency roomvisits or hospital admissions) for children living in these homes.In a just-completed study in Cincinnati, the relationship between mold concentrations and thedevelopment of wheeze and/or rhinitis in infants was tested. To measure exposure risk, EPAscientists developed the EPA relative moldiness index© or ERMI© based on the
  2. 2. measurement of the concentration of 36 species of molds in floor dust samples by using EPAspatented "Mold Technology." The ERMI© values were used to accurately predict the risk forinfants developing respiratory illness.By applying these findings and techniques, we should be able to reduce the asthma burden in theUS, reduce the use of medical care, and save lives.We will spare you the details, but in a nutshell here is how this new patented ERMI© testingworks:A mold inspector collects a dust sample using a cone-shaped HEPA filter trap by vacuuming aspecific area of a carpet (or tile or linoleum) in the living room and the main bedroom and thesample is sent to a lab for analysis. You can either combine the two locations or take separatesamples, which doubles the cost of the analysis.We recently had a telephone conversation with Dr. Vesper where he stated that all homes in theUS have mold! We say he is mistaken. Unless there is a water or moisture problem causing moldto grow, mold does not grow inside a home, because it simply cannot grow without moisture! Dr.Vesper does not like to say that a home has a mold problem; he prefers to call it "mold burden"and that the range goes from low to high.The sample is analyzed and the results compared to a national database of homes in the UnitedStates and an ERMI© score is derived. For example:An ERMI© score of - 4 means that a given home (client) is in the 25% of homes in the USthat have a "low mold burden".An ERMI© score of 0 means that a given home (client) has an "average mold burden".An ERMI© score of 5 or higher means that a given home (client) has a "high mold burden".So, let us say you plan to buy a two-story home where there is carpet upstairs in the bedrooms,and all rooms downstairs are tiled - living room, dining room and kitchen. A dust sample iscollected upstairs in the master bedroom and the tiles in the living room are vacuumed. Resultsshow an ERMI© score of "0". So, we tell you that a score of "0" is average, and according tothe EPA its an "average mold burden." Will you be satisfied with that? Read on.Although the results of the first project seemed obvious (if you remove mold the wheezingsymptoms go away) we question the validity of the dust test and the ERMI© scale. Let uslook at the second project: "Relative Moldiness Index as Predictor of Childhood RespiratoryIllness". We find several flaws in that study.If you were satisfied earlier knowing that your ERMI© score was average, that study revealsthat a score of -4.29, yes "-4.29" can predict the incidence of illness. Holy smoke!! Americans aredoomed if more than 75% of our homes have enough of a "mold burden" to make us sick! And, ifthis is true, what is the point of doing any testing at all?FLAW NUMBER 1Improper sample selection of "moldy" and "non-moldy" homesFirst, the homes were classified as either "moldy" or "non-moldy" based on the following criteria.
  3. 3. The paper states:"A "moldy home"(MH) had at least one of the following: water damage history, visible mold/waterdamage, or moldy odor. A "non-moldy" home (NMH) had none of these."Any experienced mold inspector knows that a visual home inspection is not enough to assess ahome for mold, and we cannot rely on our nose to establish whether a mold problem is present.We must also collect air samples. By taking several air samples we can find out 1) how manyspores are in the air in a particular room and 2) the species (genera) that are present and theirrespective amounts of spores. That tells us right away whether there is a mold problem andwhere.We certainly cannot rely on a "nose test" because an air test may indicate a mold problem eventhough neither the occupants nor us could detect a "moldy odor". Alternatively, on severaloccasions we have been called to homes because the occupants smelled an odor that theyattributed to mold. Our tests revealed normal levels of mold spores, but volatile organiccompounds (VOCs) found in new building materials, such as cabinetry or carpet were the culprits,and produced the odor.We conclude that the samples in that study were improperly selected. Assessing the air qualitywith air tests would have established scientifically beforehand whether homes had a mold problemor not. Also, the study does not say whether the visual inspections were conducted by "homeinspectors" or "mold inspectors." It only says that the onsite visits were performed by a "trainedtwo-person teams."FLAW NUMBER 2If Plan A does not work, go to plan B"The Wilcoxon test performed on the mold concentrations for homes grouped by the inspectionprocess into NMH versus MH showed that no species was significantly different in concentrationbetween these two groups of homes."" . . . homes were reclassified into "more moldy homes" (MMHs) and "less moldy homes" (LMHs).It is not proper to choose different groups half way through the study and massage the data withstatistics to come up with something meaningful simply because the two original groups, non-moldy homes and moldy homes, did not work out.FLAW NUMBER 3The ERMI© scale seemed to have been derived solely with less moldy and more moldyhomes.Referring to the y-coordinate of ERMI© scale "Percent of Homes in the US", are we tobelieve that the data representing homes in the US came only from "less moldy homes" and "moremoldy homes"? If so, this scale is not representative of homes in the U.S. and is flawed if the "nomoldy homes" have been totally omitted.FLAW NUMBER 4
