RAL Inspection and Testing Services


A Healthy Environment is Essential for a Life With Good Health

Call 215 257-4500 for Questions or to Schedule a Service


Serving Southeastern Pennsylvania and Offering Peace of Mind, Knowledge, Safety, and Security

Mold & Air Quality Testing

(Average fee: Residential Assessment Visual Only $80.00)

(Average fee Residential Air Mold Testing $250-350 (Location Dependent) includes inspection,
report, and 2 Mold Tests (1 Control, 1 Inside.) Each additional sample is $75

Mold, Mold, Mold -- It’s Everywhere

Mold has become a high profile issue as homeowners and insurance companies wrangle over the veracity of health issues and the responsibility of cleaning up mold problems. Currently, there is no agreement among health professionals on what levels of mold are acceptable in a home. However, most homeowners acknowledge that the potential risk of mold- related health problems warrant special attention and action. Some molds species can produce a chemical compound called "Mycotoxins" although they may not always do so. Molds that are able to produce toxins are common. In some cases, mold in the home can be a serious problem. It can adversely affect the Indoor Air Quality within your home and decrease the quality of life for those living there.

Our Mold Assessment Service

We will conduct a visual assessment of your property to identify any potential moisture problems as well as any visible mold growth. In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. You should simply assume there is a problem whenever you see mold or smell mold odors. When conditions warrant further testing, we will perform air and bulk mold sampling which is sent to a laboratory for analysis. A combination of air (outdoor and indoor air samples) and bulk (material) samples may help determine the extent of contamination and where cleaning is needed. We’ll help provide you with information about remedial action and steps to prevent mold and moisture problems from re-occurring.

Excess Moisture is the Primary Cause

Mold requires a food source (building materials like wood or drywall cellulose) and water or moisture. By eliminating the source of moisture (water leaks, excess humidity, condensation, etc.) you can stop mold from growing in your home or building. It’s that simple. Preventative maintenance is the key. However, finding water/moisture entry points and sources can be complicated.

Possible Mold Reaction Symptoms



Sinus and nasal congestion

Cough

Wheezing or breathing difficulties

A Sore throat

Skin and eye irritation

Upper respiratory infections (including sinus)







Main Menu for Additional Mold Information

Click On the Desired Topic Bellow for Additional Information.
This information is taken from Wikipedia, the internet's largest and most popular general reference work..


1 - About mold

2 - Assessment

3 - Causes and Growing Conditions

4 - Exposure Sources and Prevention

5 - Fungal Infection

6 - Health effects

7 - Hidden mold

8 - Mildew

9 - Mold Associated Conditions

10 - Mold Background

11 - Mycotoxins

12 - Symptoms of Exposure

13 - Where Can Mold be Found?

14 - Wood Decay Fungus



About Mold

There are thousands of known species of molds and they all require moisture for growth. Like all fungi, molds derive energy from organic matter on which they live. Although molds can grow on dead organic matter everywhere in nature, their presence is visible to the unaided eye only when they form large colonies. In artificial environments such as buildings, humidity and temperature are often stable enough to foster the growth of mold colonies, commonly seen as a downy or furry coating growing on food or other surfaces.
toxic compounds Molds are ubiquitous, and mold spores are a common component of household and workplace dust; however, when mold spores are present in large quantities, they can present a health hazard to humans, potentially causing allergic reactions and respiratory problems. toxic compounds toxic compounds Some molds also produce mycotoxins that can pose serious health risks to humans and animals. Some studies claim that exposure to high levels of mycotoxins can lead to neurological problems and in some cases death. Prolonged exposure, e.g. daily home exposure, may be particularly harmful. Research on the health impacts of mold has not been conclusive. The term "toxic mold" refers to molds that produce mycotoxins (toxic compounds).

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Assessment

The first step in an assessment is to determine if mold is present. This is done by visually examining the premises. If mold is growing and visible this helps determine the level of remediation that is necessary. If mold is actively growing and is visibly confirmed, sampling for specific species of mold is unnecessary.

