When she visited at Christmas, my daughter Emma who is very sensitive to such things alerted me that there must be mold in our living room. She could sense it as soon as she walked into the room, which very honestly is used only for special occasions nowadays. I looked into all the corners of the room along the baseboard and found no evidence of it, but a thought popped into my head and it was a correct assumption.

In one far corner is an early nineteenth century chest with a glass door-enclosed bookcase on top displaying my collection of antique books, mostly for show, about old New York. Sure enough, on the top shelf, a whole section of them, neglected for some time, was covered with a powdery film of bluish, dusty mold.

I closed the doors and thought, oh well, might as well ignore it for a bit longer, as we moved the holiday celebration to the library. Another case of the cobbler without shoes, I’m afraid, at least until another day. But that day came quickly when Mark Jones, President of Certified Inspections, Inc., a home inspection and environmental testing company, came to the William Raveis office to present some important information about mold identification and removal.

After the meeting I met with him privately to learn more, and he identified some common myths about mold as follows:

Myth: You can identify mold by looking at it.

Truth: The only way mold can be identified is by having a sample of it analyzed under a microscope in a lab. In a Today Show exposé, reporters rubbed mascara on a hallway wall and called in a dozen mold companies to look at it. All of them said it was definitely mold and quoted prices to remove it. What else could it be? Discoloration can be caused by carbon, concentrated dust, dirt, and other unidentifiable matter.

Myth: Mold is dangerous.

Truth: Mold is dangerous if it is present in a substantial enough quantity. When samples are analyzed, the report not only tells you what kinds of spores were present, but how many of each were present. A low enough level presents no more danger than what you encounter outside your house. If the levels are high inside, then you run a serious health risk.

Myth: Mold is not dangerous because it is all around the environment.

Truth: The mold levels outside are always changing and some people are affected by the outside mold in the same way some are affected by pollen or pollution. If mold levels are significantly higher inside one’s house, mold can cause severe respiratory damage, headaches, flu-like symptoms, and in severe cases, memory loss and cancer.

Myth: Mold should be cleaned with bleach.

Truth: Bleach should NOT be used. Bleach only kills surface mold and evaporates leaving behind a residue of nitrogen, which is an element of fertilizer. In effect, you are feeding the mold spores that are under the surface or in the air and it can grow back even worse.

Myth: I can test my air for mold with a Home Depot kit.

Truth: Growing a culture on your own tells you nothing about whether you have a mold problem because you are not comparing it to a control sample outside or gauging its growth time via any regulated methodology. The best way to determine if you have a mold problem is to hire a professional company that only does testing and have them take air samples with spore traps and swabs or tape lifts. Knowing how to collect data and how to interpret it is just as important as what equipment one uses to collect it. That’s why professionals are trained in their craft.

Myth: Mold can make you sick if it is inside your walls.

Truth: Mold can only make you sick if you breathe it. If it is concealed inside your walls but not in the air of your house, it cannot affect you. That is why having air testing performed by a professional testing company that does not also do remediation is the only way to find out if the air is safe.

Myth: It is better to have one company do mold testing and mold clean up.

Truth: You should NEVER have the same company do both. If a company does clean up, also known as remediation or abatement, they have a reason to find a problem so they can make much more money doing the clean up like all the companies who said the mascara was mold. An independent testing company with no conflict of interest should first test, and if a problem is found, they should write up an action plan which specs out the scope of work for a remediator to follow so it is done properly. The testing company should then re-test the remediator’s work to make sure the work was safely completed.

More information about Certified Home Inspections can be found at: certifiedinspections.com

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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