How Do You Find Unbaised Information About Mold Testing & Remediation in New Jersey?
Most of us have a pretty good sense of when someones pulling the wool over our eyes. But when it comes to testing mold, and determining how to treat it, there is quite a bit of science involved. Science can tell us through mold tests, how much mold we have in our homes and what strains. But science can’t tell us whether or not the mold is toxic. We know that certain strains tend to be more toxic than others, and we have threshold limits where mold remediation is typically recommended. But it is very hard to be 100% certain when it comes to mold.
Very few cases of mold contamination are black and white. Meaning, a small portion of NJ homes will fall into this ambiguous gray area where the question becomes: “Does this home really need mold remediation, and what are the real consequences if its not done? Sometimes it is not always so clear. In these cases you will find, that the “solution” always comes down to personal recommendations. There are no federal regulations. It comes down to reputations, experience, and who you can trust.. to not rip you off.
Science Has Tried To Reduce Fraud With A Modern, 3 Step Mold Testing System
Over the years, mold remediation has commonly been compared to the “wild wild west”. There was a point where this industry was rife with corruption. Technology was lacking in regards to determining the perfect time to perform mold remediation. And there was no real organized methodology to guarantee that the right thing was being done.
This Lead To The Formation Of Pre & Post Mold Testing
It was determined that, in order to prevent mold companies from lying to clients, and recommending remediation when it doesn’t need to be done, the process would be separated into 3 different phases.
Phase 1 – Pre-testing: Reputable organizations (like the ESA) stated that initial mold tests should be conducted by a different company and not the one actually performing mold remediation.
Phase 2 – Mold Remediation: If the initial company recommended remediation, it would be performed by a company unaffiliated to the company who performed the pre-testing.
Phase 3 – Post-testing: Finally, after initial mold testing was done, and mold remediation was recommended and performed by a separate company, a third company would come in to perform post-testing. Post testing is when a company does mold testing to clear your home of the initial toxic values. So the post testing company basically confirms that the initial 2 companies did their jobs properly, and there was no conflict of interest.
But the question now becomes….
Does This 3 Step Process, Actually Reduce Conflict of Interest?
What this process really accomplishes, is it reduces liability on any 1 mold remediation company. In another words, it “diffuses liability” among 3 separate entities, as opposed to 1. But we can tell you for a fact, it does not reduce the risk that a company will perform more testing that needed, or recommend remediation when its not needed, nor does it stop companies from clearing homes that still have toxic levels of mold.
We have asked many post testing companies this question. “Don’t you stand to benefit by clearing a home, because the remediation company who performed the work, is unlikely to recommend you in the future.. if you fail them?” The answer has always been a clear and resounding “yes”.
In effort to stop a long standing problem, the problem was actually made worse. It gave unethical mold companies a more organized, more ambiguous way to defraud homeowners.
If you perform strict post remediation testing, and become well known for failing companies, chances are no companies will refer you. Imagine it like college. You have the option to take the same course from 10 different professors. But you read online that 1 professor is well known for giving difficult tests and failing students. We know from experience, and thanks to sites like “ratemyprofessor.com”, that most students will avoid those professors. Its the same thing with post clearance testing. Become well known for being a stickler, and you’ll be out of business before you know it. Noone will recommend you.
So What Solutions Are Left To Protect Yourself Before Mold Testing Even Begins?
There is no short answer to this question. Knowledge is power. The more you know before you start the process, the better off you will always be. So we have devised a short list of bullet points that will help guide you through this process.
1) Mold testing is usually recommended way more than needed –
Like the EPA says, “if you see it, if you smell it, it needs to be removed”. This is something we have always agreed with. If you see visible colonies of mold, more than 2 square ft in size, it needs to be removed no matter what.
2) Industry standard rates are $200 a test –
An experienced company won’t go crazy with tests. Don’t be scared by terms like “phantom mold” or “lawsuits & liability”. Usually 2 indoor samples and 1 outdoor control is enough. If a company is trying to charge you $2,000-$3,000 for initial testing, in most cases you can have all the mold remediated for that price. Keep in mind, lawsuits do happen, but nowhere near as much as most people believe. It is very hard to prove negligence in mold cases unless you are a landlord and have residents demonstrating acute symptoms of mold exposure.
3) Home buyers need to focus more on ventilation and less on mold –
We see this way too much. Real estate agents, potential home buyers and mold companies get hyper focused on the term “toxic mold”, which is always just a symptom of the real problem which is ventilation. If you are a home buyer, have barometers installed and track the RH (relative humidity) in the home. Humidity levels should maintain under 20%.
Get the home checked for water leaks, deterioration, and shifting foundations. As these problems will cost you a lot more money in the long run than mold remediation will.
4) For those with asthma, allergies, vulnerable children or the elderly –
Its been estimated that 30% of all asthma and allergies are caused by mold. Science has also suggested that children and the elderly are most susceptible to mold. But once again, you can not let these facts distract you from reality. It is always easier to do just a few tests and perform remediation on all visible mold. Then focus on HVAC systems and humidity. Good ventilation will bring moisture outside the home. It will not move moisture into your attic or basement!
5) What you can do when there is a large “phantom mold” problem –
Phantom mold in essence, is invisible mold. And it is a real problem that happens in a minority of cases. But it is also abused as an explanation for high levels of mold when inexperienced mold inspectors don’t know how to find the actual source.. or where the mold is growing. High levels of mold almost always means there is a colony somewhere in the home.
So before you go crazy spending thousands of dollars on mold tests, use common sense and call a different mold company. Many mold inspectors are well certified, but don’t go on many calls. Or they do mold inspections as a “part time” job. Infield experience is far more valuable than any amount of technical certification. And “phantom mold” to one mold inspector will usually become “visible mold” to a more experienced mold inspector.
In the end, if it is a true phantom mold problem then ventilation systems need to be looked at first. Humidity levels should be brought down. The last thing a mold remediation company should do is conduct remediation where they “suspect” mold is growing. This is not how you stop a mold problem! It can be under your floors, deep in your HVAC system, force the company to find it before you fork over a dime for remediation!