The MoldScore Report

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Courtesy of EMLab P&K

When evaluating indoor levels of most pollutants, one can collect air samples, compare the sampling results to established exposure standards, and make relatively unambiguous decisions regarding the need for remediation. Bioaerosols as a group are not amenable to this general methodology, due to the difficulties in the development of such exposure standards for reasons that have been discussed elsewhere. In the case of bioaerosols, one must rely on a different general test methodology that considers not only the overall level of contaminants, but also a comparison of these levels to background levels for each type of contaminant. Although investigations designed to reveal the presence or absence of such growth should always rely primarily on visual inspections by experienced investigators, it is often necessary to use sampling as auxiliary support. Advanced education and experience in aerobiology and indoor air quality investigations is required to qualitatively interpret fungal air data that compare indoor and outdoor spore concentrations.

To provide additional investigative tools, several different quantitative guidelines for interpretation of indoor/outdoor data have been published, some of which are widely used. These include a requirement that indoor levels be lower than those outdoors, with indoor/outdoor ratios >1 indicating an indoor problem. Others have modified this ratio approach by requiring a minimum concentration of spores and a higher ratio to indicate a problem. Better, some have used indoor/outdoor ratios of specific types of spores or have subtracted outdoor concentrations of specific fungi from those indoors. Statistical approaches have also been used.

None of these approaches provides the quality of information that a highly qualified expert could give, nor do they evaluate directly whether the data supports the hypothesis of indoor mold growth. Indoor/outdoor ratios that do not take spore types into consideration do not provide any information on differences in indoor and outdoor population structures. Comparing specific spore types, which is a part of the Spearman, agreement ratio and cluster analysis tests, provides additional information, but does not take into account other important sources of information used by the experts, such as differences in fungal ecology. Also, these statistical techniques were designed for large data sets, which are rarely available for indoor air investigations.

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