These methods, considered non-intrusive, only detect visible and odor-causing molds. Sometimes more intrusive methods are needed to assess the level of mold contamination. This would include moving furniture, lifting and/or removing carpets, checking behind wallpaper or paneling, checking in ventilation duct work, opening and exposing wall cavities, etc. Careful detailed visual inspection and recognition of moldy odors should be used to find problems needing correction. Efforts should focus on areas where there are signs of liquid moisture or water vapor (humidity) or where moisture problems are suspected. The investigation goals should be to locate indoor mold growth to determine how to correct the moisture problem and remove contamination safely and effectively.

In general, the EPA does not recommend sampling unless an occupant of the space is symptomatic. When sampling is necessary it should be performed by a trained professional who has specific experience in designing mold-sampling protocols, sampling methods, and the interpretation of findings. Sampling should only be conducted to answer a pertinent question: examples "what is the spore concentration in the air", or "is a particular species of fungi present in the building." The following additional question should be asked before sampling: "what action can or should a person take upon obtaining data."

The sampling and analysis should follow the recommendations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). Most importantly, when a sample is taken the proper chain of custody should be adhered to. The AIHA offers lists of accredited laboratories that submit to required quarterly proficiency testing.

Three types of sampling include but are not limited to:
• Air sampling: the most common form of sampling to assess the level of mold. Sampling of the inside and outdoor air is conducted and the results to the level of mold spores inside the premises and outside are compared. Often, air sampling will provide positive identification of the existence of non-visible mold.
• Surface samples: sampling the amount of mold spores deposited on indoor surfaces (tape, and dust samples).
• Bulk samples: the removal of materials from the contaminated area to identify and determine the concentration of mold in the sample. When sampling is conducted, all three types are recommended by the AIHA, as each sample method alone has specific limitations. For example, air samples will not provide proof of a hidden source of mold. Nor would a tape sample provide the level of contamination in the air.

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Causes and Growing Conditions

Molds are found everywhere inside and outside, and can grow on almost any substance when moisture is present. Molds reproduce by spores, which can be carried by air currents. When these spores land on a moist surface that is suitable for life, they begin to grow. Mold is normally found indoors at levels that do not affect most healthy individuals. Because common building materials are capable of sustaining mold growth, and mold spores are ubiquitous, mold growth in an indoor environment is typically related to water or moisture indoors. Mold growth may also be caused by incomplete drying of flooring materials such as concrete. Flooding, leaky roofs, building maintenance problems, or indoor plumbing problems can lead to mold growth inside. Interior moisture vapor commonly condenses on surfaces cooler than the moisture containing air which enables mold to flourish. This moisture vapor passes through walls, ceilings and condenses typically in the winter months in climates where the heating cycle is extended. Floors over crawlspaces and basements (without vapor barriers or with dirt floors) are also problem areas.

(he "doormat test" is very good at detecting moisture vapor emanating from under concrete slabs that are missing a sub-slab vapor barrier.For significant mold growth to occur, there must be a source of water (which could be invisible humidity), a source of food and a substrate capable of sustaining growth. Common building materials, such as plywood, drywall, furring strips, carpets, and carpet padding are food for molds. In carpet, invisible dust and cellulose are the food sources (see also dust mites). After a single incident of water damage occurs in a building, molds grow inside walls and then become dormant until a subsequent incident of high humidity; this illustrates how mold can appear to be a sudden problem, long after a previous flood or water incident that did not produce such a problem. The right conditions reactivate mold. Studies also show that mycotoxin levels are perceptibly higher in buildings that have once had a water incident (source: CMHC).