  4. 4. Improper control of variables of homes with smokers and non-smokers. The researchers state:". . . major mold/water damage was observed through home inspection and survey in only 5% ofthe homes, yet 19.6% of the infants developed wheezing and 49% developed rhinitis at age one.Therefore, most cases of illness were not predictable on the basis of a home inspection. Thesepredictions could have been complicated by other exposures, such as smokers living in thehome."Indeed, it has long been recognized that children are affected by cigarette smoke. This variableshould have been taken into account by selecting only homes with non-smokers.The researchers added:" . . . an immediate and obvious improvement to predicting risk of respiratory illness would be toinclude additional information to the RMI in the predictive model like smoking in the home, pets,dust mites, or other indicators that could be taken from the home survey. Adding these factors tothe logistic model might improve the prediction of illness even more."Why didnt they think of that prior to conducting this $5 million study?FLAW NUMBER 5The study was biased - The introduction of the research paper indicates that a parallel study of airtests was conducted but the body of the paper hardly mentioned the comparative results. Itstates:"A parallel study did not find any associations between the total mold spores count and rhinitis orallergen sensitization. However several associations emerged when mold species were identified.""However, the methods used in that study are very time consuming and not highly standardized."We certainly agree that individual species (or genus) (not the total spore count) should be takeninto account as well as their individual amounts of spores and their ratios to be compared to levelsfound in an outside sample. In addition, the research paper fails to say that air tests are bothqualifying (identification of genera) and quantifying (amount of spores).Researchers made a biased judgment by saying that collecting air tests are "very time consumingand not highly standardized". We disagree - air test results can be obtained immediately in a lab ifyou live near a laboratory or as little as one day if the samples are sent overnight to a laboratory.It takes a minimum of five to ten days to get the result from an ERMI© test dust sample. Itcertainly would have been nice if researchers could have also included the results of air samplesas comparison. And, what do the researchers mean by highly standardized?" They talk aboutstandardization when their research is flawed!FLAW NUMBER 6Questionable molds found in both moldy and non-moldy homesTable 1 found in "Relative Moldiness Index as Predictor of Childhood Respiratory Illness" showsStachybotrys and Chaetomium mold to be present in both "Moldy homes" and "Non-moldy
  5. 5. homes".We have recapped the information to show the average of mold concentrations for Stachybotrysand Chaetomium as follow:Stachybotrys: Moldy homes: 3.3; Non-moldy homes 2.3Chaetomium: Moldy homes: 2.9; Non-moldy homes 2.0It is known that Stachybotrys mold grows in a wet environment and Chaetomium mold is grows on,among other things, drywall that is wet or has been wet! Both types of mold are often foundtogether in a home with mold problem. How can the researchers explain this?If we poked around further into the study we would, no doubt, find other flaws. The study doeslook impressive with all kinds of statistical analyses, but if you read it carefully there are manyholes. With statistics all kinds of things can be derived, but massaging the data is not proper. Byremoving the group of "Non-moldy homes" (NMHs) and then using two groups "More moldyhomes" (MMHs) and "Less moldy homes" (LMHs), researchers found something to report. At ascore of -4.29 they found a correlation between the incidence of illness in a home with (enough)mold between the "less moldy" and the "more moldy homes." Give us a break!!! There is nodoubt that this study will impress many people because it is based on DNA analysis and manypeople will accept it at face value and not read it carefully. With all its bells and whistles, we saythat ERMI© dust sample testing is flawed.Until a better tool comes along we will continue to use the traditional method of collecting airsamples in different parts of the home with an outside control, and collecting surface samples ifmold-like substance is visible. Air samples are not perfect, and things can always be improvedbut, in our opinion, they give us a better picture than one or two dust samples that are supposed tobe representative of the entire home. ERMI© testing does not tell us precisely if and where amold problem exists. Air tests can. If you had a score of 5 or 10 that would tell you that there is aserious mold problem somewhere (pardon me "high mold burden"). But, we would have to goback to the house and guess what . . . we would have to collect air samples to find the location ofthe problem. So, why not collect air samples in the first place? Besides, spore trap analysis isvery fast, and you could get same day results if you wanted to, while dust sample analysis takesfive to 10 days. Clients do not have money to waste on some fancy DNA testing that does not tellthem whether a mold problem exists in their house and if so, the location of mold contamination.Researchers are in their ivory tower and do not have a clue of real situations or budgetaryconcerns of the average homeowner. Clients want to know three things from a mold inspector:Do I have a mold problem?If so where is it?How do I get rid of it??This ERMI© scale was designed for a specific study. In our opinion the application of theERMI© test should not be extrapolated and touted as the "latest technology" to evaluate ahome or building for mold, especially because the study was questionable in the first place.Several U.S. laboratories now perform this analysis, and novice and unaware mold inspectorsstarted performing the test for clients. ERMI© testing appears "scientific" because it involves
