Forensic Industrial Hygienist
Mould testing – The gift that never gave.
Nov 20 2014 on Linkedin
A new study regarding the “ERMI” mould index appears in the January 2015 edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. That study like so many others demonstrate that the use of such devices remain of virtually no utility. The do-it-yourself mold tests that are appearing on the market, such as the EPA “ERMI” kit and IAQ Pro 5-Minute Home Mold Test are misleading, and cannot be used to determine if an home has a problem.
The misleading assumption associated with products like the IAQ Pro 5-Minute Home Mold Test is that the product determines if a home has a mould problem, and the selling point is that the “analysis” is very accurate. However, having a sensitive or accurate analysis method is meaningless if the sample from which the analysis is derived is not capable of determining the significance of the result. Such is the case with the IAQ Pro 5-Minute Home Mold Test.
Since ALL houses without exception, contain “black moulds” and we know that ALL houses, without exception contain Aspergillus and Penicillium and Stachybotrys, and the IAQ Pro 5-Minute Home Mold Test only tells us that these are present, what is the point of the “test?”
Similar DIY mould testing kits, such as the PRO-LAB® Test Kits are merely settling plates marketed by Pro-Labs® and sold through Home Depot® and other retail outlets.
The IAQ Pro 5-Minute Home Mold Test, and similar DIY mould test products are NOT capable of determining the significance of the presence of the molds. These devices are entirely and completely incapable of producing any legitimate results under all circumstances and cannot be interpreted by anyone under any known conditions.
The public is generally mislead by the use of popular indices that claim to provide a moldiness index. Some of the more popular (and most misleading) are the US EPA “Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI)” and the EMLab P&K MoldScoreTM. These kinds of indices and scores have been grossly misapplied and have been used by poorly trained “mould inspectors” as some kind of a magical score to evaluate mouldiness.
A study that appeared in the January 2015 edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (1) looked at the ERMI scores and attempted to determine if the ERMI correlated with health problems, such as “wheeze” in homes. What the authors found was that there was no statistically significant difference in ERMI scores in homes of children with wheeze, and children without wheeze.
In fact a primary finding of the 2015 study was that one could perform a visual inspection of the property and determine if the ERMI score would be high or low. That is, a visual inspection is just as good as wasting one’s money on suspect protocols such as ERMI.
In fact, virtually all the claims surrounding the application of the ERMI score and the MoldScoreTM as being capable of identifying a problem are false (and always have been false). Neither index is accepted by science, and the problem of misapplying the US EPA ERMI score became such a problem, that in August 2013 the US EPA released a report (2) to address the misapplication and even the fraudulent misrepresentations being made about ERMI.
On January 2, 2014, FACTs did an internet search on companies offering the ERMI protocol, and every organization, without a single exception, that we found on the internet that was offering the protocol, falsely described the protocol and misrepresented the service and the ERMI protocol.
According to the US EPA:
The EPA readily acknowledged that MSQPCR [Mold Specific Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction] and ERMI have not been validated or peer reviewed by EPA for public use. The agency considers MSQPCR and ERMI to be research tools not intended for public use. However, the manner in which one active and one inactive licensee advertised MSQPCR and ERMI has the potential to mislead the public into thinking that these research tools are EPA-approved methods for evaluating indoor mold. Also, information appearing on an EPA Office of Science Policy webpage suggests that the EPA has validated and endorsed MSQPCR for public use. The EPA has developed but has not finalized a fact sheet on MSQPCR, ERMI and indoor mold for the public.
Consequently, there is a risk that the public may make inappropriate decisions or take unnecessary actions regarding indoor mold on the belief that MSQPCR and ERMI results were based on research tools fully validated and endorsed by the EPA for public use.
In general, because the protocols sound “scientific” and because poorly trained field practitioners (almost exclusively “certified mould inspectors”) were fraudulently claiming the method was an EPA standard or a EPA validated method, the public continues to be duped by charlatans offering the ERMI service.
Currently, NONE of the mould related indices or scores are capable of determining if a property has a mould problem.
We have addressed these issues in detail and you can read them by clicking here: Mould testing – Benefit or Snake Oil?
1) Rosenbaum PF, Crawford JA, Hunt A, Vesper SJ, Environmental Relative Moldiness Index and Associations with Home Characteristics and Infant Wheeze. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 12: 29–36 ISSN: 1545-9624 print / 1545-9632 online Copyright 2015 JOEH, LLC DOI: 10.1080/15459624.2014.933958
2) US Environmental Protection Agency, Office Of Inspector General Report No. 13-P-0356, August 22, 2013 “Public May Be Making Indoor Mold Cleanup Decisions Based on EPA Tool Developed Only for Research Applications” See also: MEMORANDUM: THE INSPECTOR GENERAL, from Arthur A. Elkins Jr. US EPA (August 22, 2013)
Re-posted with author’s permission.