Are air samples accurate? Simply put NO.
Most mold inspections are nothing more than someone taking a few air samples and then giving you a result. This is NOT a mold inspection and is a flawed approach to finding a mold problem. Are air samples accurate? Should you rely upon this “result” to tell you if there is a problem? Simply put the answer is NO. While this notion is counter intuitive to my own personal financial interest it is true. Taking air samples and reading a result and making a decision about your living or work-space is at best foolish. Don’t believe us, This is what the CDC and the EPA say with regard to taking air tests to determine if you have a mold problem:
Both the CDC and EPA answer the question if Air samples are accurate; NO
Simply taking air samples and getting a “negative” result, isn’t an accurate indication that a mold issue does not exist. This is inaccurate thinking and broad example of confirmation bias. There are many reasons that air samples are NOT good indications of what is happening in an indoor environment. Some of these are touched on by both the CDC and EPA in their articles published on these subjects. Air samples are NOT black and white and are highly subjective in their reporting and analysis on the part of the laboratory. We have written another article on air samples as well which you can read here.
There are many reasons that air samples are both inaccurate as well as not reliable for assessing the indoor air quality of a home by themselves. While air samples CAN be a useful tool for a trained professional, you typically should be able to figure out what is going on without having to take air samples. Are air samples accurate? NO. This can be a long and complicated debate. I will publish some findings regarding this later. But for now, rather than read what I have to say about this, why don’t you read what the CDC and EPA says about air samples:
We have found that thorough visual inspections and/or detection of problem areas via musty odors are more reliable. These methods have been used in past NIOSH research and have shown a correlation with health risks in buildings that have indoor environmental complaints.
Testing and Remediation of Dampness and Mold Contamination
There are no established health-based standards for acceptable levels of biological agents in indoor air. We do not recommend routine air sampling for mold with building air quality evaluations because air concentrations of molds cannot be interpreted with regard to health risks. In many cases, very short-term sampling for mold spores is conducted; however, the results may not be representative of actual exposures. Furthermore, spore counts and culture results, which tend to be what are included in indoor air quality reports, do not capture the full range of exposures. What building occupants react to is largely unknown. It may be mold, a compound produced by mold, something related to bacteria, or compounds that are released into the air when wet building materials break down. We have found that thorough visual inspections and/or detection of problem areas via musty odors are more reliable. These methods have been used in past NIOSH research and have shown a correlation with health risks in buildings that have indoor environmental complaints.
I found mold growing in my home, how do I test the mold?
Generally, it is not necessary to identify the species of mold growing in a residence, and CDC does not recommend routine sampling for molds. Current evidence indicates that allergies are the type of diseases most often associated with molds. Since the susceptibility of individuals can vary greatly either because of the amount or type of mold, sampling and culturing are not reliable in determining your health risk. If you are susceptible to mold and mold is seen or smelled, there is a potential health risk; therefore, no matter what type of mold is present, you should arrange for its removal. Furthermore, reliable sampling for mold can be expensive, and standards for judging what is and what is not an acceptable or tolerable quantity of mold have not been established. See the article on the CDC SITE HERE.
Mold Testing or Sampling
Is sampling for mold needed? In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building’s compliance with federal mold standards. See this report on the EPA site here