MacFawn's Blog

The Problem With Home Mold Testing Kits

MacFawn Fire & Flood Restoration - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

There are many issues homeowners face when mold becomes a reality of the home environment. As such, consumer industries often exploit intrinsic human fears for health and safety by offering products that are advertised as being accurate, effective and safe with the ultimate function of leading the buyer to believe that they will make a more informed choice moving forward. Mold testing kits are one of these product types in many ways. For the do it yourself types, these kits will establish values that will inform the individual generally that 1) there is mold present 2) that it needs to be cleaned up.

The problem with these kits are many. Mold is ubiquitous to the environment and as such, mold test kit results can often be misleading. Consumer Reports have repeatedly indicated that 'mold test kits are unreliable' and advised AGAINST using them. This reliability factor has been attributed to a number of different reasons including but not limited to: mold re-existing in the test itself, no expiration date on the kit thereby rendering some kits outdated and unable to perform testing properly, inability to track certain species of mold that are hazardous and misleading consumers to believe that a 'positive' spore count is cause of remediation.    

 If a mold test kit is expired and doesn't pick up on certain species that can lead to exposure to carcinogenic mycotoxins, the consumer lives unaware of their long term exposure. If the mold test kit indicates values that lead a consumer to believe that the mold must be removed, people will often move forward with attempts to do so and put themselves at risk for exposure without proper training or PPE. If mold test kits are expired and not functioning properly, the test becomes moot and moveing forward with any decision hence, would be an uninformed decision.

Mold test kits are similar to an antibiotic prescription when someone falls ill with a virus. There is a type of illusionary effect that consumers take on in which they are led to believe that they are taking action in light of a problem. Ultimately, if a space is truly effected by mold, the best and only decision to make is 1) where you will stay for a day or two while it's being remediated and 2) which Industrial Hygenist will preform the mold test for you 2) which mold remediation professional you will hire to service your structure. The Industrial Hygenist is an Environmental Scientist who will not only test for all relevant types of mold, but will then move forward with a remediation plan that the mold remediator will put in place and execute before the clearance test. This process is a type of insurance plan that insures that you will have undisputable verification of the types of mold in your home or structure, what LEVEL of mold presence is in the structure as compared with what is naturally occurring in the environment, that it will be cleaned effectively without spreading deadly spores and toxins throughout your home and that it will be tested to ensure that it has in fact been remediated. Generally speaking, this process can also ensure that the root cause of the problem is addressed as well so that the mold doesn't re-appear in time.

AFB1 and AFM1 Two of The Most Deadly Known Carcinogens

MacFawn Fire & Flood Restoration - Thursday, December 10, 2015
MOLD FACT: Did you know that [Aspergillis] one of the TOP 4 MOST COMMMON TYPES OF MOLD IN THE HOME produces toxins that are among the most dangers human carcinogens known to man?
These [Alfatoxins] are in fact so dangerous that the FDA has mandated a maximum of 5 ppb (parts per billion) in food and dairy!
There is a well established causative link between aflatoxin and lung/ liver cancer(s). [AFB-1] found in Aspergillis species; which can be found on surfaces in proximity to mold and hence ingested, inhaled or absorbed is generally the culprit in non smoking related lung cancer cases. [AFM1] is the metabolic byproduct that is metabolized inside the body when one ingests food items (with AFB1). AFM1 as any other substance in the body is then metabolized by the liver, where it can wreak havoc on the liver and effect DNA / cell replication leading to liver cancer.
It is imperative that if you have reason to believe that your home or business could have mold, that you address it with caution and call in a professional. It is NEVER a good idea to address mold without proper respiratory protection and other PPE. Mold remediation is a complicated process in which the area is contained so that it cannot spread and all airflow is controlled. Simply placing an air cleaner in the affected region can actually cause more harm than good if the air is moving and mold spores (and Aflatoxins) are spread about the areas proximal to air cleaning unit(s).

The Most Common Molds Inside The Home: Effects

MacFawn Fire & Flood Restoration - Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The four most common types of household mold and their relative mycotoxin(s)/ and mycotoxic/ endotoxic effects. The effect column is a basic generalization of health hazards associated with respective species. However, this can be seen as the 'tip of the iceberg' when it comes to health hazards, as they are too enumerous to count. The scientific evidence contrary to the CDC claims that mold can only affect immunocompromised as been refuted and validated by the scientific community and hence, action has been taken by congress to eliminate mold exposure.

What We Know About the Many Mycotoxins of Mold

MacFawn Fire & Flood Restoration - Monday, December 07, 2015

The conundrum with mold exposure and health risks associated with such exposure, is that mold itself is not harmful to humans. Like any other life form however, mold has the ability to release it's own toxins and it does this by way of small molecular arrangements that carry on much like the way mold itself. In this respect, these by-products of mold can be seen as the culprit in terms of what is actually causing health issues in a case where there is mold present in the environment.