  6. 6. DNA analysis, and thus it sounds impressive for the majority of people. It can identify the speciesof mold, such as "Aspergillus penicillioides" or "Cladosporium cladosporioides", or "Cladosporiumherbarum" while an air test identifies the genus "Penicillium/Aspergillus", or "Cladosporium." Wesay that knowing the genus of mold is usually enough to assess a home for mold, knowing thespecies does not really add anything to the testing.The EPA would have you believe that all homes have a mold problem. A prominent laboratory (notthe one we use) states the following in their ERMI© report:"Mold accumulates in homes over time and can be found in carpet dust and other accumulationsites."This is misleading - mold does not accumulate in homes over time. This would mean that olderhomes have more mold than newer ones. This is not true. During the Florida hurricanes of 2004we found that most of the mold problems came from homes less than 5 years old. We wont gointo detail here as why this was the case.Mold is found everywhere on earth and the amount of mold spores fluctuates day by dayaccording to the weather and geographical location. However, if a greater amount of mold sporesis found inside a home and/or if the genera are different than the outside it means that a source ofmold is growing inside.It is worth repeating - mold is the result of a water or moisture problem. Mold grows when threethings are present - a surface to grow on, organic food, and water. Water being the only thing wecan control. Without a source of moisture mold cannot grow. Period!Dr. Shoemaker, M.D. who treats patients who have been exposed to mold thinks highly of theERMI© testing, but he warns: "No sampling can replace the skill of the experience moldinspector in investigating mold problems." What Dr. Shoemaker does not know is that the bestmold inspector could miss a mold problem by performing only a visual mold inspection. It isessential to collect air samples in different parts of a home. Then the laboratory results will tell usthe amount of mold spores per cubic meter and the genera compared to spores found in anoutside sample. With this information we get a picture of what is going on and where. Like airtesting, the ERMI© test is a tool to detect a mold problem, but the dust test gives lesspractical information than the traditional air tests. The score representing the "mold burden" is toovague. If the ERMI© score is elevated, it does not tell the client the location of the problem.Consequently more testing would be required, specifically air tests in various rooms, which wouldincrease the overall cost of testing for the client.The subject of mold is not well understood and this is why we wrote a book on mold: MOLDMATTERS - Solutions and Prevention, to educate home and building owners about mold from A-to-Z and to teach mold prevention. Much research is needed especially on the effects of mold onhealth. Since mold affects people differently, there are many people who are not taken seriouslywhen they complain of various symptoms after being exposed to a moldy environment. Researchon the effect of mold on health is long overdue and more research should be done in this area.If researchers come up with better testing that give us more information than air testing in terms ofpin-pointing the location of a hidden mold problem (that wall, rather than the other three), and
  7. 7. quick turn around analysis, we will jump on it. In the meantime, we feel that the so-called "newtechnology" of ERMI© testing makes us go backward. It gives us less practical information, itis too vague, and it ends up being more costly to homeowners than air tests. Finally, because themeaning of the ERMI© score is vague, it has the potential of implicating mold inspectors inlawsuits. When mold inspectors get sued because it is found later that a serious mold problemwas developing at the time of ERMI© testing, researchers will be far away in their ivorytowers and mold inspectors will be by themselves fighting lawsuits against them.References:Lin, K. T., Shoemaker, R.C. Inside Indoor Air Quality: Environmental Relative Moldiness Index(ERMI©). Filtration News May/June 2007: 32-36.PRWEB. EPA Relative Mold Index (ERMI©) - A Powerful New Standardized Investigation Toolfor Screening Homes for Mold Contamination. 2/2007.Vesper. S.J., McKinstry C., Haughland R.A., Iossifova Y., Lemasters G., Levin L., KhuranaHershey, G.K., Villareal M., Bernstein D.L., Lockey J., Reponen T. Relative Moldiness Index asPredictor of Childhood Respiratory Illness. Journal of Exposure Science and EnvironmentalEpidemology 2007: 88-94.ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Danielle Dobbs is president of Dobbs Enterprises, Inc., a mold inspection and sampling companybased in Maitland, Florida. She co-authored Mold Matters – Solutions and Prevention, and haswritten many articles. She along with her husband have founded the International Institute ofProfessional Mold Inspectors, where they offer online courses. They giveonsite or online classes to engineers and maintenance crew on water intrusion and moldmanagement. A unique telephone consulting service, a first in the nation, provides homeownersand building owners with an unbiased expert opinion or guidance about their particular moldproblem.Article Source: ====For fresh info on the newest findings on mold removal - visit:
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