Air Sampling Methods for Airborne Mold

Chaetomium and other mold spores

Nonviable Air Sample

Exposure to indoor airborne mold spores and toxins commonly occurs, and can cause allergic, toxic, and irritant symptoms and diseases. It is known that mold spores and hyphal fragments are normal components of both indoor and outdoor air. The difference between healthy and unhealthy environment is determined by the amount of mold, the types of mold spores present, and a persons sensitivity or susceptibility to mold. To determine whether the air is contaminated with elevated levels of mold spores and their composition, air samples are collected and sent to an accredited laboratory for analysis.

Air Sampling Methods

Culturable Air Sample

Culturable Air Sample

There are two methods for sampling air for airborne mold. Each method has it’s advantages and disadvantages. The method selected depends on the objective of the investigation. At times both methods may have to be used. The most commonly used method is to impact air on an inert clear sticky substance. Airborne particulates including mold spores, pollen, insect parts, skin cells, and others are trapped onto the sticky surface and can be visualized under a microscope in the laboratory. Samples collected using this method are often referred to as nonviable or non-culturable samples. The terms “nonviable” or “non-culturable” are rather misleading but they are supposed to mean that the samples are not cultured in the lab. Nonviable samples are collected using cassettes such as Air-O-cell, Allergenco D, Micro 5, and many other similar cassettes. The second method for airborne mold sampling involves impacting air on some growth media. These samples are normally referred to as culturable or viable samples. Once sent to the lab, these samples are incubated for mold to grow for identification. It is important to know when to collect nonviable or viable air samples. Sometimes you may need to collect both types of samples depending on the data needed which in turn depends on the purpose of investigation.

Airborne Mold Samples Results Interpretation

Interpretation of airborne mold samples results is not easy. The large number of mold species and strains that can occur in indoor environment and the large inter-individual variability in human response to mold exposure make it difficult to set exposure limits. Therefore, the determination of whether or not a building is contaminated is often based on a comparison of the mold spore concentrations and composition in the indoor air with outdoor air. The types of mold present can tell us a lot about the building condition. For example, presence of Chaetomium or Stachybotrys is an indication of existing or previous moisture damage.

Congratulations Canada!

Congratulations Canada, You have now joined the rest of the developed world! Last week Canadian parliament finally adopted legislation that has banned the use of all asbestos containing materials. Why? Well if you ask Justin Trudeau he might say something like, “Because it’s 2016”. While I joke about it, it’s not a laughing matter. I was listening to the radio on a recent trip to Calgary, and they had a government official on, and she was giving the stats on the number of people exposed to asbestos in the work place every year, the numbers were staggering. By government estimates, 150,000 Canadians are exposed to asbestos every year through their work, this number does not account for the thousands of people that do their own home renovations and unknowingly expose themselves and their loved ones to asbestos. Please take the time and listen to this segment on asbestos, and asbestos related diseases.  You will have to fast forward to the 42 minute mark. It’s worth a listen.

Happy Holidays from got mold?™

During the holiday season, our thoughts turn gratefully to those who have made our success possible. We are grateful for all of our wonderful employees, customers, suppliers and our shareholders.

It is in this spirit that we say thank you and best wishes for the holidays and New Year in 2017.

Asbestos awareness can save your life


When I first started in the restoration business only a decade ago,  nobody seemed concerned with asbestos. To be honest, I think nobody really knew about asbestos and the risks associated with exposure to asbestos.

I remember the first time I encountered vermiculite. It was in an old farm house that had an issue with ice damming. We had to pull down the ceiling to dry the structural supports. This really cool looking sand-like stuff started falling down. It looked like tiny rocks but had hardly any weight to it. We would never had known that we were exposed to asbestos except that the farmer had left the bag for the vermiculite in the attic with the insulation. It read, “Contains asbestos, extreme health hazard”.

