Comprehensive Mold Inspections and Testing for Sonoma, Marin County, Napa, San Francisco, and East Bay
We use moisture meters, thermal imaging, 3rd party laboratory testing and our 20 years of property inspection experience to investigate potential issues with mold, mycotoxins, moisture, water intrusion, indoor air pollution and electrical EMF flaws. We inspect and test (per your authorization) as needed the following aspects of your property as part of a comprehensive investigation:
- Relative Humidity
- Thermal Images
- Indoor Air Quality Testing (VOC’s)
- Radon – visit our Radon Gas Testing page for more information!)
If you’re considering a mold or indoor air quality problem with your rental as a tenant, or landlord, we can provide a prompt and objective evaluation of the conditions. We will inspect, test and report on the indoor air quality condition of the property, and produce an action plan for prompt and safe corrections. Please contact us for more information on our Rental Inspections!
We use the industry-leading HomeGauge Software to generate comprehensive digital inspection reports. Your report includes high-resolution images, videos, detailed narrative, and can be accessed online using your smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer.
Included in your report is an interactive tool called Repair Request List. This tool allows you, to indicate how any issues discovered should be handled moving forward. From within the report, you create a list that can be shared with all involved, or you can use it as a list for future projects you wish to handle yourself. Repair Request List eases communications for all involved and has proven to be invaluable to the negotiation process.
INSPECTION CODE OF ETHICS
In compliance with American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC) code of ethics, we investigate and test for mold only; we do not remove or remediate mold or other microbial conditions, nor do we have any financial relationship with remediation companies, real estate or insurance companies. We will refer you to a list of ACAC certified mold remediation companies that may provide you with a FREE estimate for safe mold removal based on our written report. Be sure to investigate other “ mold” company claims with their past customers, your physician and verify their accreditation by ACAC, at http://www.acac.org.
Mold and indoor air quality investigation is a scientific work in progress, beware of companies that claim cures or approaches such as: duct cleaning, mold dogs, ozone treatments, heat treatments, fogging, miracle mold killing solutions or biocides. None of these approaches have scientific support as effective for mold investigations or indoor air quality problems.
As experienced inspector professionals have seen over 7,000 buildings and can often more easily pinpoint where mold, moisture and indoor air quality problems are likely to be hiding. This type of inspection is considered more reliable than mold testing only. During the visual inspection the investigator looks for malodors, moisture damage, visible mold, historical moisture damage, water staining, building air flow patterns and elevated moisture conditions. As part of our inspection, we provide a written scope of work for the client’s use to promptly and safely resolve the indoor air quality problem.
If you have any questions about our mold inspection process at your property in Marin County or the surrounding areas, do not hesitate to contact us.
MOLD AND INDOOR AIR QUALITY TESTING
Mold Specific Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction is the umbrella term used to describe mold DNA testing based off the EPA’s ERMI research program. MSQPCR is objective and specific because it is a detection system based on unique DNA sequences. MSQPCR helps in understanding of the dynamics of indoor mold populations. The real-time availability of data from MSQPCR can assist in monitoring the presence of potentially pathogenic molds in the environment. MSQPCR can also be used to monitor plant pathogens and toxin-producing fungi. When using dust collector samples you can get a look at the mold history in the home or office. A SIM (Survey of Indoor Molds), which uses all the same technology as the ERMI, can be used for other sample types that do not conform to the ERMI protocol. If you are interested in the current levels of indoor airborne mold, the MTrap® cassette can also be used with an IAQ sampling pump which you can perform a SIAM (the ERMI panel for the air) to get results similar to a spore trap but with species identifications.
ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index)
The most recommended mold test for their patients, by environmental doctors, is the ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index). This test, originally developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), examines the DNA mold proteins in a dust sample from the building being inspected. Using DNA analysis, the sample is tested for the genetic presence of 36 different mold species. The ERMI report provides a score that compares the building in question to a variety of 1,000 other U.S. buildings, with regards to the likelihood that it may cause harm to its occupants. Although many experts believe that the ERMI does a generally good job in identifying unhealthy buildings that are harming people, it is not considered a perfect test and is still classified by the EPA as a research tool. The ERMI is a moderately priced test, costing around $400 depending on the laboratory used.
As experienced inspection professionals, we have seen over 7,000 buildings and can pinpoint where mold, moisture and indoor air quality problems are likely to be hiding. This type of comprehensive inspection is considered more reliable than mold or indoor air quality testing only. During the comprehensive inspection, the investigator looks for malodors, moisture damage, visible mold, historical moisture damage, water staining, building air flow patterns and elevated moisture conditions. As part of our inspection, we provide a detailed written scope of work for the client’s use to promptly and safely resolve the indoor air quality problem.
