What to Expect from your Environmental Home Inspection

I should qualify that title: What to expect from your environmental home inspection – with my company. You won’t get this inspection with 99% of the mold inspectors or any other kind of environmental inspector.

My training is from an American branch of a German school, the Institute for Bau (building) Biology. We are trained to look at anything that might adversely impact on health – in air or water quality, mold, or exposure to electromagnetic fields. This is a screening inspection, not involving lab fees for the most part. Some things are handled by education.

However, I go beyond what this institute teaches currently, at least to my knowledge. I bring a microscope to the house and use it to check 20-50 suspect surfaces for mold. I also do culture plate air sampling (better for diagnostic purposes than spore trap testing) for in-house examination…for every room of the home, plus a sampling of air ducts and room air purifiers (some of which get contaminated themselves).

Unfortunately, I don’t know of other inspectors doing this inspection protocol in other areas of the country. My area is from VA and DC through PA and to NJ, NY, CT, and into Massachusetts, with most of my work in PA and Metro NY area.

I feel badly for the inspectors and their clients when an in-depth mold assessment is not done (i.e., industry guidelines). I would not know how to adequately assess many houses without doing a lot of testing. Sure, sometimes all this in-house testing (in-house, so there are no lab fees for the most part) is overkill…but you never know until you do it. My clients appreciate all the testing that is done, because they want to either know where the mold is or have peace of mind that they have had as thorough a test as could be done – without getting into more specialized types of testing. (See Cutting Edge Information.)

So you are considering call me for information about an environmental home inspection. Here’s what to expect from  your environmental home inspection with EnviroHealth, my company:

I am a former 8th grade science teacher, and good teachers don’t lecture while you take notes. They involve you in the experiment, ask you challenging questions, empower you to proceed on your own. Those are the outcomes I hope for. Those outcomes, plus the inspection data and recommendations, are what to expect from your environmental home inspection – at least with my environmental home inspection.

Here’s an overview of my typical on-site visit:

I arrive, we sit down and go over a mold cheat sheet, for an overview. I  share what resources are available to you. Then we go on the grand tour, where you introduce me to your home. You share where past leaks have been, where you have put on an addition, where someone might have symptoms, and so on.

Then, I gather up the electromagnetic field equipment and we head for a bedroom. We measure 5 types of EMFs at the bedroom, and you learn how to use my equipment. We measure the following:

  • AC magnetic fields – with a target of under 1 mG (milligauss). If AC magnetic fields are elevated, we figure out why and see if anything can be done to reduce them. If your home has an issue from outside powerlines, it’s possible that nothing can be done to reduce them — and this is one strong reason why it’s good to screen prospective homes with a gaussmeter before signing a contract.
  • Radiofrequency, lower frequency fields such as from radio and TV transmission, compact fluorescent and fluorescent lamps. We measure at the bed to see if metal bedsprings are serving as antennas (we like beds that have no metal parts). Recommendations are made for reducing exposure, such as using a sheer RF shielding curtain from www.lessemf.com over windows.
  • Radiofrequency, higher frequency fields such as from WIFI, cellular and portable phones, computers, tablets, etc. We measure differences when routers are turned off and on and what the fields are like near base stations for portable phones. We check exterior fields. Using my Acoustimeter, the homeowner figures out what to do to reduce exposure to these fields and still have one foot in the 21st century (and the other in the 18th!).
  • AC electric fields (AC voltage) and grounding. These take the most time to measure, but you learn how to measure and reduce these fields and what difference grounding your body makes. Many folk sleep better when voltage is reduced and their bodies are grounded. We may need to work with the electric panel box for optimal reduction. Click here for instructions for making these measurements.
  • DC electric fields from innerspring mattresses. Using a simple compass, we deduce how much magnetic exposure you are getting from your mattress. Alternatives to an innerspring mattress are discussed.

After finishing with the one bedroom, you might feel confident enough to take the equipment and measure the rest of the bedrooms – or we can do that together.

