Mold Monitoring and Sampling Equipment
Q: As a remediator, what kind of testing equipment should I purchase to determine whether we are successful in our clean up?
A: My first thought is, why do you want to purchase mold-sampling equipment? You may simply be curious about the subject of sampling. However, if it is your intention to do your own sampling instead of using an indoor environmental professional (IEP), then I would recommend that you consider the following.
If you are following the IICRC S520 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation, then your remediation project will fall into one of two categories. The first would be that the entire building was contaminated and you did need an IEP, or else the building was only partially contaminated and you used an IEP to determine Conditions 1-3.
When a preliminary determination indicates that mold contamination (as defined in S520) exists or is likely to exist, it is highly recommended that an assessment (as defined in S520) be performed prior to starting remediation. It is highly recommended that an independent IEP with no business affiliation to the remediator be used for this purpose. In circumstances where an entire building or system is fully involved as a result of Condition 3 mold contamination or when the scope of work can be determined without sampling or independent IEP inspection and assessment, engagement of an IEP for assessment may not be necessary.
If your project involved an IEP, then the IEP will have probably been hired by another party and will probably return to verify your success. Where an entire building has been contaminated, it would be prudent to have an IEP verify the effectiveness of your remediation. In either case you will want to perform some kind of quality control prior to his or her arrival.
Following post-remediation evaluation by the remediator, including application of internal quality control procedures, verification of a return to Condition 1 status may need to be determined by sampling and testing, and, if so, it is highly recommended that an independent IEP conduct or oversee that process.
However, the S520 also highly recommends that you perform a post-remediation evaluation, which is different than a post-remediation evaluation. This process is a quality control step that precedes the IEP activities that verifies your remediation effectiveness.
It is highly recommended that a post-remediation evaluation be conducted by the remediator to confirm that the remediation process has been completed. This evaluation involves application of the internal quality control procedures of the remediator, and a sensory inspection of the containment area, to ensure that malodors, contaminated materials, visible dust and debris have been removed.
As mentioned above, this quality-control process initially utilizes sensory inspection skills. Basically this means that you perform a visual inspection of the remediation area to see if it is free of dust and debris while being conscious of any odors. While not the most glamorous of inspection techniques, a visual inspection is highly effective in making a determination that there is no visible mold and that perceivable dust from the remediation process has been removed. In our experience, when we arrive at a remediation site that still has dust and debris present, the post remediation verification samples tend to indicate that that the environment has not been adequately cleaned.
Another quality-control technique that is not very glamorous is the white glove test. Over the years, new technology has captured the interest of most people. We tend to be attracted to newer, niftier tools and high-tech gizmos. Unfortunately the white glove test has lost respect. Those companies that we have worked with that are good at detailed cleaning and using the white glove have passed post remediation verification routinely. Actually, alternating between a white and black glove is most effective. Some soils are white and will not show up well on a white glove.
If you are absolutely convinced that you need tools, then consider a particle counter. Particle counters can help in demonstrating that the air is at least relatively clean. If you reduce the concentration of particles in the air and do a good job of cleaning up the settled dust, then you will also be in good shape when you get ready for post remediation verification.
A few closing words about sampling and sampling devices, the EPA publication entitled "Mold in Schools and Commercial Buildings" makes the following statement: "Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals with specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpretation of results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional guidelines (see Resources List). Types of samples include air samples, surface samples, bulk samples (chunks of carpet, insulation, wall board, etc.), and water samples from condensate drain pans or cooling towers.
"A number of pitfalls may be encountered when inexperienced personnel conduct sampling. They may take an inadequate number of samples, there may be inconsistency in sampling protocols, the samples may become contaminated, outdoor control samples may be omitted, and you may incur costs for unneeded or inappropriate samples. Budget constraints will often be a consideration when sampling; professional advice may be necessary to determine if it is possible to take sufficient samples to characterize a problem on a given budget. If it is not possible to sample properly, with a sufficient number of samples to answer the question(s) posed, it would be preferable not to sample. Inadequate sample plans may generate misleading, confusing, and useless results."