The most recommended mold test for their patients, by environmental doctors, is the ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index). This test, developed and licensed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), examines the DNA mold proteins in a dust sample from the building being inspected. Using DNA analysis, the sample tests for the genetic presence of 36 different mold species. The ERMI report provides a score that compares the building in question to a variety of 1,000 other U.S. buildings, with regards to the likelihood that it may cause harm to its occupants. Although many experts believe that the ERMI does a generally good job in identifying unhealthy buildings that are harming people, it is not considered a perfect test and is still classified by the EPA as a research tool.
The Institute of Medicine report, Damp Indoor Spaces and Health (2004), recommended the development of “More rapid measurement methods for specific microorganisms that use DNA-based and other technology.” This report also indicated that the “Application of the new or improved methods will allow more valid exposure assessment of microorganisms and their components, which should facilitate more-informed risk assessments.” After ten years of research, EPA patented such a method called mold specific quantitative PCR (MSQPCR). MSQPCR is a DNA based method for quantifying molds. The “application” of the MSQPCR technology has resulted in the development of the ERMI.
Mycotoxins: The World Health Organization (WHO) in its publication: Mycotoxins: Children’s Health and the Environment defines mycotoxins as “Natural products produced by fungi that evoke a toxic response when introduced in low concentrations to higher vertebrates by a natural route.” Note: There is no definition of what “low concentration” means. Also, humans are “higher vertebrates” and inhalation is a “natural route” http://www.who.int/ceh/capacity/mycotoxins.pdf
Aflatoxins: NIH, National Cancer Institute web site: “Which cancers are associated with exposure to aflatoxins? Exposure to aflatoxins is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer.” https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/aflatoxins
Ochratoxins: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 14th Report on Carcinogens (RoC) lists Aflatoxin as “Known to be a Human Carcinogen” and Ochratoxin A as “Reasonably anticipated to be Human Carcinogen”. https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/listed_substances_508.pdf
Gliotoxin: Gliotoxin is an immunosuppressive mycotoxin long suspected to be a potential virulence factor of Aspergillus fumigatus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2043361/
Trichothecenes: CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Case Definition: Trichothecene Mycotoxin states: “The trichothecene mycotoxins are a group of toxins produced by multiple genera of fungi.” They later state: “Systemic symptoms can develop with all routes of exposure (especially inhalation) and might include weakness, ataxia, hypotension, coagulopathy and death.” https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/trichothecene/casedef.asp
Mycophenolic Acid: Mycophenolic Acid: Use during pregnancy is associated with increased risks of pregnancy loss and congenital malformations. Females of reproductive potential must be counseled regarding pregnancy prevention and planning. Increased risk of development of lymphoma and other malignancies, particularly of the skin, due to immunosuppression. Increased susceptibility to bacterial, viral, fungal, and protozoal infections, including opportunistic infections. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0045948/#DDIC603035.side_effects_section
Sterigmatocystin: Sterigmatocystin is carcinogenic in mice (pulmonary adenocarcinomas) and rats (hepatocellular carcinomas at milligram doses of sterigmatocystin per animal per day for 1 year) following oral administration and is classified as an International Agency for Research on Cancer class 2B carcinogen (i.e., as possibly carcinogenic to humans) http://aem.asm.org/content/68/8/3886.full
Chaetoglobosins: Chaetomium globosum, the most common species within this genus, produces chaetoglobosins A and C when cultured on building material. Relatively low levels of these compounds have been shown to be lethal to various tissue culture cell lines. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17551849If you have toxic mold in your home, you may be exposed to Mycotoxins . Mycotoxins are known to be hazardous; some are even associated to cause cancer.
The EMMA mycotoxin test uses sensitive molecular detection technology to look for the presence of 10 of the most toxigenic molds. It determines their presence and determines their relative abundance. EMMA also tests directly for 15 of the most poisonous mycotoxins using its patented Mycotoxin detection test.
HERTSMI-2 MOLD TEST
Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker developed this test by looking at the ERMI scores of thousands of mold illness patients and determining which species of mold seemed to be most problematic for them. The HERTSMI-2 is the same basic DNA test as the ERMI, except that it looks for the presence of only five particularly dangerous species of mold – Aspergillus penicilloides, Aspergillus versicolor, Chaetomium globosum, Stachybotrys chartarum, and Wallemia sebi. A HERTSMI-2 score also can be calculated by looking at the scores of a regular ERMI test. Dr. Shoemaker suggests this test for people who already know that mold is a problem for them, rather than using it to determine whether a potential residence is unsafe in general. This test does not yet have any peer reviewed research papers published and is in limited use.