There are many types of mold, each having it's own biological specificity and each with toxins that also carry specificity in terms of what types of problems they can cause for the human.   What we've discussed so far are the Aflatoxins produced by the [quite common] household mold Aspergillis, which can lead to all sorts of problems including: liver cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer, asthma, bronchitis, dermatitis and more; Cladosporidium is noted by the CDC as being one of the most deadly fungi known to man causing sinus, skin and brain infections. Cladiosporidium was traced back to an out break of fungal meningitis recently in many states too! Another common type of household mold is Stachybotrys, which produces a very deadly mycotoxin called trichothecenes. Trichothecenes induced mycotoxicity has been associated with pulmonary hemorrhage, general lethargy and [also] liver cancer. Believe it or not, Trichothecenes has been used as a biological weapon [a.k.a. Yellow Rain] whereas those effected almost immediately experienced blistering of the skin, headache, fatigue, general confusion and loss of heightened senses due to the neurological damage that particular mycotoxin causes. 

 Aspergillis (associated with aflatoxins) Cladosporidium and Alternaria sp. (including Stachybotrys) are all very commonly found indoors and especially in Mold Remediation jobs. All too often, homeowners don't understand the extraordinary danger in approaching a job where these species are present. It is critical that proper personal protective equipment, respiratory ventilation, air filtration and containment be used when in the presence of these types of mold. Simply utilizing an air cleaner will only make matters worse by creating airflow that could spread the mold throughout the structure (thereby affecting more people). The first thing that needs to happen with ANY structure suspect of having mold growth, is to have it tested by a qualified Industrial Hygenist so that you know what exactly you're dealing with. Then and only then, can a true plan be placed in action for remediation. If you have any questions, please call us anytime. We are always here to help! 1-877-MAC FAWN or (518) 785-6719

Rubber Duckies: Carriers of Deadly Mold

MacFawn Fire & Flood Restoration - Thursday, December 03, 2015

All too often, mold is ubiquitous to bathrooms and kitchens. However, it is seldom that the root cause of the problem originates from a children's bath toy. Often in a case of black mold remediation, we seek out the source in terms of where moisture might enter a room due to structural inefficiencies such as a pipe fracture, broken roof shingles allowing moisture in and other such circumstance. In a residence where children reside, there is another culprit that may contribute to the dissemination of mold spores throughout one's bathroom, and that is our favorite yellow friend, The Rubber Duckie. Springfield Indoor Air Quality performed an independent study that aimed to examine the mold spore count in a variety of small children's bath toys and what they found was frightening. The standard count of mold spores this outfit uses in similar special confines is a baseline of 30. In just one toy selected, there was a mold spore count of 4554. On examination using microscopy, the primary mold type in this particular toy was cladosporidium.  This particular mold is one that has been evidenced to lead to sinus, skin, eye and even brain infections. In many states, cladosporidium was linked to many cases of fungal meningitis. As such, it is imperative that if you recognize any discoloration in any of your children's bathtoys to discard of them immediately.

The 33rd Annual Victorian Stroll This Sunday

MacFawn Fire & Flood Restoration - Wednesday, December 02, 2015

There is lots to do and see this month as the Capital Region lights up with holiday spirit. Each year one of the most festive events of the season, The Victorian Stroll transforms the streets of various communities including: Downtown Troy, Downtown Saratoga Springs and Hudson.

 The Victorian Stroll in Downtown Troy is an event that people wait for all year. Located in the historic downtown district of 2nd Street, nestled in amongst boutique shoppes, eateries and art galleries, the Victorian Stroll in Downtown Troy will happen this Sunday, December 6 from 11:00-5:00. This festival is the Northeast's largest free holiday festival bringing in more than 100 entertainers throughout the day. With music, dancing, arts and crafts, great food, rides for children and lots to do and see, the Victorian Stroll downtown on Sunday is one not to miss.

November News

MacFawn Fire & Flood Restoration - Friday, November 27, 2015

The holiday season has officially begun. With Thanksgiving over and Black Friday currently underway, the Capital region is bustling with activity. As you may have noticed, it's been unseasonably warm for the month of November in the Northeast. Don't worry, it won't last long. Today's mild temperatures will be gone almost as quickly as they came. The weekend's forecast is looking about 20 degrees colder than the last two days.' Hopefully, all of your winterizing is complete, your indoor humidity has been balanced and you are ready to roll through winter assured that your pipes don't freeze and fracture and your heating bill isn't outlandish. 

