Mold related issues in home and work environments can cause health problems to occupants. No one wants their family or employees’ health put in jeopardy by a mold problem. Most people when confronted with this issue turn to the internet to do some background investigating. It won’t take long to stumble across a variety of mold home test kits. These kits will argue that by following simple steps you can identify potentially hazardous mold concentrations. They claim in some instances, that do it yourself home mold test kits are just as effective as hiring professionals to identify or fix a problem. In this instance they are not. According to Consumer Reports, “We found significant shortcomings in all of them, flaws that were serious enough to earn each a Not Recommended rating.”
The most important aspect when assessing a home or work environment for mold is determining if in fact there is an issue, what caused the issue and how extensive is the issue. A home mold test kit cannot do this as it can only tell you what type of molds are present. Whether the consumer thinks they have a mold problem or are just curious whether there is mold in the air, the home mold test kit cannot do this accurately, the information is flawed.
The most common home mold test kit is a “settling plate”; the plate has a nutrient agar present and is designed to allow any mold spore that land on it to grow. The consumer is instructed to leave the plate in an area to test for 72-96 hours and then seal it and send it to the laboratory (additional fees apply).
There are numerous problems with these kits, the first is that every home in the United States has some mold present and if a few spores land on the plate it will grow and multiply. This can cause concern for the consumer as they think they have a problem in their home when this may not be the case. These types of tests can give a false positive. Additionally, false negatives can occur, the nutrient agar in the test kits does not allow for the growth of all molds, degradation of the sample in storage or transit can result in the potential number of molds observed being artificially low giving the consumer a false sense of security.
Basically, the only information that can be gathered from using a settling plate is that a mold spore in that particular area landed and grew on the sample. By the time the consumer pays for the kit and laboratory fees, it makes more sense to have the indoor air quality assessed by trained scientific personnelthan a kit purchased online or in store to test for mold.