Working with EMFs may take an hour. Then, we turn toward mold. If you are up for it, I will show you how to use my equipment to take air samples in each room, several at AC vents, samples at air purifiers, at the attic, in the basement, and outside.

It can easily take 1-2 hours just to take these samples, which are not hard to take. The sampling is just repetitive, 2 minutes in each location. Because these culture plate air samples can be studied in-house, there are no lab fees involved.Culture plate air sampling is a better diagnostic tool than spore trap air sampling, because we get to see what the types of mold are and can better track sources and cross-contamination, compared to spore trap sampling which lumps the spherical spores together.

During the 2 minutes wait time, you work with a moisture meter to check for water leakage under windows, around sink and tub plumbing, and around the base of toilets (checking for toilet seal leaks). If you find leakage, we may do further testing for mold in those areas.

While you’re doing that, I’m going to the suspect areas of your home, taking tape samples for microscope assessment. When we both finish these tasks, we can gather at the microscope, and you will see, projected on my computer monitor, what I’m looking at under the microscope. You’ll see the actual mold, even though you might have thought that the surface was free of mold. The microscope reveals the invisible world that is not visible to the naked eye.

Because I can take pictures of what we’re seeing on the monitor, you will get photodocumentation of your mold with your report. I will also write up what needs to be done to safely get rid of the mold and reduce the risk that it will come back. Sometimes you can do this work on your own. Sometimes it calls for a professional remediation team. I am an independent consultant and have no conflict of interest in also providing the remediation.

We work together on the rest of the inspection, and I show you how to use equipment for these tasks:

  • to use a laser particle counter to check the effectiveness of your vacuum cleaner, to make sure it’s not recycling allergens back to room air;
  • to use the same laser particle counter to check the effectiveness of your AC filter, to see if it’s reducing levels of dust at your AC vents;
  • to use a gas detector to see if there are any natural gas or propane leaks at accessible pipe joints;
  • to use a laser particle counter and chlorine test kit to assess your water filtration method and make recommendations;
  • to  use LeadCheck swabs to screen for lead paint at significant areas;
  • to use a relative humidity meter to see if your basement is 50% RH or lower and upstairs around 30% RH, the target relative humidity levels;

After final questions, I call the genie out of the bottle to pack up my gear (I wish!) and ride off into the sunset. The air samples go into an incubator in my garage. I block out the report and then, about a week later, study the air sample results, and insert them and any additional recommendations into the report. A final read-through…and off the report flies into cyberspace to the homeowners.

That’s what to expect from your environmental home inspection, plus plenty of supplementary information – such as getting rid of synthetic fragrances, using healthier laundry products, recommendations re: lighting and candles, and so on.

I am available after you receive your report for questions, etc. Your report gives you the highlights (priorities) of our findings, plus explanations and recommendations. For mold, a protocol for your remediator is included as needed.

Final words

I wish there were inspectors all over the country doing this type of inspection – but there aren’t. I haven’t found many interested in working with a microscope, in doing in-house extensive air sampling, in including electromagnetic field measurements, etc. I tell my clients that all the air sampling may be overkill in some instances, but I’d rather take too many samples than too few. They always agree with me, because they want the mold to be found, and they want peace of mind that there has been a thorough check for mold.

If you live in states around Pennsylvania and New York, even up into Massachusetts and down to DC and Virginia, give me a call. I’ll go a greater distance, too, but the travel fees would be higher.

What if you don’t live in these states? The closest you might come to what I do is a practitioner from this website: www.hbelc.org – but unfortunately, they are not training folk in using the microscope and doing all the air samples. You may have to train yourself in what you need to fill in the blanks.

If you are a mold inspector and want to upgrade your service to address anything that might adversely impact on health, give me a call to explore options. 888-735-9649

Click here to check out my qualifications.

Improve your indoor air and water quality and reduce exposure to mold and electromagnetic fields