Mold and Indoor Air Quality Asseessment Jacksonville, Florida

Mold is pervasive; it is everywhere. You inhale spores outdoors. Some types of mold should not be present in your living/work spaces. Water indicator molds likestachybotrys, ulocladium, or chaetomium are not common in indoor environments unless there is an active water source. If we find these water indicator molds, we know there is a moisturesource such as a plumbing leak or water intrusion from the outside; we have a leak.

Some molds are commonly found inside.  Molds such as aspergillus, cladisporium, and ascospores can exist, but not thrive, on normal humidity in the air.  When we find amplified levels of these common molds, we generally find problems with the HVAC system or poor ventilation along with elevated   humidity levels (over 60% RH).

There are over 5,000,000 different species of mold/fungi in the fungi kingdom.  Fungi are eukaryotes. They are a kingdom unto themselves.  They are different from plants, animals, Protista and bacteria. They feed by sending out enzymes and absorbing soluble breakdown products unlike animals and Protista which ingest their food.  Fungi don’t have chlorophyll or photosynthesis like plants. They reproduce by spores in which each nucleus can germinate into a new individual.  Most fungi have chitin walls.  Fungi functions like the roots, trunk and branches of a tree.  It is a network of microscopic tubes called hyphae or connected mycelium. This is the part of the fungi that feeds, expands, grows, eats, produces toxins and eventually forms the reproductive stage that will produce and release spores.  We seldom see the mycelium (visibly) because it is usually embedded in its food source or substrate.  The part we see, the black, green or blue mold, the mushroom, the shelf fungus on a tree, is the reproductive part.  It does not eat, produce toxins, or even grow.  It is totally dependent upon the mycelium and is produced when the mycelium quits growing.  The reproductive part is like the apple on a tree – it is not the tree.  If we remove all the mushrooms from the lawn or clean all the mold from the drywall, we don’t kill or remove the mold.  Like picking an apple from the tree, we don’t kill the tree.  The final part of the fungi is the spore, which is protected, resistant, tough, and can sit dormant in a physiological resting state for very long periods of time but, if you add water, it will wake up, form the first strand of hyphae (a germ tube) and seek food.

While there are millions of species of fungi,the good news is only a relatively few are found indoors.  Generally, less than two dozen, and of those, we typically only find up to a dozen in our Florida homes and of those, we can easily break these down into two categories:

  1. Water indicator molds
  2. Common molds existing due to elevated humidity (opportunistic molds)

The truth is, all we need to know is what water activity (Aw) is required for the type of mold present.  A mold requiring a high-water activity (greater than .95 Aw) means we have active water present (a leak).  If we find and fix the leak, this mold will stop growing even if we do nothing else. If the mold is not growing (producing hyphae and spores), it poses no threat to anyone as it cannot release any mycotoxins.  We will typically recommend some level of remediation simply for safety as the mold may be dormant but could return to active growth should a moisture source reoccur.

Molds which can thrive on elevated humidity are of greater concern.  These common molds, like aspergillus, produces hyphae/spores rapidly with moisture vapor; they do not require a water source.  Finding elevated aspergillus always requires some level of remediation to clean/disinfect the home as well as repairing or improving ventilation in the affected area(s).  Healthwise, we find more people are affected by aspergillus than any other mold, including stachybotrys (black mold).

A lesser identified, but equally dangerous mold to aspergillus, is erisiphye(mildew).  Far too many mold assessors and laboratories miss the presence of erisiphye.  When you smell those strong fungal odors (that damp basement smell), you are most likely smelling erisiphye.  It emits a strong fungal odor which easily permeates fabrics, carpets, carpet padding, upholstery, clothing and any porous material – even unsealed wood.  Don’t confuse the danger of erisiphye with common mildew staining, we find on the outside of our homes (mostly caused by lack of sunlight in wet, shaded areas caused by sprinklers) or a little we find on grout/caulking in showers (that is caused by not ventilating the bathroom sufficiently). Erisiphye is difficult to remediate if it is firmly established in fabric material; you may have to discard the clothing or furniture.


There are hundreds of “professional mold testers” who are more than happy to let you pay them to “sample for mold”.  They will then provide you with a worthless laboratory report which will advise you if the mold found is “elevated”.  They determine the mold is elevated if the indoor spore counts are higher than the outdoor spore counts (it’s called the Reference Method in sampling jargon).  It’s mostly worthless and it is rarely accurate in identifying a true condition and it never identifies the building related condition which may be the source of the mold, if truly elevated.

What you also must understand is there is no guideline, by any accredited source, which identifies “elevated”.  Molds release spores in the thousands based on weather, time of day and wind conditions.  These spores can drift into your home and if sampled at that time, it may provide a false indication of mold amplification.  Sample the same area a day later and you may get completely different results.  Counting spores in an air sample is just not reliable.  It is one “tool in the bag” we use to help us determine the indoor air condition; it is not absolute.  Conversely, we could have an amplified condition inside but if we sample outdoors during a mass release, our indoor counts may appear to be not elevated as we are comparing our sample to a condition which is not normal outdoors.

