Like any other industry, the mold business has its share of scams, cons and rip off artists who seek to profit from your lack of knowledge about mold.
The worst perpetrators of mold scams are mold removal contractors who also offer mold inspections and mold testing services. Their scam is creating non-existent mold problems and charging you thousands of dollars to fix them.
JUST SAY NO THANKS!
If you encounter a mold inspector who also does mold removal (or visa-versa) just say NO THANKS. There's plenty of quality contractors available that don't do both. And especially watch out for contractors who offer FREE inspections. That's a major red flag!
Many contractors offer "FREE" clearance testing also, (which is equivalent to grading their own homework). Don't fall for it! Clearance testing is crucial to the mold remediation process and should never be performed by a mold removal contractor waiting to get paid for his work.
AVOID BEING SCAMMED. The best way to avoid getting scammed this way is to avoid using mold removal contractors for mold inspections. I am not in the mold removal business and therefore have no vested interest in how your inspection and testing comes out. My position is always unbiased and neutral. But even if you don't choose me for you inspection and testing needs, be sure whoever you do choose is not looking for repair work.
The following information can help you avoid getting scammed and ensure that your mold issues are handled ethically, honestly and professionally. Take the time to read it. If you have any questions, please call us.
Make sure your mold inspector is not in the mold removal business too. We believe it's a serious conflict of interest for the company you pay to "inspect" for mold also profits from the "removal" of mold. There are plenty of companies out there that do both, the question is; how can you ever truly be sure that they are not creating more work for themselves - work that doesn't really need to be done? The opportunity for corruption is far too great. The only way to know for sure that you're not being "set up" and scammed into spending thousands of dollars you don't need to spend is to make sure the person you hire for mold inspections has no affiliation with any mold removal contractor.
Check your remediation contractor's experienced and references. AND CALL THE REFERENCES! Don't take anyone's word for it when it comes to shelling out thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars for remediation work. Ask for references for jobs that are at least 10 to 12 months old. Why? Because every mold remediation job looks great as soon as its finished. But if remediation work is not done correctly, it can take several months to realize it. As a rule, if mold does not reoccur in that time, the work was done correctly. A remediation contractor who has nothing to hide, has no problem giving you references. If a contractor gets offend by your request, say bye-bye!
Hire a remediator to remediate. Hire a remodeler to remodel. The standard rates for remodeling or reconstruction work that involves mold remediation is approximately three time higher that the exact same remodel without mold remediation. That means, by hiring one contractor to do the entire job, you are paying triple the regular rate for the reconstruction work that takes place after the mold is removed. As rule, you save a lot of money by hiring a remediation contractor to remove the mold, then having a remodeling contractor come in to do the reconstruction. Some remediation contractors will insist on doing all the work or none at all. Just remember, there's more where they came from. A "free" clearance test from a contractor offering to pass his own work is not a good deal for you. Always insist on third party post-remediation clearance testing and make sure your agreement with the contractor states that he will come back and correct his work if it fails a remediation clearance test. Have this test done before you pay your remediation contractor and before remodeling is done. If you agree to make progress payments, make sure the final payment is a significant percentage of the total job price so the contractor is motivated to finish the job correctly.
Never allow a contractor to provide clearance testing for his own remediation work. Many remediation contractors will offer to provide FREE clearance testing after they're work is complete. Nice gesture, but don't fall for it. The reason they do that is so they pass their own work and get paid. Also, they more than likely quoted you a firm price in order to get the work in the first place and if a third party inspector fails his post-remediation clearance test, he has to keep coming in. And don't settle the account until you see the clearance report in writing.
Never allow a remediation contractor to "encapsulate" mold. Some mold removal contractors include a process they call "encapsulating" or "encapsulation". Plainly stated, it means they paint over mold, (often with a stain killing paint called KILZ, sold in most Home Depot stores). This practice is not recognized by the EPA or any other legitimate authority on mold remediation. The EPA guidelines for mold abatement is very clear, "REMOVE IT". If the mold is removed, there is no need for encapsulation. Unless mold is removed, it is still there. "Encapsulating" mold by painting over it is just a way to cover up any mold that was not removed. Encapsulation is a scam. Ask your contractor before he begins if he does encapsulation. If he says yes, find another contractor.
OTHER COMMON MOLD SCAMS
Fraudulent Mold Testing Some mold inspectors who are in cahoots with mold remediation contractors have a little trick they play to help the remediator land big remediation jobs, for which the remediator pays the inspector a "referral" fee" (often thousands of dollars). It works like this: The inspector comes to your house concealing an air sample he has already collected from another location. That location is literally being cultivated to produce high amounts of toxic molds. After the inspector leaves your property he tosses your actual samples into the trash sends the bogus samples to the lab for analysis. When your report comes back you are, of course, shocked by the results and frightened into calling the remediation contractor he's in cahoots with. The fraud perpetuates when the remediation contractor plays on your lack of knowledge, selling you expensive repair work you don't need.
This scam can often be avoided by insisting on having the inspector (tester) show you the serial numbers located on the spore traps and then writing them down on your receipt for his work. When your results come back, confirm that the serial numbers in the lab reports are the same serial numbers on your receipt. Also, finding your own mold remediation contractor will ensure there is no connection between him and the inspector.