The main sources of mold exposure are from the indoor air in buildings with substantial mold growth, and from ingestion of food with mold growths.
Molds are ubiquitous in nature, and mold spores are a common component of household and workplace dust. However, when spores are present in large quantities, they are a health hazard to humans, potentially causing allergic reactions and respiratory problems. Some molds also produce mycotoxins that can pose serious health risks to humans and animals. The term "toxic mold" refers to molds that produce mycotoxins, such as Stachybotrys chartarum, not to all molds. Exposure to high levels of mycotoxins can lead to neurological problems and in some cases death. Prolonged exposure, e.g., daily workplace exposure, can be particularly harmful. There has been sufficient evidence that damp indoor environments are correlated with upper respiratory tract symptoms such as; coughing, and wheezing in people with asthma.[4]

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Exposure Sources and Prevention of Infection

Prevention of mold exposure and its ensuing health issues begins with prevention of mold growth in the first place by avoiding a mold-supporting environment such as humid air. Extensive flooding and water damage can support extensive mold growth. Following hurricanes, homes with greater flood damage, especially those with more than 3 feet of indoor flooding, demonstrated higher levels of mold growth compared with homes with little or no flooding.[28][29] The aftermath of a hurricane is the worst-case scenario, but the concept of water damage supporting widespread mold growth is more generally applicable.

It is useful to perform an assessment of the location and extent of the mold hazard in a structure. Various practices of remediation can be followed to mitigate mold issues in buildings, the most important of which is to reduce moisture levels. Removal of affected materials after the source of moisture has been reduced and/or eliminated may be necessary.

A common issue with mold hazards in the household is the placement of furniture, and the lack of ventilation which this causes to certain parts of the wall. The simplest method of avoiding mold in a home so affected is to move the furniture in question. Adverse respiratory health effects are associated with occupancy in buildings with moisture and mold damage.

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Fungal Infection

A serious health threat from mold exposure for immunocompromised individuals is systemic fungal infection (systemic mycosis). Immunocompromised individuals exposed to high levels of mold, or individuals with chronic exposure may become infected. Sinuses and digestive tract infections are most common; lung and skin infections are also possible. Mycotoxins may or may not be produced by the invading mold. Dermatophytes are the parasitic fungi that cause skin infections such as athlete's foot and tinea cruris. Most dermataphyte fungi take the form of a mold, as opposed to a yeast, with appearance (when cultured) that is similar to other molds. Opportunistic infection by molds] such as Penicillium marneffei and Aspergillus fumigatus is a common cause of illness and death among immunocompromised people, including people with AIDS or asthma. Mold-induced hypersensitivity.

The most common form of hypersensitivity is caused by the direct exposure to inhaled mold spores that can be dead or alive or hyphal fragments which can lead to allergic asthma or allergic rhinitis. The most common effects are rhinorrhea (runny nose), watery eyes, coughing and asthma attacks. Another form of hypersensitivity is hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Exposure can occur at home, at work or in other settings. It is predicted that about 5% of people have some airway symptoms due to allergic reactions to molds in their lifetimes. Hypersensitivity may also be a reaction toward an established fungal infection in allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. Mycotoxin toxicity.

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Health Effects

Studies have shown that people who already suffer from allergies, asthma, or compromised immune systems and occupy damp or moldy buildings are at an increased risk of health problems such as inflammatory and toxic responses to mold spores, metabolites and other components. The most common health problem is an allergic reaction. Other problems are respiratory and/or immune system responses including respiratory symptoms, respiratory infections, exacerbation of asthma, and rarely hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic alveolitis, chronic rhinosinusitis and allergic fungal sinusitis. Severe reactions are rare but possible. A persons reaction to mold depends on their sensitivity and other health conditions, the amount of mold present, length of exposure and the type of mold or mold products. Some molds also produce mycotoxins that can pose serious health risks to humans and animals.

The term "toxic mold" refers to molds that produce mycotoxins, not to all molds. Exposure to high levels of mycotoxins can lead to neurological problems and in some cases death. Prolonged exposure, e.g., daily workplace exposure, can be particularly harmful.