Air tests look for the presence of whole mold spores or other air borne pollutants of a different genus (not species) of mold or pollutants in the air at a particular moment in time. Those evaluating the test results look at the amount and types of mold present under a microscope. The laboratory then looks at how indoor samples compare with outdoor samples.
The main issues with air testing are:
1) The test measures spores or particles that are floating in the air rather than at genetic material, it tends to miss important mold particles.
2) Human error at the laboratory has been researched at 30%.
3) Doctors specializing in toxic mold illness suggest that air tests are not reliable enough to be used as a gauge of whether a building is safe for people with mold illness.
4) Most air tests used are non-viable to allow for a 24-hour turn around; these test results may miss viable mold present.
PETRI DISH TESTS
Petri dish tests are relatively inexpensive test kits that can be bought at stores like Home Depot. These test kits are inexpensive, usually costing between $10 and $80. Though affordable, mold experts and research indicate that petri dish tests are unreliable.
DIRECT SAMPLE AND BULK TESTS
If mold or other suspect microbials are visible, it is possible to take a tape lift, bulk or swab sample and send it off to a laboratory to be identified. While direct samples verify the types of mold present in the area tested, it does not provide information on overall mold types and levels in the living environment. Also, swab and bulk samples can be used to run viable sampling at the laboratory.
Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Testing
Electromagnetic Field (EMF and RF) Testing
Exposure to high electromagnetic fields (EMF) has become a concern due to possible health effects. The most common sources for high electromagnetic fields include proximity to power lines, transformers, appliances, and defects in the internal building’s wiring system.
Radio-frequency (RF) fields (or radio waves) come from the towers and antennas that produce and transmit radio and telecommunication signals. The RF fields make up the electromagnetic wave, or radiation, which is the radio signal. RF fields are also different from the low frequency magnetic fields found around power lines and electrical appliances. Any possible effects on health from electromagnetic fields from these sources should not be confused with the effects of RF fields.
“Extensive research has been conducted into possible health effects of exposure to many parts of the frequency spectrum. All reviews conducted so far have indicated that exposures below the limits recommended in the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP ) EMF guidelines, covering the full frequency range from 0 – 300 GHz*, do not produce any known adverse health effect.—World Health Organization
In May 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluated cancer risks from radio-frequency (RF) radiation. Human epidemiological studies gave evidence of increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma. RF radiation was classified as Group 2B, a possible human carcinogen.
Due to client concerns and conflicting research outcomes related to RF and EMF (Electronic Smog) exposure, we assess EMF and RF levels and recommend prudent avoidance strategies to limit exposures exposures.
FULL SCAN CHEMICAL TEST
ACS Vapor Monitor can be worn as a badge near the breathing zone to measure personal exposure, or placed in a room to measure area concentration.The analysis report will show the average concentration of the personal chemical exposure level. According to OSHA regulations, each person who uses a toxic gas as a regular part of their job must have their exposure monitored periodically. Air diffuses through a micro-porous membrane and collects vapor on special prepared adsorbents inside the monitoring badge.
MOLD INSPECTION INSTRUMENTS
A problem with modern buildings is that major mold and moisture problems can occur between the walls, floors or ceilings without anyone knowing they exist. Typically, a leak or condensation inside the wall, floor or ceiling will allow mold to start to grow, using the drywall or insulation as a food source. A moisture meter is used to identify sections of the wall, floor or ceiling that have a humidity level which is higher than expected. This gives the professional a better idea of where to look in the walls for problem spots so that water issues can be proactively addressed, and so that any existing mold growth can be dealt with safely. Moisture meters are very useful in finding leaks or other water intrusions.
Thermal imaging technology (also called infrared or thermographic imaging) is a tool that identifies variations in temperature. It is used by professionals when looking for places in walls where moisture may be hiding. Because moisture can alter heat patterns, this device can be helpful in finding leaks or other water damage. An infrared camera can also detect cold spots inside walls where condensation may be occurring on a regular basis. Thermal imaging only measures surface temperature and cannot look inside of walls, so any scan must always be confirmed with a moisture meter.
CALIFORNIA MOLD LAW
California’s SB655 mold law took effect on 1/1/16 and makes visible mold code enforceable as substandard housing. California is the first state to determine that mold growth is a health and safety concern. As part of the mold law implementation, we have provided the majority of training for Code Enforcement Officers in the state since 2016. At the same time as the new mold law, the California Department of Public Health revised its mold statement concluding that “the presence of water damage, dampness, visible mold, or mold odor in schools, workplaces, residences, and other indoor environment is unhealthy” (2015).