The Florida Standard of Practice for a Mold Assessor tasks the Assessor with “identifying mold amplification”.  Anyone can take a sample and find “mold” – its everywhere.  What you need to know is:

  1. If you have visible mold, what type is it and why is it there?
  2. What should be done to remove it and stop it from reoccurring.
  3. If you have amplified mold spores, what type are they and why are they present?
  4. What building condition is related to the amplified presence of the mold.

A licensed and qualified Mold Assessor or Council Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant (CIEC) will identify more than just mold.  While we recognize many people are frightened by mold, what they don’t understand is in many cases your symptoms related to allergies, asthma or other pulmonary issues are caused by constituents other than mold.  More people are affected by dust, pollen, insect parts, skin and pet dander, dust mites, elevated humidity, and poor ventilation than mold.  Other contributors to our poor indoor air quality include Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) related to chemical off-gassing.  New carpeting, furniture and flooring are known to off-gas VOC’s for months.  Formaldehyde is used in the manufacture of all flooring and even compliant levels are asthma triggers to many.  Hydrogen sulfides (drywall), paints and finishes on our furniture can emit VOC’s for years.  Chemicals in pesticides/insecticides may off-gas for up to 20 years.  Spray foam insulation is causing allergic responses in many people.  Wood treatments including pre-construction termite treatment and fumigation for termites can be harmful to a sub-set of people.

In short, while it is easy to believe your source of illness is related to mold, it rarely is, or it may be just one of many sources.  You deserve to live/work in a healthy indoor environment and you can.  If you are suffering from allergies, asthma or related pulmonary ailments, you will need much more than a “mold test”.  Take the time to educate yourself on indoor air triggers and choose a properly qualified professional who can help you.

People you should not call for help:

  1. A home inspector who advertises “mold testing”.  By law they are prohibited from conducting mold testing unless they are testing “visible mold”, less than 10 square feet in area, found during a home inspection.  They probably won’t tell you that but that is the law as defined by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation, Construction Industry Licensing Board (Declaratory Statement 2011-058).
  2. A Mold Remediator.  You need an assessment by a qualified professional who will identify what needs to beremediated before you call the remediator.  If you have a building related condition which is causing the mold growth, you need an assessor who is also experienced in building inspection.  A mold assessor who is also a Certified General Contractor is a good choice.
  3. Any company who advertises “mold testing” and who claims to have offices nationwide.  They don’t.  It’s a mold scam.  They will send unqualified sub-contractors to your home, collect a few samples, and issue a boilerplate report that is not worth the email it is written on.  Their typical quoted fee will be between $395 and $495.  Save your money.

Let’s look at some common indoor molds

Alternaria. One of the most easily recognized molds.  It is found in air, leaf litter and indoors.  Together with cladisporiumit is commonly found on the wood frames between window panes.  It can survive on occasional condensation and/or elevated humidity.  There are no known health concerns associated with Alternaria.


Aspergillus/penicillium.  We commonly group aspergillus with penicillium as it takes a culture to distinguish these two molds.  Aspergillus produces a large quantity of spores and they are easily airborne.  It is the only mold which we find useful to compare outdoor counts to indoor counts.  This mold may appear on drywall, but it is frequently associated with leather, upholstery, drapes, linens, clothes or settled spores on surfaces. It appears as a fine, greenish gray, powder.  It is easily dispersed over a wide area. Aspergillusversicolor is common in buildings and has been associated with aspergillosis, an infection Produces mycotoxins of the lungs.  Amplified aspergillus is always recommended for remediation of some level.


Chaetomium. Not technically a mold even though it may appear as one in a sample, it is an ascomycete and the spores seen in samples are ascospores which were borne in a sac rather than a stalk.  The sac is almost never seen in samples but the round, lemon shaped spore is easy to recognize.  Chaetomium species grow on materials containing cellulose. It is often found along withstachybotrys and cladisporium.  Very little toxins are associated with Chaetomium so it is not considered to be a health concern.  Rarely found in air samples.


Cladisporium.  While this species is one of the most frequently found molds in buildings, it is rarely isolated from outside air.  It is found in cellulose containing materials such as ceiling tile, wallboard and unpainted wood.  It is one of the few fungi which can grow high light and is commonly found on the wood between window panes.  High humidity and condensation can support growth.  It forms olive-green or olive-black colonies and at its peak, it may appear totally black like stachybotrys.  Samples often appear olive-brown under a microscope.  There are no known health concerns associated with cladisporium.