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Hidden mold

After a major storm or flood one should look out for any signs of hidden mold growth. One can detect mold by the smell and any sign of water damage on the walls or ceiling. Mold can grow in many places that are not visible to the human eye in the indoor environment. Mold is often found behind wallpaper or paneling, the topside of ceiling tiles, back side of dry wall, or the underside of carpets or carpet padding. Piping inside the walls may also be a source of mold growth since pipes often leak and cause moisture and condensation. One must also check in roof materials above ceiling tiles since roofs often leak and water collects inside the walls and insulation. If one is suspicious about mold growth one should investigate with caution to prevent exposure to mold.

Spores need three things to grow into mold:

• Nutrients: Cellulose is a common food for spores in an indoor environment. It is the part of the cell wall of green plants.

• Moisture: Moisture is required to begin the decaying process caused by the mold.

• Time: Mold growth begins between 24 hours and 10 days from the provision of the growing conditions. There is no known way to date mold.

1. Mold colonies can grow inside building structures. The main problem with the presence of mold in buildings is the inhalation> of mycotoxins. Molds may produce an identifiable smell. Growth is fostered by moisture. After a flood or major leak, mycotoxin levels are higher in the building even after it has dried out.

2. Food sources for molds in buildings include cellulose-based materials, such as wood, cardboard, and the paper facing on both sides of drywall, and all other kinds of organic matter, such as soap, fabrics, and dust containing skin cells. If a house has mold, the moisture may be from the basement or crawl space, a leaking roof, or a leak in plumbing pipes behind the walls. People residing in a house also contribute moisture through normal breathing and perspiration. Insufficient ventilation can further enable moisture build-up. Visible mold colonies may form where ventilation is poorest, and on perimeter walls, because they are coolest, thus closest to the dew point.

3. If there are mold problems in a house only during certain times of the year, then it is probably either too air-tight, or too drafty. Mold problems occur in airtight homes more frequently in the warmer months (when humidity reaches high levels inside the house, and moisture is trapped), and occur in drafty homes more frequently in the colder months (when warm air escapes from Removing one of the three requirements for mold reduces or eliminates the new growth of mold. These three requirements are: A-Moisture-the key factor. Remove the water, moisture AND humidity and future growth stops.

B-Food source for the mold spores (dust, dander, etc.)

, and C-Warmth (mold generally does not grow in cold environments).

HVAC systems can create all three requirements for significant mold growth. The A/C system creates a difference in temperature that allows/causes condensation to occur. The high rate of dusty air movement through an HVAC system may create ample sources of food for the mold. And finally, since the A/C system is not always running - the ability for warm conditions to exist on a regular basis allows for the final component for active mold growth. Because the HVAC system circulates air contaminated with mold spores and sometimes toxins, it is vital to prevent any three of the environments required for mold growth. A) Highly effective return air filtration systems are available that eliminate up to 99.9% of dust accumulation (as compared to 5% elimination by typical HVAC air filters). These newer filtration systems usually require modification to existing HVAC systems to allow for the larger size of electrostatic 99.9% filters. However, thorough cleaning of the HVAC system is required before usage of high efficiency filtration systems will help. Once mold is established, the mold growth and dust accumulation must be removed. B) Insulation of supply air ducts helps to reduce or eliminate the condensation that ultimately creates the moisture required for mold growth. This insulation should be placed externally on the air ducts, because internal insulation provides a dust capture and breeding ground for mold.

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Mildew

The term mildew is often used generically to refer to mold growth usually with a flat growth habit. Molds can thrive on many organic materials, including clothing, leather, paper, and the ceilings, walls and floors of homes or offices with poor moisture control. Mildew can be cleaned using specialized mildew remover, or substances such as bleach (though they may discolor the surface. There are many species of mold. The black mold which grows in attics, on window sills, and other places where moisture levels are moderate often is Cladosporium. Color alone is not always a reliable indicator of the species of mold. Proper identification should be done by a microbiologist.

