The health effects of poor indoor air quality are dependent upon several factors including the type of contaminant, concentration, duration of exposure, and individual susceptibility. Indoor air quality can be compromised by a number of contaminants including mold.
Assessing the status of Indoor Air Quality
The status of indoor air quality is assessed by measuring the levels of contaminants indoors. These Contaminants include:
1. Biological contaminants such as mold, bacteria, viruses, etc.
2. Chemical contaminants such as formaldehyde.
This article is focusing on mold as an indoor air contaminant. Contamination of air by mold spores can easily be determined by air testing.
Testing Air for Mold
There are two methods commonly used to test air for mold. These are:
1. Viable or culturing air testing
2. Non-viable or total spore count air testing.
Assessing the Status of Indoor Air Quality by Viable Air Testing.
For viable air testing, air sampling can be conducted in two ways. The first method uses settle plates. This technique involves opening agar plates inside the area being tested and leaving them open for half an hour or more. Airborne mold spores and hyphal fragments settle by gravity onto the agar plates. Any viable spores or hyphal fragments would then grow into visible colonies that can be counted and identified. A high colony count is an indication of poor indoor air quality. This method is cheap since all it requires is agar plates. However, it’s not an efficient way of testing for mold spores in the air. The second method uses an air sampling pump. In this case, air is impacted onto the agar plates by a pump. This method is more efficient since it doesn’t depend on free-falling of spores into the agar. Viable testing for mold has a big disadvantage in that it only detects viable spores/hyphal fragments yet even dead spores are a health hazard.
Assessing the status of Indoor Air Quality by Non-viable Air Testing.
Non-viable air testing samples are collected by impacting air on an inert surface coated with an adhesive. Most of the spores and other particulate in air get stuck on the adhesive surface. The samples are then tested by direct microscopy. The spores and/or other particulates are enumerated and identified. The results are reported as spores per cubic meter of air. This method of sampling requires an air sampling pump such as BioPump and air sampling cassettes such as Air-O-Cell or allergencos. The major advantage of this method is that both viable and non-viable airborne spores and other particulates are enumerated thus giving us a better idea of the status of the indoor air quality.