#1. Mold Inspectors Who Are Also In the Mold Removal Business.
The biggest mold scam is and always has been – mold inspectors who are also in the mold removal business. Mold removal (or remediation) is very profitable business, especially to those who who are pros at scamming the system by either blowing mold removal jobs way out of proportion, or worse yet, claiming there is mold growth when there really isn't. This scam is the worst because it plays on the fear and lack of knowledge of innocent people. It is intentionally deceitful. Often times they will offer to "beat anyone's price" or even offer "free inspections" just to get their foot in the door. Once they're inside your property they will use fear mongering tactics to intimidate you into signing a remediation contract before you have time to get a second opinion.
How to avoid this scam: Obviously the best way to avoid this scam is to never hire a mold inspector who owns or works for a mold removal company. The only way you can know for certain that your inspection report and test results will be completely unbiased and accurate is to hire a mold inspector with no hidden agenda to turn your inspection into a mold removal job.
AMI is strictly an inspection and testing Company. We are not in the remediation business. That means you can always count on AMI for an honest, professional mold assessment of your property.
#2. Free Post-Remediation Clearance Testing
The final step in the mold removal process is a post-remediation survey to verify and document that the remediation was successful. It is always best to have an independent third-party confirm that all of the mold has been removed and the air quality restored before making the final payment to your contractor. If the remediation is being paid for by your insurance company or required by a mortgage lender, it may be up to you to require a third-party clearance test since insurance companies are notorious for cutting every corner possible.
Post-remediation clearance testing should never be performed by a mold removal contractor who is waiting to get paid. Many mold remediation contractors even offer "FREE" clearance testing to avoid a third party tester who might fail their work. It is never in your best interest to let a contractor grade his final exam.
Post-remediation clearance testing should always be done after all the mold has been removed but before any re-construction work begins so the inspector can visually see that there is no mold left on the remediated materials.
How to avoid this scam. Always have you post-remediation survey and clearance test performed by a Certified Mold Inspector who does not work for your remediation contractor.
#3 Mold Scam: Encapsulating Mold
Encapsulation is a trade term used by some mold removal contractors to describe the process of “gluing down” any mold spores they may have missed during remediation. Anti-microbial coatings, often called "encapsulants" can be sprayed on, rolled or brushed like paint, but paint (including KILZ) is neither an anti-microbial coating nor an acceptable encapsulation product. As a final step in the mold remediation process, encapsulating a few loose spores to avoid failing a post-remediation test is not necessarily a scam. However, encapsulation, as a stand-alone solution for mold remediation, is nothing more than covering up mold that should have been removed, and that is a scam.
Why And When To Encapsulate
In the remediation process a contractor will remove and discard construction materials that are permanently damaged or would cost more to clean than replace. Any salvaged materials, such as framing lumber, that shows evidence of mold growth is then scraped, sanded, and wire brushed until all visible mold growth is removed.
At that point the remediation is finished and ready to be tested. Testing should take place before any new construction materials are installed. However, in some instances it is not possible to completely remove every last bit of mold trapped in small cracks and crevices without removing costly structural framing. If all visible mold growth has been removed and all salvaged materials have been dried to industry standards, encapsulating a few rogue mold spores is an acceptable step as long as:
The encapsulant product itself is clear (not a solid color) so that your third-party mold Inspector can visually confirm that all materials under the encapsulant are clean and mold free. Many mold remediation contractors use solid color encapsulants to cover up mold that was not removed. Some even paint over mold with KILZ, which is a stain-killing paint with no anti-microbial properties whatsoever. Remember, you pay your contractor to remediate mold. You pay your Inspector to confirm that the contractor did what you paid him to do. Be sure to have this discussion with your contractor before the work begins. Ask him directly if he intends to encapsulate or use any anti-microbial sealants or coatings. If the answer is yes, insist on clear products only.
Encapsulation is never to be done as the primary method for mold remediation. Encapsulation is never an approved or acceptable method of mold remediation.
How to avoid this scam. There are two things you can do to avoid being scammed by encapsulation schemes. If your contractor objects to either, find another contractor.
Before the remediation work begins, ask your contractor if he intends to encapsulate or use any anti-microbial sealants or coatings. If the answer is yes, insist on clear products only and insist that the product brand name and ID number is spelled out in the contract. The best and most widely used clear encapsulants are Fiberlock Aftershock Fungicidal Coating and Foster 40-51 Fungicidal Protective Coating.
Before your contractor applies an encapsulant, ask him to take you into the containment area (the work area). You may encounter some resistance, but this is a perfectly normal and justified request. If it is safe for him to be in there, it is safe for you. Once inside, ask him to show you what materials will be encapsulated and explain to you why he believes encapsulation is necessary. Then ask to see the encapsulant product to be used and ask to see the empty containers afterward.
If these suggestions seem strong, they are intended to be. Thousands of property owners who have been scammed by contractors who, “seemed so nice, seemed so honest and so knowledgeable.” If you are uncomfortable making such demands on your contractor, AMI offers on-site project management services with or without the Post-Remediation Verification Survey. This service will insure that every detail at every step of the remediation process is done with your best interest in mind.