Mold growth found on cellulose-based substrates or materials where moisture levels are high (90 percent or greater) is often Stachybotrys chartarum and is linked with sick building syndrome.[dead link] “Black mold,” also known as “toxic black mold,” properly refers to S. chartarum. This species commonly is found indoors on wet materials containing cellulose, such as wallboard (drywall), jute, wicker, straw baskets, and other paper materials. S. chartarum does not grow on plastic, vinyl, concrete, glass, ceramic tile, or metals. A variety of other mold species, such as Penicillium or Aspergillus, do. In places with stagnant air, such as basements, molds can produce a strong musty odor.

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Mold Asociated Conditions

Health problems associated with high levels of airborne mold spores include[unreliable medical source?] allergic reactions, asthma episodes, irritations of the eye, nose and throat, sinus congestion, and other respiratory problems, although it should be noted that mold spores won't actually cause asthma, just irritate existing conditions. For example, residents of homes with mold are at an elevated risk for both respiratory infections and bronchitis. When mold spores are inhaled by an immunocompromised individual, some mold spores may begin to grow on living tissue, attaching to cells along the respiratory tract and causing further problems. Generally, when this occurs, the illness is an epiphenomenon and not the primary pathology. Also, mold may produce mycotoxins, either before or after exposure to humans, potentially causing toxicity.

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Mold Background

Molds are found everywhere inside and outside, and can grow on almost any substance when moisture is present. Molds reproduce by spores, which can be carried by air currents. When these spores land on a moist surface that is suitable for life, they begin to grow. Mold is normally found indoors at levels that do not affect most healthy individuals.

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Mycotoxins

Molds excrete toxic compounds called mycotoxins, secondary metabolites produced by fungi under certain environmental conditions. These environmental conditions affect the production of mycotoxins at the transcription level. Temperature, water activity and pH, strongly influence mycotoxin biosynthesis by increasing the level of transcription within the fungal spore. It has also been found that low levels of fungicides can boost mycotoxin synthesis. Certain mycotoxins can be harmful or lethal to humans and animals when exposure is high enough.

Extreme exposure to very high levels of mycotoxins can lead to neurological problems and in some cases death; fortunately, such exposures rarely to never occur in normal exposure scenarios, even in residences with serious mold problems.[citation needed] Prolonged exposure, such as daily workplace exposure, can be particularly harmful.[citation needed]The health hazards produced by mold have been associated with sick building syndrome, but no validated studies have been able to demonstrate that normal indoor exposures to these common organisms pose a significant threat.

It is thought that all molds may produce mycotoxins and thus all molds may be potentially toxic if large enough quantities are ingested, or the human becomes exposed to extreme quantities of mold. Mycotoxins are not produced all the time, but only under specific growing conditions. Mycotoxins are harmful or lethal to humans and animals only when exposure is high enough. Mycotoxins can be found on the mold spore and mold fragments, and therefore they can also be found on the substrate upon which the mold grows. Routes of entry for these insults can include ingestion, dermal exposure and inhalation.

Some mycotoxins cause immune system responses that vary considerably, depending on the individual. The duration of exposure, the frequency of exposure and the concentration of the insult (exposure) are elements in triggering immune system response. Aflatoxin is an example of a mycotoxin. It is a cancer-causing poison produced by certain fungi in or on foods and feeds, especially in field corn and peanuts.[27]Originally, toxic effects from mold were thought to be the result of exposure to the mycotoxins of some mold species, such as Stachybotrys chartarum. However, studies are suggesting that the so-called toxic effects are actually the result of chronic activation of the immune system, leading to chronic inflammation.

Studies indicate that up to 25% of the population have the genetic capability of experiencing chronic inflammation to mold exposure, but it is unknown how many actually experience such symptoms due to frequent misdiagnosis. A 1993–94 case study based on cases of pulmonary hemorrhage in infants in Cleveland, Ohio originally concluded there was causal relationship between the exposure and the disease. The investigators revisited the cases and established that there was no link to the exposure to S. chartrum and the infants in their homes.

