Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I love the internet.  At any time, day or night, on a sudden impulse of seeking infinite knowledge about anything in particular, I simply type it into Google and voila! -Everything I ever wanted to know about that "anything in particular" is delivered on demand!  How did we even manage to get through life pre-Google?  Reminiscing to the old fashioned way of finding information via a trip to the local library, flipping throuh encyclopedias, and scanning through (gasp!) microfiche, causes my thoughts to whirl at the time-consuming efforts we used to make to find bits and pieces of information here and there, like an ant following a trail of little crumbs in a lifelong quest for the Mother Load.

As a result of technology, we are indeed a more informed society.  Or.. are we becoming a misinformed society?

Google Search: "Mold Removal"
If you enter "mold removal" into Google's search engine, you will instantly be presented with roughly 2.5 million results!  That should keep you busy for a while...  Interestingly, of those 2.5 million pages for your reading enjoyment, 496 thousand results mention "black mold", as well.  It's ironic how mold removal automatically leads to black mold on nearly 20% of internet results.  That may not seem like a lot to you at first thought, it's only 20%, after all.  But if you consider that there are literally hundreds of thousands of mold species in our environment, black mold is undoubtedly the star.  One of the most common household mold species, penicillium, only gets mentioned in 17 thousand of the 2.5 million results.  

I'm going to lay one more statistic on the table for you.  "Toxic black mold" still far exceeds a highly common household mold, penicillium, with 200 thousand results of those 2.5 pages of mold removal information on Google.  

Why is black mold so prominent in mold removal information?
It all began with one big scary word: "mycotoxins".  Yes, it is correct that stachybotrys has the potential to produce mycotoxins, releasing them throughout the indoor air environment, which may create an unhealthy indoor air environment for individuals, especially the elderly, young, and those with compromised immune systems.  The media learned about mycotoxins and discovered immediately that it creates very interesting news stories.  We all love a little drama and fear in our daily news, don't we?  How many times did you see a shocking teaser on the evening news, and think to yourself, "Wow I can't miss that one!".  Simply stated, toxic black mold makes for sensational news.  Unfortunately, it also creates the opportunity for many "experts" to  utilize scare tactics to sell large-scale mold remediation projects based upon the perceived "toxic environment" in a client's home, whether this toxic environment is actually present or not.  No one wants to live in a toxic environment!  Frankly, if I thought my family's health were at risk, I would be prompted to take immediate corrective action too.

Here are a few misconceptions that I found on the web about black mold.

  • One Google search lead me to a mold remediation company who initially explains where to find mold then in the next paragraph heads straight down the black mold path stating accurate information however in an alarming tone.  For example, it mentions deaths of babies in the very first sentence, followed by recommendations of remediation which is "critical" for the purpose of preventing suffering on your family's behalf.  
    • Is the information true?  It can be in very severe cases.  What truly alarms me is the lack of a recommendation for a mold inspection or lab testing, and the advertiser only shows "mold removal" in their available services.  (which is fine as many believe that it is a conflict of interest to have the same company conduct the testing and the remediation for the same job - however I would expect that there would be a mention that the affected area should be inspected and tested, first) If you have done any homework on the web, you probably already have a vague idea that mold species cannot be positively identified without prior testing.  Any responsible mold removal company is going to protect their clients first and foremost, as well as their own liabilities through inspections and testing before and after the mold removal job to ensure that the job was done right.
  • Another website recommends to hire "Black Mold Inspectors".  
    • There is no standard title for a "Black Mold Inspector" and what you are looking for is referred to as a "Certified Mold Inspector".  If you happen across someone who labels him/herself a "Black Mold Inspector", then I would be concerned about their integrity.
  • One particular website ONLY addresses black mold.  All of the other hundreds of thousands species of mold are simply ignored.  Furthermore, they advise that upon a water event, black mold can grow extraordinarily fast and upon its first appearance you should assume you have a black mold problem within a day or two if it is not cleaned right away.  
    • As a mold professional, statements like this rings to the same tune as the old car salesman who claims another person looking at the car in an hour so you better buy it now!  The message incorrectly leads an uninformed reader to believe that if they discover visible mold following a water event that the mold growth is definitively black mold.  In fact, depending on the specific conditions and the environment, the type of mold that settles in the affected area can be one or many types of mold, sometimes including or excluding stachybotrys.  And although I do agree that it is always adviseable to address a mold situation as soon as possible, I wouldn't necessarily agree with the statement that within 2 days you can bet you have a mold "problem" in all cases.  Again, part-truths that are presented in a manner to cause panic and rushed decisions.  
  • My favorite find is a website that explains the difference between "good black mold" and "bad black mold" inside a house.
    • Statements like this one leave me completely speechless.  There is no such thing as "good mold" or "beneficial mold" on the building materials within a home or building.  There is, of course, a benefit to mold in our environment.  If mold did not exist we would be over our heads in leaves since mold plays a key role in breaking down organic matter.  And, to give partial credit to the website's statement, some mold is beneficial in the creation of products such as blue cheese.
    • Mold is a normal occurance in our environment, and every home will typcially test positive for a variety of mold species in the indoor air environment simply through the exchange of indoor & outdoor air from opening doors and windows for example.  The important thing to understand is mold can become problematic when it it is at elevated levels indoors as compared to the outdoor control sample collected.  I can assure you with confidence that no good can come from any type of mold growing on the walls of a home or building.
  • I also found various product websites promising to clean the air in your home from black mold.
    • Although these air "cleaners" in many cases do have the ability to help lower mold counts, they fail to mention that if you do not address the source of the mold, the problem will continue to fester getting worse over time.  No air cleaner is going to effectively remove mold if there is water damaged sheetrock causing the mold spores to continue colonizing in the indoor air environment.  

Some related Black Mold and Mold Removal facts:

  • There are several hundred thousand mold species in our environment.
  • When mold is visible, it is always best to address the situation right away.  
  • Mold grows at varied rates depending on several environmental factors including temperature, disturbance, humidity, light, and the substrate on which it grows.
  • Mold that is black in color is not always stachybotrys, commonly referred to as "black mold" and "toxic black mold"
  • The only way to positively identify mold is by testing and analysis by an accredited laboratory
  • A mold inspector who refers to himself as a "black mold inspector" would raise a red flag in my professional opinion
  • A company that only mentions black mold or toxic black mold, and does not consider the possible  presence of other mold species would also raise red flags in my professional opinion.
  • There is no such thing as "good mold" and "bad mold".  All species of mold have the potential to create health concerns to individuals at varying levels depending on the individual.  All species of mold that are growing on building materials should be addressed sooner than later.  There is no "good mold" growing on your bathroom wall.  It should be cleaned as soon as possible and recurrence or large amounts (more than 10 sq. ft.) may indicate that there is a contributing factor causing the mold growth which should be addressed through further investigation.
It has been my experience that information from the web should always be digested with a grain of salt.  Caveat emptor.  Similar to any other significant decision if you feel like you are being rushed or pushed into a decision, it's always sound advice to obtain a second opinion.

-Steve Spinelli

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