Mold Odors & Your health
Most inspectors as well as people suffering with mold problems assume that spores are what make people sick, but is it possible that mold odor alone without spores can cause health complaints such as but not limited to allergy, asthma, and more frequent colds?
I have done mold inspections since 2009 and have long suspected a direct and strong correlation between mold odor and building occupant health complaints. It seems that mold odor has more to do with health complaints than spore levels in many cases.
It is a well known fact that many manmade volatile organic compounds such as benzene, methyl ethyl ketone, acetone, and formaldehyde to name a few not only have scary names, but can have scary health effects and can contribute to indoor air quality problems such as sick building syndrome and other IAQ problems.
Mold odors are also made of volatile organic compounds. Volatile organic compounds produced by mold include chemicals similar to alcohols, aldehydes, amines, ketones and many more. When volatile organic compounds are produced by mold or bacteria we stop calling them volatile organic compounds and refer to them as microbial volatile organic compounds. (mVOCs).
Mold odors or mVOC’s are typically over looked as a source of health complaints by many mold inspectors who look for spores as the only source of potential health problems. Other inspectors are concerned about the health effects of toxins produced by toxic black mold. During many inspections because visible mold was not obvious and the lab report you receive states that spore levels indoors are low, inspectors will tell you that you do not have a mold problem, and that your health problems are not related to mold in your home. This inspector has investigated numerous cases where mold odors were produced inside AC units, behind wall paper, in crawl spaces, or inside walls in many such cases spores were trapped or simply not released by the mold and yet people became ill.
After years of noticing this correlation between the occurrence of mold odor and allergy and asthma like health complaints I started to find information on the internet to support these observations. Please note that the legal and health implications are powerful, even in the lack of elevated spore levels building occupants can still become ill from mold.
Samples of indoor odor can be taken for quantitative and qualitative analysis by accredited labs using proven and advanced methods of analysis, Prism Analytical labs AKA PATI is one of the few labs that specialize in not just voc analysis but also mVOC or microbial volatile compound analysis.
Do not rely on my observations, also see what academic and government mold experts say about this often overlooked issue. Do a search for mold odor and health for yourself and you will see that even if spore levels are low in your home there is no guarantee that you are free of mold problems.
But do not despair, there is hope, simply never rely on spore levels and lab tests alone, always hire an experienced inspector who does much more than take samples, they should know something about building construction or home inspections, AC systems, science, indoor air quality, and industrial hygiene. The mold inspector must do a very detailed investigation using his or her knowledge and experience and should not just take a few samples.