House Cooking "House cooking" is an old scam designed to get the worst possible test results. The inspector shuts all the windows and turns on the air handler in order to elevate the number of mold spores in the air before taking samples. Some will even turn on ceiling fans and humidifiers full blast. The purpose is to cause high levels of detectable mold to justify expensive mold remediation work.
Ozone generators that are sold as air cleaners intentionally produce the toxic gas ozone. Often the vendors of ozone generators make statements and distribute material that lead the public to believe that these devices are always safe and effective in controlling indoor air pollution. Manufacturers and vendors of ozone devices often use misleading terms to describe ozone. Terms such as "energized oxygen" or "pure air" suggest that ozone is a healthy kind of oxygen. The bottom line is, ozone is a toxic gas with vastly different chemical and toxicological properties from oxygen. Claims that ozone generators sold as air purifiers are effective at controlling indoor air pollution are simply misleading.
Exposure to a level you can smell is likely to be dangerous:
Health hazards to humans and animals occur and can be severe at ozone levels used for indoor cleaning purposes. At least some people can smell levels of ozone down to 0.05 ppm. This odor-detection level is already half-way to the recommended limit. If you are generating ozone indoors, even at "low" levels a problem may be present. People become desensitized to odors in a short time, perhaps 20 minutes. So if you do not smell it, the ozone level could still be hazardous.
Lung irritation and infection. Breathing pain, coughing, wheezing, difficulty when exercising.
Permanent lung damage.
Aggravation of pre-existing asthma
Increased risk of lung illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia
Reduced breathing capacity
Use of ozone to "remove" or "kill" mold is ineffective, not recommended, and may be dangerous. Even if ozone were applied at a concentration and for a duration sufficient to "kill" every mold spore in a building (which is a very dubious claim), depending on the mold genera/species present there is a good chance that the process leaves toxic and allergenic particles in the building. A "dead" (or non-viable) mold spore may not grow but it can still be a health concern. The operative proper word for mold remediation is "clean" or "remove", not "kill." In 1997, Dr. Karin K. Foarde of Research Triangle Institute, tested the ability of ozone to decontaminate fungi on building materials. At ozone levels of 9 ppm for a 23-hour exposure, ozone was found to be ineffective. (Notice that this is 90-times higher than permitted ozone exposure. Exposure at these "deodorizing" levels would be considered extremely toxic to humans.) This procedure is not recommended by the NY City Department of Health Guidelines on the Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments. Jim Holland's article on Ozone as a "mold remediation step" is available online and is a good summary of this point. Jack E. Peterson's 1987 excellent work "Health Hazards of some Gases" also addresses ozone hazards.
Deodorization and cleaning claims are questionable: The apparent deodorization at high ozone levels may be simply the effect of a general desensitization to odors in the nose of building occupants rather than actual removal of an odor source. Ozone has been used following building fires to "reduce" smoke odors but even in this application it does not remove soot.
If, for example, there is a persistent odor source (such as a dead animal, flood damage, mold in building wall and ceiling cavities), no amount of "air treatment" of any kind will remove the problem source. There is no substitute for the actual physical effort to find and remove the offending source. Cleaning or removing the problem source is proper and effective. Professional use of ozone, at concentrations and durations which the applicator guarantees will not damage building materials or cause other outgassing, may be helpful as one step in a cleaning procedure where mold is not involved.
Ozone has been used successfully in water treatment and in disinfection of cooling towers and possibly wastewater. However it is not a durable, reliable treatment in that O3 molecules are highly reactive and volatile and thus treated substances do not remain so.
Use of ozone may oxidize and damage materials and increase odor levels. If ozone is no longer being generated in a building the presence of ozone will diminish quite rapidly. However, other odors may remain or may even be increased.
Because ozone is a very powerful oxidant, it may react with (oxidize) many materials found indoors, including carpets, carpet padding (especially rubber), other floor coverings, furniture, furniture cushion foam, and even surface paints and finishes. A common example is ozone-oxidized rubber carpet backing or padding. Weather research and other studies indicate that any material that will oxidize may be expected to react with ozone, especially cross-linked organic molecules, especially rubber. Use of ozone may produce dangerous airborne byproducts: In other words, attempts to use high levels of ozone to "clean" or "deodorize" building interiors may in fact generate a second generation of unpleasant and even dangerous outgassing which may remain, persistent indoors, after the ozone "treatment."? Examples include increased levels of indoor formaldehyde, formic acid and other acid gases, toluene, or other toxic chemicals.
Use of ozone may increase sub micron particulates: Attempts to use high levels of ozone to "clean" or "deodorize" building interiors may also increase the level of extremely small sub-micron particles which themselves can be severe respiratory irritants.
Insurance Companies and Insurance Adjusters as Scammers Here are several mold frauds perpetrated by insurance companies and insurance adjusters.
a. Hiring testing personnel who are loyal to the insurance companies (not the insured) to do the least possible mold testing in the least likely mold locations in an insured's property so that any actual mold is NOT likely to be discovered.
b. Forcing testers to restrict the air flow to purposely lower the spore count in air sampling cassettes. The two most widely used spore traps (air sampling cassettes) are the Air-O-Cell and the Micro-5.
MY FINANCIAL INTEREST
I have no financial interest beyond the report fee. I do not perform remediation and I have no affiliation with any remediators. I will refer you to published remediation guidelines if you wish.