Indoor Air Services

The majority of our indoor air sampling projects consist of sampling for volatile organic compounds, metals and mold at commercial and residential locations.

Air Sampling for Volatile Organic
Compounds using SUMMA® Canisters

Over the years many techniques have been used to sample for VOCs in ambient air. EPA Methods TO-14A and TO-15 (SUMMA Canisters) were designed for analysis of ambient air samples. These methods collect whole air samples in specially prepared stainless steel canisters and analyze the samples by gas chromatograph/ mass spectrometer (GC/MS) detection equipment.
Typically, the SUMMA canisters have settable flow controllers to allow for a time-weighted-average sample to be collected for times ranging from 40 minutes to 24 hours. A grab sample can easily be collected using the SUMMA canister as well.

Analysis of whole air samples by GC/MS means that samples with concentrations ranging from parts per billion (ppbv) to parts per million (ppmv) can be analyzed and detected. The duration of the sampling is not limited by the expected concentration, but can be set with confidence before the samples are collected.

The canister is subject to many QA/QC protocols. Once the canister is received and checked for QA/QC compliance, it is set in the sampling location and the regulator is opened.

Overview of Mold

Since most clients are not familiar with mold issues, we have included general information from various scientific sources on molds in the environment including comments from the USEPA and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In general, the leading scientific organizations agree that exposure to high levels of molds can cause illnesses in susceptible people. It is important to prevent water damage in buildings that stimulate mold growth, and to clean up moldy materials as soon as they are identified.

Molds can grow almost anywhere indoors and outdoors. More than 1,000 different kinds of indoor molds have been found in US homes.1 Molds spread and reproduce by making spores, which are very small and lightweight, able to travel through air, capable of resisting dry, adverse environmental conditions, therefore, can survive for a long period of time. Mold spores can easily be spread by removing a moldy piece of wallpaper or drywall, which in turn can generate other colonies that disperse throughout a building.

Molds need moisture and food to grow, and warm, damp and humid conditions to stimulate their growth. Therefore, a cleanup of mold-impacted areas should begin after the source of water or moisture is mitigated. With exposure to molds, airborne fungal allergens are most often associated with allergic diseases, like conjunctivitis, allergic asthma, and other respiratory ailments.

There are no accepted standards for mold sampling in indoor environments, or for analyzing and interpreting data in terms of human health. HEA conducts sampling by regularly accepted procedures that are recommended by many analytical laboratories including spore trap cassettes. Your medical doctor is the best choice for analyzing your current health conditions in light of any molds that may be found in your building.

The EPA and the CDC agree and recommend that mold contamination in indoor environments should be remedied to prevent negative health effects. We have included additional information and questions/answers about molds at the end of this report.

About Mold2

What is it?

Molds are simple, microscopic organisms, found virtually everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Molds can be found on plants, foods, dry leaves, and other organic material. Molds are needed for breaking down dead material. Mold spores are very tiny and lightweight, and this allows them to travel through the air. Mold growths can often be seen in the form of discoloration, ranging from white to orange and from green to brown and black. When molds are present in large quantities, they can cause allergic symptoms similar to those caused by plant pollen.

Should I be concerned about mold in my house or business?

Yes, if the contamination is extensive. When airborne mold spores are present in large numbers, they can cause allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections, and other respiratory problems for people. Exposure to high spore levels can cause the development of an allergy to the mold. Mold can also cause structural damage to your home. Similarly, when wood goes through a period of wetting, then drying, it can eventually warp and cause walls to crack or become structurally weak.

If an inspector with New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development finds more than 25 square feet of mold in a room, or more than 100 square feet in an entire apartment, the problem is considered a Class C violation, the most serious kind of housing code violation.3

What does mold need to grow? For mold to grow, it needs:
  • food sources - such as leaves, wood, paper, or dirt
  • a source of moisture
  • a place to grow

Can mold become a problem in my building? Yes, if there is moisture available to allow mold to thrive and multiply. The following are sources of indoor moisture that may cause problems:

  • flooding, backed-up sewers
  • leaky roofs, skylights
  • humidifiers
  • mud or ice dams
  • damp basement or crawl spaces, constant plumbing leaks
  • house plants -- watering can generate large amounts of moisture
  • steam from cooking, shower/bath steam and leaks
  • wet clothes on indoor drying lines
  • clothes dryers vented indoors
  • combustion appliances (e.g. stoves) not exhausted to the outdoors

How am I exposed to indoor molds?
Mold is found everywhere, indoors and outdoors. It is common to find mold spores in the air of homes and growing on damp surfaces. Much of the mold found indoors comes from outdoor sources. Therefore, everyone is exposed to some mold on a daily basis without evident harm. Mold spores primarily cause health problems when they enter the air and are inhaled in large number. People can also be exposed to mold through skin contact and eating.

How much mold can make me sick?
It depends. For some people, a relatively small number of mold spores can cause health problems. For other people, it may take much more. The basic rule is, if you can see or smell it, take steps to eliminate the excess moisture, and to cleanup and remove the mold.

Who is at greater risk when exposed to mold?
Exposure to mold is not healthy for anyone inside buildings. It is important to quickly identify and correct any moisture sources before health problems develop. The following individuals appear to be at higher risk for adverse health effects of molds:
  • Infants and children
  • elderly
  • Immune compromised patients (people with HIV infection, cancer chemotherapy, liver disease, etc.)
  • pregnant women
  • Individuals with existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity, and asthma.

IMPORTANT: People with these special concerns should consult a physician if they are having health problems.

What symptoms are common?
Allergic reactions may be the most common health problem of mold exposure. Typical symptoms reported (alone or in combination) include:
  • respiratory problems, such as wheezing, and difficulty in breathing
  • nasal and sinus congestion
  • eyes-burning, watery, reddened, blurry vision, light sensitivity
  • dry, hacking cough
  • sore throat
  • nose and throat irritation
  • shortness of breath
  • skin irritation
  • central nervous system problems (constant headaches, memory problems, and mood changes)
  • aches and pains
  • possible fever

Are some molds more hazardous than others?
Allergic persons vary in their sensitivities to mold, both as to amount and type needed to cause reactions. In addition, certain types of molds can produce toxins, called mycotoxins that the mold uses to inhibit or prevent the growth of other organisms. Mycotoxins are found in both living and dead mold spores.

Materials permeated with mold need to be removed, even after they are disinfected with cleaning solutions.
Allergic and toxic effects can remain in dead spores. Exposure to mycotoxins may present a greater hazard than that of allergenic or irritative molds. Mycotoxins have been found in homes, agricultural settings, food, and office buildings. Some molds can produce several toxins, and some molds produce mycotoxins only under certain environmental conditions. The presence of mold in a building does not necessarily mean that mycotoxins are present or that they are present in large quantities.

If you have concern over mold growth in your building, please call us for a discussion of your options (802) 672 6112
1 State of the Science on Mold and Human Health, Statements of Stephen C. Redd, MD; CDC,
  US Department of Health and Human Services; July 2002
2 California Department of Health: Mold Fact Sheet
3 NY Times Article, December 3, 2007