After that incident, several of us decided that we wouldn’t do any more work until we were educated to the risks of asbestos. The things I didn’t realize blew my mind. There are over 2000 building products that use asbestos in them. Although the government knew the health hazards of asbestos, it wasn’t banned until 1985. This means that a huge portion of the population is living with asbestos containing materials in their home and probably don’t know it. While many of these products pose no risk to the inhabitants, as it only dangerous once it is disturbed, there are older homes all across Canada that are coming due for much needed renovations.

For all you do-it-yourselfers out there, let this be a warning: According to Stats Canada,  asbestos exposure-related diseases are now the number one workplace killer in Canada. More than the next three causes combined.  Asbestos has killed more than 5000 Canadians since 1995, and the numbers are still on the rise. Asbestos is a ghost killer. You can’t see it, or smell it. There aren’t any immediate signs of exposure. In fact, it usually takes 10-20 years for symptoms of asbestosis or mesothelioma to develop.

The lesson we all need to take away from this is, the health risks to you and your family aren’t worth the money that you save by not having professionals ensure your home is safe from such a dangerous product. I have two young girls at home, I wouldn’t think of exposing them to a known carcinogen that would shorten their lives dramatically. The key to lowering the number of asbestos deaths in Canada is awareness. And now you know.

Real Estate transaction goes bad due to improper cleanup.

Real Estate transaction goes bad due to improper cleanup & costs more in the long run…

This week, we have another story from out in the field, but this time from our Yorkton Saskatchewan operations. Several weeks ago we received a call from a home owner in Yorkton who was selling his house but the potential buyer was planning some reservations that would disturb the vermiculite in the attic. The vermiculite was analyzed by an accredited trusted lab and came back as asbestos containing.

An agreement was made on the purchase of the home with one condition, the vermiculite must be removed and paid for by the seller.

The seller contacted got mold?™ for a quote on the costs to remove the asbestos containing materials. Our Yorkton area manager Jason Forwood went out to take a look at the property to determine how best we could set up containment, temporary shower, find out if other materials such as batt insulation were present and to get a good understanding of the clearance our workers would have in the attic space.

We provided the seller with our quote and sent it via email with the following information in the body of the email.

This is a high risk asbestos abatement that will require OH&S notice of project which is 14 days minimum notice before project can commence. Included in the quote is third party consultant to provide containment pre inspection, equipment DOP testing, background testing, final visual clearance sampling, final air clearance sampling and final report as required by OH&S for High risk asbestos abatement.

3 stage containment with temporary shower including HEPA negative air filtration would be set up to prevent any cross contamination during abatement. All vermiculite and insulation would be double bagged in yellow asbestos bags, washed and removed through shower/chambers. After all ACM vermiculite is removed, the entire containment will undergo a thorough final cleaning, HEPA vacuuming/wet wiping followed by visual inspection by third party consultant. Once visual is approved the entire containment will be sprayed down with fibre lock asbestos glue down before final air clearance testing commences and containment is fully cleared for demobilizing.

The seller decided to take it into his own hands and hire a local company to come in with an insulation truck and suck out the vermiculite without reporting to OH&S, they did not set up containment, decontamination chamber, shower and did not involve a third party consultant to verify that the work was completed satisfactorily.

The buyer contacted an electrical company to have them come in and start replace the wiring as it is currently old knob and tube. The electrician that was contacted knew that vermiculite was previously in the attic and demanded to see a report stating that the work had been completed to satisfaction and that the air quality within the built environment was safe.

The buyer went to the house to start moving in and noticed that their was some debris laying on the carpet. The buyer then contacted got mold?™ for advice and asked if we could have the air tested in the home to make sure it was safe. We proceeded with having the air tested and analyzed by an accredited and trusted lab. Test results came back and fibre counts on one of three floors of the home were above the acceptable threshold of .01 and another was borderline.

Our consultant wrote up a scope of work and provided us with direction as to what procedures must be followed. Following the detailed scope of work, our quote to now re-clean the attic and clean the two floors affected amounted to $3,000 more than the original quote due to the fact that the two floors must now be cleaned as well as the attic, furnace and duct work.

We are not sure what the final outcome of this will be but we felt it would be a great story to write in order to help increase awareness and ultimately stop this from happening to you and others.