Identifying Mold

Why is the Process for Identifying a Mold Remediator so Important

Cesar Collado
March 17, 2020

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Identifying Professionals Whose Efforts Will Help You Reach Wellness

By Cesar Collado

I spend a lot of time communicating with groups of environmental illness and remediation professionals with significant pedigrees consisting of:

  • Medical doctors (MD)
  • Naturopathic Doctors (ND)
  • Bau-Biologists
  • Advanced mold remediation training
  • Decades of experience helping environmentally ill patients fix their homes
  • Advanced knowledge of mold mycology
  • Knowledge of environmental disease physiology
  • Advanced knowledge to tie mold identification to the impact it has on the occupant’s health.
  • HVAC professionals with Indoor Air Quality training and experience

In my experience, the vast majority of mold remediators have little working knowledge of the organisms they are remediating and the organisms’ harm and impact on human health.

Finding an Environmental Illness Specialist

Hiring a mold remediator that has cross discipline knowledge of mold illness and treatment is essential in getting well and avoiding wasted efforts.  Remediation that does not properly identify and remove the mold risks from the home is often a wasted financial expense and may not help your health.  Mold will always find a foothold if the moisture and contamination is not completely eradicated.  If your Indoor Air Quality is not safe and free from mold, your body will not be able to heal due to the constant strain on your immune system from breathing mold while you live and sleep in your home.

To address the issue of lesser qualified mold remediators for the mold sick, I would like to outline some common misinterpretations of professional licensing, certifications, and experience.  If you google “mold remediation certifications”, you will find numerous on-line or short course certificates and training programs for mold remediation.  Unfortunately, many are very “short” courses with limited content given over hours to days.  It is analogous to seeing a medical professional to treat a serious chronic disease who has never been to medical school or had experience with mold patients.

If you suffer from mold sensitivity and have debilitating symptoms, hiring a true mold professional is essential!

These inspection professionals have significant advanced training, experience, and often work with environmental illness physicians to address the mold symptoms as well as the contamination.  The ability to work in concert with a physician ensures the end goal is to help you reach wellness, versus completing a home renovation project. These inspection professionals will know the proper contractors to remediate the home professionally and safely with high quality standards.

Remediation for Mold Sensitive People Requires Significant Cross Discipline Scientific Training, Experience, and Know-How.

Because I have witnessed the debilitating impact environmental illness has on patients and their families, I would always suggest identifying a “real” mold and environmental illness expert.  Dr. Joe Spurgeon, an expert in the field, has stated that his profession, “focuses on the interface between the practitioner and the indoor environment; and how to make the practitioner aware of the condition of that environment.”  This means that the mold inspectors will have an interest in the impact the contaminants have on the patients or occupants.  They will ask many questions about mold illness, physician observations and diagnosis, and perform diagnostics.  Their remediation business should highlight their process involving testing, safety, removal of water damaged materials, and the use of safe products to remove the mold without causing different issues with harmful chemicals.  You should ask lots of question and identify professionals that employ the following:

  • They will want to know about your sickness history and home water damage history prior to inspection. The timelines and intersection of them help the story unfold and provide the context of the home situation so they can be thorough and not miss anything that is making you ill.
  • They should always employ diagnostic testing and lab analysis to determine mold genera. This provides valuable information to physicians regarding potential symptoms and to determine the different types of moisture problems and sources to inspect.  Different mold species prosper in different moisture and organic material nutrients.  Many professionals will simply identify mold and suggest testing is a waste of time since the removal process is the same.
  • Inspect the entire house, inside and out, using technology, when needed, to identify moisture, humidity, and leaks. Moisture meters, thermal cameras, and hygrometers are used to identify moisture.
  • Inspect the outside of the home to identify any pooling of water or drainage that can penetrate the building envelope, including ceiling leaks.
    •      An inspection of the crawlspace, basement, and attic is essential. Unfinished areas without temperature control are the most common sources of systemic mold in a home.
    • The professional should be equipped with tools to gain access to mold inside wall cavities, behind wallpaper, and under floors.Various mold diagnostics are used to get dust or mold samples for laboratory analysis.
    • They should explain exactly what they will do and how they will do it.They should describe the use of proper contamination control, drying equipment, and HEPA filtration.
    • They should be well versed in inspecting the HVAC system for contamination.This involves opening up the AC to identify mold inside the HVAC coils where moisture and dust can accumulate.
    • They should ask many questions about the water damage history of the home, physical symptoms experienced, and routines involving the HVAC system.
    • They should explain why the mold is making them sick and can interact with the physician if needed to better understand the illness.
    • They will use preferably all natural and safe products to remove the mold.Some professionals may use different types of cleaning products of chemical nature.  Some are relatively safe.  Others are toxic in other ways.  An explanation should accompany each product they use and provide alternatives if you are sensitive to chemicals.
    • Using bleach to remove mold should be a big “Red Flag”!While bleach is an effective disinfectant on hard surfaces, it does not properly penetrate porous materials like solid wood, wood materials and drywall.