#4 Mold Scam: Killing Mold
Sounds like a good idea, but is it really? It is important to understand the different characteristics between molds that are viable (alive) and molds that are dead (non-viable). Once you do it will be clear why killing mold is not a good option for dealing with a mold problem. The one important detail most people never knew.
Molds are living organisms that require food and water to stay alive. Take away one or the other and mold dies. Molds produce two things; enzymes to digest organic matter and spores to reproduce. Outdoors mold is a vital part of our ecosystem. Without it we would be neck-deep in dead plant matter and other organic materials. But indoors mold can be a real problem when it starts digesting organic materials like lumber, drywall, cabinets, and other personal property. As long as mold has a food source and a water source, it can live indefinitely and cause significant damage to anything it comes in contact with.
When mold loses its food or water source it dies or goes dormant. At that point, the good news is it can no longer cause any further damage to your property. The bad news is, as mold dies it dries out and starts to release spores into the air at a highly accelerated rate, and mold spores – dead or alive – have the same affect on people and animals. (READ THAT AGAIN!)
So, if dead mold is just as harmful alive mold – what would be the point in killing it?
Mold spores are organized into three groups according to human responses;
Allergenic - Most likely to affect those who are already allergic or asthmatic.
Pathogenic - Serious health effects in persons with suppressed immune systems.
Toxigenic - Capable of causing serious health effects in almost anybody.
The good thing about dead mold is that cannot cause further damage to your property. But when it comes to health risks associated mold exposure – there is no upside to killing mold because dead mold can still release spores into the air, and airborne mold spores, dead or alive, have the exact same effect on humans and animals. For that reason, the goal of mold remediation never to kill mold – it is always to remove mold.
Who Promotes the Idea of Killing Mold and Why? Follow The Money?
Anyone making money selling products and services that kill mold. Search Google for ”how to kill mold”. What you will find is 500,000 web sites selling products that supposedly “kill mold”. Check out the cleaning products isle at your local grocery store and you’ll find a number of mold-killing solutions to choose from. And of course there’s the home remedies that have been around for years, like bleach, vinegar, baking soda, etc. But even if a remedy or a retail product works, the question that begs asking is, “what is the point in killing mold?”
If you spend a few dollars on a mold-killing solution, the most you’ll be out is a few dollars. The real mold-killing scam, however, is the thermal or ”high-heat” treatments being passed off as mold remediation by some contractors. Can extreme heat kill mold and other indoor contaminants? Yes. But again, the question to ask is, “what is the point in killing mold?”. Whatever technical catch phrase they come up with to sell their concept, killing mold is not mold remediation. Remediation means removing mold. In the simplest of terms, if mold is properly remediated (removed) there should be nothing left to kill.
Other products and services being sold as mold-killers are Ozone air purifiers and high ozone treatments. Ozone is a colorless, toxic gas with a noticeable odor. When inhaled in relatively low amounts, ozone can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, damage the lungs and irritate the throat. Remember - the amount of ozone it takes to kill mold will kill you too! But even if you check into a hotel for a few days while they while they fill your house with lethal doses of deadly gas, the best you can hope for in the end is dead mold. And just like high heat treatments, remediation will still be required to remove it.
As for ozone products, manufacturers and resellers of Ozone Generators sold as air purifiers claim that these products help to kill and control mold. However, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA), these products may very well add to indoor air pollution and even make indoor mold conditions worse.
Several brands of ozone generators have EPA “establishment numbers” on their packaging. This is NOT an EPA approval or endorsement. It is nothing more than deceptive marketing designed to intentionally mislead consumers. The only purpose of an EPA establishment number is to help the EPA identify the specific facility that produces the product.
THE DISPLAY OF THIS NUMBER ON OZONE PRODUCTS DOES NOT IMPLY IN ANY WAY THAT EPA HAS FOUND THE PRODUCT TO BE EITHER SAFE OR EFFECTIVE.
FROM EPA’s WEB SITE:
Q: Are Ozone Generators Effective in Controlling Indoor Air Pollution?
A: Available scientific evidence shows that at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards, ozone has little potential to remove indoor air contaminants. Some manufacturers or vendors suggest that ozone will render almost every chemical contaminant harmless by producing a chemical reaction whose only by-products are carbon dioxide, oxygen and water. This is misleading. The EPA does not certify or endorse any air cleaning devices or recommend air cleaning devices or manufacturers.
For more information from the EPA regarding the use or effectiveness of ozone generators, please visit their web site at: www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/ozonegen.html
In a perfect world you could trust everyone, but it's not a perfect world yet. Until it is, the best defense against scams and rip offs educating yourself before some con artist does.
Like every industry, the mold business has its share of bad actors hoping to profit from your lack of knowledge about mold. Don't be their next victim. Arm yourself with truth and knowledge.
Here are the top mold scams and tips on how to avoid them. More of these warnings will be posted on our blog from time to time. Meanwhile, if you suspect you have a mold problem but you're not sure who to turn to for straight, truthful information, call AMI and speak directly with a senior inspector. Advice is free whether you use our services or not.