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Symptoms of Exposure

Symptoms caused by mold allergy are watery, itchy eyes, a chronic cough, headaches or migraines, difficulty breathing, rashes, tiredness, sinus problems, nasal blockage and frequent sneezing. Symptoms of mold exposure can include -Nasal and sinus congestion
Runny nose
Eye irritation, such as itchy, red, watery eyes
Respiratory problems, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing, chest tightness
Cough
Throat irritation

Sneezing / Sneezing fits

Infants may develop respiratory symptoms as a result of exposure to a specific type of fungal mold, called Penicillium. Signs that an infant may have mold-related respiratory problems include (but are not limited to) a persistent cough and/or wheeze. Increased exposure increases the probability of developing respiratory symptoms during their first year of life. Studies have shown that a correlation exists between the probability of developing asthma and increased exposure Penicillium.

The levels are deemed no mold to low level, from low to intermediate, from intermediate to high. Mold exposures have a variety of health effects depending on the person. Some people are more sensitive to mold than others.

Exposure to mold can cause a number of health issues such as;

1-Throat irritation
2-Nasal stuffiness
3-Eye irritation
4-Cough and wheezing
5-As well as skin irritation in some cases.

Exposure to mold may also cause heightened sensitivity depending on the time and nature of exposure. People at higher risk for mold allergies are people with chronic lung illnesses, which will result in more severe reactions when exposed to mold.

There has been sufficient evidence that damp indoor environments are correlated with upper respiratory tract symptoms such as coughing, and wheezing in people with asthma.

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Where Can Mold be Found?

Mold in the home can usually be found in damp, dark or steamy areas e.g. bathroom or kitchen, cluttered storage areas, recently flooded areas, basement areas, plumbing spaces, areas with poor ventilation and outdoors in humid environments.

Mold in the home can usually be found in damp, dark or steamy areas e.g. bathroom or kitchen, cluttered storage areas, recently flooded areas, basement areas, plumbing spaces, areas with poor ventilation and outdoors in humid environments.

Symptoms caused by mold allergy are watery, itchy eyes, a chronic cough, headaches or migraines, difficulty breathing, rashes, tiredness, sinus problems, nasal blockage and frequent sneezing.

Molds (also spelled "moulds") are ubiquitous in the biosphere, and mold spores are a common component of household and workplace dust. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in its June 2006 report, 'Mold Prevention Strategies and Possible Health Effects in the Aftermath of Hurricanes and Major Floods,' that "excessive exposure to mold-contaminated materials can cause adverse health effects in susceptible persons regardless of the type of mold or the extent of contamination." When mold spores are present in abnormally high quantities, they can present especially hazardous health risks to humans, including allergic reactions or poisoning by mycotoxins, or causing fungual infection (mycosis).

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Wood decay fungus

A wood-decay fungus is a variety of fungus that digests moist wood, causing it to rot. Some species of wood-decay fungi attack dead wood, such as brown rot, and some, such as Armillaria (honey fungus), are parasitic and colonize living trees. Fungi that not only grow on wood but actually cause it to decay, are called lignicolous fungi. Various lignicolous fungi consume wood in various ways; for example, some attack the carbohydrates in wood and some others decay lignin. Brown-rot fungi break down hemicellulose and cellulose.

Cellulose is broken down by hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) that is produced during the breakdown of hemicellulose.

Because hydrogen peroxide is a small molecule, it can diffuse rapidly through the wood, leading to a decay that is not confined to the direct surroundings of the fungal hyphae. As a result of this type of decay, the wood shrinks, shows a brown discoloration, and cracks into roughly cubical pieces; hence the name brown rot or cubical brown rot. Dry rot is wood decay caused by certain species of fungi that digest parts of the wood which give the wood strength and stiffness. It was previously used to describe any decay of cured wood in ships and buildings by a fungus which resulted in a darkly colored deteriorated and cracked condition.

Chemically, wood attacked by dry rot fungi is decayed by the same process as other brown rot fungi An outbreak of dry rot within a building can be perceived to be an extremely serious infestation that is hard to eradicate, requiring drastic remedies to correct. Eventually the decay can cause instability and cause the structure to collapse.

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