Curvularia.  This mold is mostly found in soil or plant pathogens.  It is also common on wet wood and may be found alongside “white rot”.  It is often misidentified as Drechslera in lab tests.  It may cause skin infections.  Mostly found in very wet wallboard or water damaged wood flooring.  Can also be found in floor and mattress dust.


Epicoccum.  Best identified in a tape lift.  Young spores are often misclassified as Alternaria or ulocladium.  Dry spores typically released on windy days.  Opportunistic mold which can thrive on elevated humidity.  No known health concerns.  It does produce mycotoxins which are used in the manufacture of antibiotics.


Stachybotrys.  This species is the basis of the media scare involving s. chartarum (chartarum simply means “wet paper”).Stachybotrys is synonymous with memnoniella echinate so if you find memnoniella listed in a lab report, you are seeing the same mold.  Syachybotrys is commonly found on very wet drywall (Aw .95 or higher).  It always indicates a moisture source such as a plumbing leak or roof leak.  Any affected drywall must be removed and the moisture source must be repaired.


Trichoderma.This mold appears green due to abundant sporulation.  All the side branches of the conidiophores produce lateral 90-degree branches.  May be confused with aspergillus but these spores produce clumps rather than chains.  Cellulases from this fungi are used in the denim industry to whiten fabrics (stone washing).  Trichoderma is also the causal agent of green mold rot in onions and mushrooms.  Requires a high moisture source such as a leak.


Ulocadium.Indicates a high moisture presence such as a leak.  May be found on wallboard, paper, paint, jute or straw.  No known health concerns.



What is the occurrence of these molds in buildings?

Tape Lift Samples:

Cladisporium Stachybotrys Aspergillus/Penicillium sp.Ulocladium Chaetomium Alternaria Other
36% 16% 7% 5% 5% 5% 2% 24%

Air Samples:

Cladisporium Stachybotrys Aspergillus/Penicillium sp.Ulocladium Chaetomium Alternaria Other
30% 1% 20% 15% 1% 1% 1% 31%


Cladisporium is our most common mold found both indoors and outdoors.

This index clearly shows that if we are only testing using slit-impactor cassettes (air sampling) we will most likely miss many water indicator molds which are known to produce mycotoxins such as Stachybotrysand Ulocladium.  Many of these spores are large and do not float easily in the air.  They settle quickly and are easily missed by air sampling, even when present.

Water indicator molds such as stachybotrysdo not release spores without physical agitation.  Without physical agitation, the mold will attach itself to the food source like the drywall and continue to grow so long as the water source is present.  Unless it is physically disturbed by water hitting the spores or by cutting/ripping the drywall away from the wall studs, it poses no health threat whatsoever.  Removing drywall without protecting adjacent areas may cross-contaminate the otherwise unaffected areas so don’t allow your contractor to start opening walls!

There is far too much fear selling in the mold industry.
Mold is omnipresent; you can’t escape it.
Millions are wasted each year on worthless assessment.
Millions are spent each year on unnecessary or overzealous remediation.
Simply, most people hire the wrong advisor.

Call Us today for Mold Inspection 855-932-3784

What you think you know about mold is probably not necessarily true.


  • There are no laboratories which are accredited for identification of “mold/fungi”. There are no QA/QC protocols and no “inspections” by outside authorities. You really don’t know if what they are reporting is accurate.
  • States do not regulate or impose standards for mold assessment.  Few require a  license or specific training for mold assessors.  Florida does.
  • Most mold assessors have no knowledge of building construction or inspection. They have no idea “what caused the mold condition”.
  • Florida does require a Mold Assessor license and a Home Inspector is not allowed to conduct mold testing on anything greater than 10sf in area and then, only if found during a home inspection.  A home inspector is not allowed to test “non-visible” mold so, they cannot advertise or solicit mold testing using “air sampling” nor can they advise you what the results of any air sample mean – that is mold assessment and they are not licensed to provide mold assessment.
  • Few indoor molds produce or release mycotoxins.  Mycotoxins are released along with spores into the air.  The mold you see on the drywall is not toxigenic and is completely harmless.
  • Of the 5,000,000 species of mold/fungi, less than two dozen are found indoors.
  • There are no governmental guidelines on what constitutes an “elevated” mold spore condition for an outside or indoor environment.  Many laboratories publish “guidelines” to provide an easy way for the industry to sell mold sampling.  The guidelines are mostly worthless and cannot be used to support any hypothesis or result.
  • You cannot compare outdoor mold samples to indoor mold samples.  They are not the same genus.  This practice is mostly useless, and it is used to promote mold testing by mostly untrained home inspectors.
  • There is a sub-set of people who are affected by even minor mold; both outdoors and indoors.  Most of these people are also affected by other irritants such as pollen, dust, pet/human dander, dust mites and more.  Simply identifying “mold” will not improve their condition.

If you would like to discuss your unique situation or concern,
you may order a telephone consultation with William.