Air Quality Testing for Mold

Most people are not aware of how severely mold can affect their health. Because mold spores are so small, they can become airborne easily and spread quickly. Just because you cannot see a mold contamination in your home doesn’t mean that it’s not there.

Mold and mildew are the result of moisture and water damage. Rooms that are prone to leaks, condensation and flooding often experience mold growth. These include bathrooms, attics and basements.

Property owners have to be careful because moisture problems are not always obvious or visible. They can remain completely hidden from sight (behind walls and underneath carpets). If left untreated, they will lead to black mold contamination.

Exposure to black mold can cause or aggravate health conditions like asthma and allergies.

Over time, it can also lead to more serious conditions such as chronic bronchitis, problems with the nervous system, cancer and heart conditions.

air quality testing for mold in bathroom
Air quality testing for mold in bathroom

Luckily, you have two types of air tests to help you detect unseen mold: viable sampling and non-viable sampling. Each has its advantages and drawbacks (see below), but both are effective means of assessing indoor air quality.

Types of air tests for mold

Air sampling is one of the best ways to identify indoor contaminants and assess the quality of your indoor air. There are two main air tests for mold: viable and non-viable.

What is viable air sampling for mold?

In viable testing, a sample of air is taken on a growth media and incubated in a petri dish over time until colonies form. This process reveals the exact genus and species of the microorganisms gathered in the sample.

There are literally thousands of mold species, and some are more dangerous than others. Viable air sampling helps to identify mold down to its exact species—information that’s important in determining if you are being exposed to various toxic molds.

Pros and cons of viable air tests

  • A viable air sample provides more detailed information about the microorganisms present in an air sample. However, because this method requires culturing, it takes longer to get results. It’s also more expensive.
  • In addition, some microorganisms captured in the sample may not germinate depending on the growth media used and competition from other molds. This means that results aren’t 100% accurate.

Mold Busters works only with accredited microbiological laboratories in Canada and the United States so that you get accurate and reliable results in a timely manner.

Video: Viable vs Non-Viable Air Testing

What is non-viable air sampling for mold?

In non-viable testing, an air sample is collected and observed directly under a microscope. No culturing is required, so the results are ready much sooner.

Non-viable tests (also known as spore traps) are the industry standard for residential mold testing.

Air Quality Testing for Mold
Air Quality Testing for Mold (non-viable)

The pros and cons of non-viable air sampling

  • Because no culturing is required in non-viable sampling, you get results much sooner. It’s also much cheaper than a viable test.
  • The results of a non-viable test are presented in an easy-to-read list that includes the genus name and concentration of spores contained in the sample. This makes evaluating the extent of a fungal contamination much easier.
  • The main drawback of non-viable air tests is that they reveal only the genus of a microorganism, not the exact species. Therefore, they cannot distinguish between, for example, Stachybotrys chartarum and any another species of Stachybotrys.

Mold Busters uses industry-recognized Air-O-Cell and Allergenco-D air monitoring cassettes and works directly with accredited laboratories to provide the fastest and most reliable results to our Ottawa, Gatineau and Montreal clients. Book your air quality test today!

Common FAQ’s about air quality testing for mold

Does an air quality test detect mold?

Air quality testing is one of the most popular methods for detecting mold. This is especially effective to identify mold which is hidden, or non-visible.

Mold produces spores, which are microscopic airborne particles. The only way to identify mold spores is through microscopy.

Air quality testing draws in these microscopic particles onto sampling mediums, typically called cassettes. These cassettes are then sent to a laboratory that specialized in the microscopic, microbial analysis. Through this process, they can microscopically identify the types of mold present in the air of the tested space.

How do you test for mold spores in the air?

The most common and reliable way to test for mold spores in the air is through non-viable air sampling. This is also called a “spore trap analysis”.

A trained indoor environmental professional will collect samples of air, using a calibrated air pump. The air will be collected onto non-viable mediums, called cassettes.

The microscopic airborne spores get pulled into these cassettes, which have an adhesively coated glass slide medium. As mold spores enter in, they become impacted into the glass slide medium.

The cassettes are then delivered and microscopically analyzed by a trained environmental microscopist or mycologist at an accredited laboratory.

What are the safe levels of mold in the air?

Unfortunately, there are no pre-defined “safe levels” for airborne mold in Canada.

Mold is ubiquitous and can be found in almost every environment. Each individual within these environments will have varying immune systems, pre-existing medical conditions, etc. As such, determining what is “safe” or “unsafe” will vary considerably and will determine on a wide array of variables that have not been established by exposure levels or values.

The industry standard is to determine if the environment contains a normal indoor fungal ecology. Typically, baseline or control samples are collected outside of the property, to establish the outdoor spore types and concentrations.

Indoor air samples are then compared to the outdoor baseline samples. Often, spores found indoors are identical to the outdoors, which is normal. However, if the concentration levels are higher indoors then outdoors, this can be indicative of an abnormal indoor fungal ecology and will need to be assessed further to determine causes and solutions. An air quality assessment should always be accompanied by a visual & diagnostic inspection.

If the spore types found indoors are unique to the indoor space (meaning, they were not found outdoors), or if the indoor spore types are toxigenic species, this also indicates an abnormal indoor fungal ecology, and remediation may be required to restore the environment to a normal, indoor fungal ecology.