      Identifying a Mold Remediator

    Be aware that some certifications mold remediators possess are “occupational licenses” and may not be certifications.  Short course certifications are often used to validate their qualifications and not their expertise. 

    The mold remediation, water restoration, HVAC, mold inspection industries, as well and specialty contractors who primarily focus on smoke, fire and water damage, and carpet cleaning are eager to bid for your home mold remediation project. Many prepare for mold remediation by taking a Mold Remediation Course. Mold Remediation Certifications come in many forms.  Most require an online course consisting of hours to days to complete.  The requirements vary, costs are insignificant (hundreds), and hours required are minimal (approximately 15-40 hours).  Only 6 states in the US currently require this license: FL, MS, LA, TX, MD, NY. 

    These professionals focus on removing the mold according to their standards without an understanding of the mold patient.  In many cases, these professionals will not even test for mold or mycotoxins due to lack of understanding of the role mold plays in the human health.

    Below are some of the most reputable types of mold remediation training and certification:

    IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification)

    IICRC offers several multi-day courses that are informative at various levels and graduate technicians to supervisory levels in mold remediation.

    These courses are much more thorough.  A professional who attends several of these courses accompanied by experience with an experienced and licensed mold remediation company can certainly be competent to address remediation for a mold sick individual.

    Hiring the Most Qualified to Help You Achieve Wellness

    Bau-Biology Trained Professionals

    • Certified Bau-Biologists are building professionals (experienced builders, architects, and multidisciplinary contractors with HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and other relevant trades) These professionals take a 1-2 year course consisting of four 4-5 day seminars, online training, and a final project conducted with an assigned mentor to demonstrate competence, a final exam, and continuing education. In addition, professionals must sign a code of ethics to practice the profession. Bau-Biology (Building Science in US) is a secondary expertise to building professions that 1) understands building science physics and psychrometrics (a field of engineering concerned with the physical and thermodynamic properties of gas-vapor mixtures); and 2) applies engineering competence focused on the human health aspects of living in a home. The main focuses of Building Biology include testing and inspecting for:
      • Healthy Indoor Air (free of antigens and toxins);
      • Thermal and Acoustic Comfort (moisture control and mold);
      • Human-Based Design (focus on the sensory perceptions of sight, hearing, smell, and touch);
      • Sustainable Environmental Performance (avoid causing environmental harm when building new or renovating);
      • Socially Connected and Ecologically Sound Construction (create a living environment that meets human needs and protects the home and environment.)

    These professionals will often work with physicians and/or patients to focus on the problem that is causing a specific illness (mold, mycotoxins, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pollutants, electromagnetic fields (EMFs), radiation, etc.).

    Certified Mold Remediation Contractor (“CMRC”) 

    CMRC Certification accredited by American Council for Accredited Certification, American National Standards Institute, or another national accreditation standard.  CMRC is a certification process that requires specific training and experience to take an accreditation exam. There are several associations that provide training with their association credentials.

