Odors produced by mold and your health

 

Most inspectors as well as people suffering with mold problems assume that spores are what make people  sick, but is it possible that mold odor alone without spores can cause health complaints such as but not limited to allergy, asthma, and more frequent colds?

 

I have done mold inspections since 2003 and have long suspected a direct and strong correlation between mold odor and building occupant health complaints. It seems that mold odor has more to do with health complaints than spore levels in many cases.

 

It is a well known fact that many manmade volatile organic compounds such as benzene, methyl ethyl ketone, acetone, and formaldehyde to name a few not only have scary names, but can have scary health effects and can contribute to indoor air quality problems such as sick building syndrome and other IAQ problems.

 

Mold odors are also made of volatile organic compounds. Volatile organic compounds produced by mold include chemicals similar to alcohols, aldehydes, amines, ketones and many more.  When volatile organic compounds are produced by mold or bacteria we stop calling them volatile organic compounds and refer to them as microbial volatile organic compounds.  (mVOCs).

 

Mold odors or mVOC’s are typically over looked as a source of health complaints by many mold inspectors who look for spores as the only source of potential health problems. Other inspectors are concerned about the health effects of toxins produced by toxic black mold. During many inspections because visible mold was not obvious and the lab report you receive states that spore levels indoors are low,  inspectors will tell you that you do not have a mold problem, and that your health problems are not related to mold in your home.  This inspector has investigated numerous cases where mold odors were produced inside AC units, behind wall paper, in crawl spaces, or inside walls in many such cases spores were trapped or simply not released by the mold and yet people became ill.

 

After years of noticing this correlation between the occurrence of mold odor and allergy and asthma like health complaints I started to find information on the internet to support these observations.  Please note that the legal and health implications are powerful, even in the lack of elevated spore levels building occupants can still become ill from mold.

 

 

Samples of indoor odor can be taken for quantitative and qualitative analysis by accredited labs using proven and advanced methods of analysis, Prism Analytical labs AKA PATI is one of the few labs that specialize in not just voc analysis but also mVOC or microbial volatile compound analysis. 

 Do not rely on my observations, also see what academic and government mold experts say about this often overlooked issue. Do a search for mold odor and health for yourself and you will see that even if spore levels are low in your home there is no guarantee that you are free of mold problems.

But do not despair, there is hope, simply never rely on spore levels and lab tests alone, always hire an experienced inspector who does much more than take samples, he or she should know something  about building construction or home inspections,  AC systems, science, indoor air quality, and industrial hygiene. The mold inspector must do a very detailed investigation using his or her knowledge and experience and should not just take a few samples. 

 A Accredited Mold Inspection Service, Inc.

 

 

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A Accredited Inspection Service, Inc.
6742 Forest Hill Blvd # 271, West Palm Beach, Florida 33413
888-381-6651

The following info is from two different mold inspections conducted withen three weeks of each other.

The findings on these mold inspections and many other similar mold inspections conducted by us show how proper placement of your AC return is important in detering mold growth and mold odor in your AC ducts.

The inspector inspected the master bathroom as well as the nearby closets where past leakage occurred through a glass block window.The inspector detected two mild distinct odors in the master bathroom that appeared to be related to microbial growth.One of the odors was the result of mold growing in the duct work that services the master bedroom and master bathroom area.In this inspectors experience the specific moldy odor detected in the bathroom AC ducts is almost always created primarily by a type of mold called Cladosporium spherisperium. This is not a toxic mold and does not produce many spores but it creates musty odors that can cause health complaints. This mold like all AC mold needs two things to survive:1)   food2)   moisture.Food is from dust in your ducts so use a good filter in your AC.Moisture is from humidity drawn in through the AC return so control humidity intake.Your AC return is near the bathroom and as a result this return will allow the AC to pull much humidity in from the bathroom after showers and baths, this is called entrainment and this inspector has seen many AC mold problems resulting from of AC returns near humid bathrooms or in other areas where


excessive humidity is drawn in the AC system. Once in the cold ducts the humid air becomes even more humid this causes mold to grow in ducts.We recommend that the AC ducts be cleaned or replaced. If the humidity entrainment problem is not corrected then the mold will return so the AC return will have to be relocated to an area away from the bathroom, consult with your AC contractor about moving it to the master bedroom or master bedroom closet.In addition the bathroom would benefit from additional bathroom ceiling vents to vent humidity out of the bathroom after showers and baths.Above is a photo of your return just a few foot from your bathroom.SPECIFIC AREA FINDINGSAnother odor was detected in the bathroom, this odor was a sewer type odor and likely came from the tubs drain. Typically a P trap in your drain keeps these odors from backing out of the sewer and into our homes, but for some reason stronger than typical odors were coming up from your tubs drain or from the spa jet holes.Start by sanitizing your drain and spa jet pipes with a sanitizer but do not mix chemicals, also keep the drain stopper down when the drain is not in use, hopefully this is all that is needed, if this does not work contact a plumber.Have a plumber review and make any required repairs. This may not be a condition that every plumber is qualified to deal with as it is not the common problem of water simply evaporating from your trap, this may be something different, it may be very simple such as a dirty pipe drain. It may be complex like a missing trap.

SPECIFIC AREA FINDINGS The above mold inspection was conducted in Boca Raton Florida on 1-22-08. The same type of mold odor problem was found 3 weeks later during a mold investigation at a similar luxury home in Wellington Florida near West Palm Beach.   2-12-08 mold inspection  Musty odors were detected, musty or mold odor detection is an important part of any mold investigation because it lets us know that a little mold is present even if it cannot be visually detected. In addition, even when spore levels are low. Minor mold odors were in the following area(s) in the master bedroom when the AC unit was on. The odor detected was typical of that from AC ducts and is not like the odor produced by the many molds that grow in walls. It was detected near the ducts and only when the AC was on.  This was occurring because the AC return is near the master bathroom, this allows the AC to pull humidity into the AC after showers and baths. This humidity condenses in the AC and ducts and allows small amounts of mold to grow in the AC and ducts. This mold inspector has seen this exact same problem in similar homes, and the inspector has seen many mold problems caused under various similar circumstances when AC units pull humidity in, this is called entrainment.  To correct the condition the AC and ducts and main supply plenum for the master bedroom AC will have to be cleaned by a professional who follows NADCA standards and the AC return will have to be moved to a different location in the same zone, a location not so close to the humid bathroom.  Please be aware that this was not a serious mold problem and this does not mean that this is a moldy house, it is a nice house and did not have evidence of a serious mold probelm. This was just your typical minor musty or moldy duct odor and it may not be detected by all persons. Only sensitive persons with allergy or asthma would be affected by such a condition but based on this inspectors experience with this degree of odor some persons can be effects by such odors.