Mold Inspection with Particle Counters Oct. 28, 2015

Introduction

Poor indoor air quality in our homes, workplaces and other facilities is an ongoing concern in many communities. Mold in particular, has people of various jobs and occupations across the country looking very closely at possible causes of contamination, and the associated costs of dealing with these problems. A growing number of professionals conducting IAQ investigations are utilizing a wide variety of testing instrumentation, including laser particle counters, to aid in better defining these contamination sources.

What is Mold?

Molds are primitive plant-like fungal organisms that make spores instead of seeds. Spores float in the air like pollen. The spores and chemicals that molds produce are a common trigger for allergies and sometimes more serious health consequences. Molds have been in our environment for millions of years, and as you have probably seen on TV ads, all homes have mold to some degree.

How to find out if there's a Mold Problem?

Some of the signs that mold may be prevalent include: persistent musty or 'earthy' odors indoors, mold seen growing on walls, ceilings or other surfaces and/or experiencing cold, flu or allergy-like symptoms when in the home. In some cases, people may suffer sneezing, itching watery eyes, runny nose, coughing, and congestion. Mold is a foreign protein. It releases spores, hyphae parts, and volatile organic chemicals. Exposure can aggravate respiratory illness, trigger asthma attacks, and cause other serious maladies. Not all molds cause the same reactions and people often react differently to different molds. In some cases, these reactions can require hospitalization.

Mold Inspection and Appropriate Instruments

A Mold Inspection is really two inspections: one is for mold, the second is for the source of moisture and dampness that allows mold to flourish. Mold spreads in the air in tiny particles. Laser Particle Counters use lasers to provide intense light and thereby count very small particles.

The Kanomax 3887 3-Channel Handheld Laser Particle Counter is useful for cleanroom certifications and spot checks, but it can also be a handy tool for mold remediation projects. This gets a little tricky, because if you're familiar with particle counters you are no doubt aware that they only count particles, they don't classify the type of particle (other than by size), so how can it be used to detect mold?

The answer: If you take the particle counter into an area that you suspect may have a mold problem you can use it to 'screen' the area by taking a count for a set duration in suspect places. By comparing the counts in each area you can identify the area that has the highest concentration of particles. This then becomes the place for the start of an in-depth investigation. This technique can save time by pinpointing likely spots that are contaminated with mold.

The Kanomax 3887 counter can also be used to spot check the performance of PHEAF filters to make sure they are containing the mold particles during the remediation process and not redistributing them back into the air.

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