    Requirements Include:

    Applicant must possess one of the following combinations of (8) years education and relevant field experience

    • A 4-year post-secondary degree or its equivalent (30 credit hours) in microbiology, engineering, science, architecture, industrial hygiene or related field of science with a minimum of one (4) year of documented field experience in microbial
    • A 2-year post-secondary degree or its equivalent (15 credit hours) in microbiology, engineering, science, architecture, industrial hygiene or related field of science with at least three (6) years of documented experience in microbial
    • No degree with at least 8 years of documented experience in microbial remediation. (high school diploma or GED )

    Candidates document field experience by submitting four project sheets (included in the application packet).  Applicants for state licenses where the CMRS examination is required must meet the eligibility requirements published by each state.

    These professionals have taken the time to educate themselves and gain experience in several of the related disciplines to be effective.  These seasoned professionals in mold remediation, HVAC, and home renovation have learned through experience and hands-on education. In my experience, many of these professionals have mechanical engineering or relevant scientific education backgrounds which serve as the foundation for making the proper repairs to a home.  I have met several of these individuals practicing throughout the US. I have been pleasantly surprised about the demeanor of many of the professionals I have spoken with. I have observed  a genuine humility and respect for the resilience of mold.  Good inspecors appear to be continuously learningand have networks of colleagues that aid in to solving the complex human health building science issues.  They also can explain what they are doing in plain English and pay special attention to safety and containment of mold to avoid systemic contamination.  In my experience, many of these professionals will have a portfolio of a variety of certifications and courses attended as well as references.

    Here are some examples of certifications a qualified professional will possess:

    • Certified Building Biologist (BBEC)
    • Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant (CIE)
    • Certified Microbial Investigator (CMI)
    • Certified Residential Mold Inspector (CRMI)
    • Mold Certified by InterNACHI (IAC2 certification)
    • IICRC Certifications across multiple microbial and remediation subject matters
    • Certified Restorer (CR) License #
    • Certified Mold Professional (CMP) ) License #
    • Water Loss Specialist (WLS) ) License #
    • Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant
    • State Licenses with License #
    • ASHI Certified Inspectors (ACI)

    This list is not all inclusive as there are a variety of courses addressing various microbial, physical, health, remediation, or engineering aspects that are complementary to their training certifications.  Most professionals I have had the pleasure of meeting regularly attend conferences to hear lectures or speak on new technology.  A few have been instructors in the fields of Bau-Biology, Builders, and Architects.  Several have written books that have become mainstream in the training of environmental building science.

    A proper crew will also have licensed HVAC, plumbers, and electricians on staff or as subcontractors.  Do not be afraid to ask for these credentials.

    I have learned over time that many of these professions have experienced mold illness themselves, or with a family member, and have client wellness as their purpose!

    Identifying a Mold Remediator

    DIY or Hiring Based Solely on Price

    Of course, there are many examples of people who do not suffer from mold, that experience flooding or a leak, and have it remediated by a “Mold Remediation Professional” to their satisfaction. In fact, there are many more of these examples, when there is flooding or leaks, than situations where the occupant’s health is severely compromised and endangers other family members.

    DIY Mold Remediation is not recommended if the mold issues go beyond a small area (10 sq. ft), if mold contamination is systemic to the entire household, or if DIY’er is mold sick.  These efforts require extensive training and safety protocols.  In addition, inexperienced mold removal can often result in a severe exposure to DIY participants.  This level of contamination can result in an individual reaching their Toxic Load immediately, causing severe illness and the need for immediate medical care. Read about immediate DIY testing and cleaning for temporary solution while getting professional remediation.  You do not want to remain in an unsafe environment while waiting for completion.

    How to Identify the Right Mold Experts

    I have been fortunate to be in acquaintance with some of the country’s finest environmental experts, who have the knowledge required to solve mold problems in concert with a physician’s treatment plan to help get people better.  They are trained Bau-Biologists, HVAC and indoor air quality experts who focus on homes of the severely ill. Be sure to ask many questions described in this article and judge for yourself whether the professionals are focused on your health.

    Identifying a Mold Remediator

    Bottom line, if you or a family member are experiencing mold illness and the inspector does not ask about the health issues, I suggest you pass and look for an inspector/remediator who does.  After all, the goal of fixing a home for a person with environmental illness is Wellness.

    If you would like to share your story, please comment.