If you haven't had a chance to check out the MacFawn November Newsletter, we put together a special winterize edition with some of the less obvious winterization techniques you might find helpful. You can CHECK OUT OUR NEWSLETTER HERE 

Looking ahead, for the upcoming holiday season we will be raising monies to give to give a special gift to Wildwood Programs (Schenectady). After discussing our plan to do so with their Foundation office, we are excited to help in this way. We have set up a special 'Go Fund Me' page and have given all of the page information and rights to the funds directly to Wildwood School Foundation to be sure that every cent raised goes to them. Wildwood is a little known program that serves developmentally disabled children and adults in the Capital Region with various programs within their school or residential spaces. They even offer students a summer camp that is amazingly crafted and staffed with some of the best counselors in Special Ed in the area. We hope you will help us. To make a donation, you can DONATE HERE. Go Fund Me was selected to ensure that ANY donation made would be kept (as opposed to being refunded if the goal amount wasn't met). Our goal this year is $2500K. This should help with more than a few holiday meals and maybe an improvement or two to their summer camp in Altamont. 

Last Minute Winterization in the Capital Region

MacFawn Fire & Flood Restoration - Friday, November 20, 2015

The past two days in the Capital Region have bene unseasonably warm. As such, it would be a good idea to take a tally of any necessary steps you might need to take to complete the winterization process in your home(s) and business(es). There are a number of ways you can approach winterization that we have discussed, including: sealing your doors and windows with permanent coverings or semipermanent devices that will block airflow in between rooms and from the chilly outdoor air. 

Certainly, replacing roof tiles isn't something you should do if you don'e have proper training or tools, but the following list is useful in assessing and evaluating trouble areas to move forward and address before the first snowfall. 

WINDOWS & DOORS Check all windows and doors for any movement of air, peeling paint or discoloration. Peeling paint and discoloration are a sign of moisture and this can ultimately mean that there is an area that needs to be sealed within or around the structure.

ROOF Repair any roof shingles or tiles that are loose. These areas weaken the integrity of the roof and allow moisture and condensation to creep into the structure and damage anything in its' path. Check in and around ventilation for chimneys plumbing vents and the like. If there is a location on the inside of the structure that would indicate a leak in the roof, it is vital to trace the track of the moisture back to the origination point. This may not be an area directly above the location identified as water can run along rafters and such. 

FOUNDATION & EXTERIOR WALLS Seal any areas in the external foundation that are visibly damaged. Areas with piping, wiring or plumbing are particularly at risk. A general sealant can prevent a world of difficulties later on insofar as preventing water, moisture and cold air into the structure that can lead to mold infestations and frozen (and expansion/ cracking) pipes that can cause flooding at a most inconvenient time.

PLUMBING Check all plumbing lines for condensation or visible leakages. Checking for cracks and wetness is a simple way of assessing your pipelines in the home. Generally if it's only a small area of the plumbing, just that area can be replaced. Having a cracked pipe doesn't always translate to a ginormous bill. Sometimes for under $50, a potion of the plumbing can save 10's of $1000's of dollars in flood damage if the pipe later bursts!

TERMITES Check the home and particularly the attic and basement for termite(s) or signs of termite damage. Any exposed wood can lead to termite invasion and hence areas that will rot away and need to be sealed and re-covered. 

384 Foot Tall Vertical Forest Sweeps Swiss Architecture

MacFawn Fire & Flood Restoration - Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Stefano Boeri, Italian Architect extraordinaire has designed the first of its' kind, vertical forest that is integrated into the architectural foundations of a building has another project underway in Switzerland. Boeri's first vertical forest integration was constructed in Milan last year for the first time ever. In the works now, is yet another 384 ft tall apartment structure that will be home to 100 evergreens, 6000 scrubs and 18,000 small plant species that will be planted throughout the structure to enhance both the interior and exterior of the structure.

The beauty of nature meets contemporary design in many ways in architecture. Through a lens of environmental pollution, one cannot help but to ponder the issue of mold growth and frequency in which these lifeforms must be fed water, fertilizer and the like to be sustained. As such, what will the long term health effects be of the residents in the structure(s)? 

Vertical gardening has been a growing topic in permaculture and urban gardening for a long time now. But with all of the issues that ensue upon the rendering of an environment as having more moisture than average, the long term effects of residents in such buildings remain to be seen. In theory, the conscilience of vertical agriculture, modern architecture and sustainable design is beautiful, but in application somewhat precipitous. 

Mold in Sheetrock

MacFawn Fire & Flood Restoration - Monday, November 16, 2015

Mold growth occurs in moist environments and more-so especially in porous environments. Materials such as glass, metal and plastic generally do not support active colonization of mold, howevever materials such as wood, carpet, textiles and sheetrock do. Mold growth in sheetrock is perhaps the first sign a home or business owner will have to alert them to a mold infestation. By that time, it's generally safe to say that the sheetrock should be removed completely, as mold will have inhibited the material throughout (from one side to the other) as sheetrock is very porous and acts like a sponge wicking up any surrounding moisture. If sheetrock is covered by wallpaper, the space in between the wallpaper and the sheetrock can also be a breeding ground for mold. This is an are of the home that many forget about as being a trouble area. Again, the porous nature of materials such as paper and sheetrock are a perfect medium for mold growth and must not ever be ignored!