Mermin inspections Blog

Archive for June, 2009

From The Inspector

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Grandma Why are you always sick?

Recently I was asked by a long  time Friend’s son for help. I have known this kid since he and my daughter were in baby carriers watching their young fathers play on a church softball team. He says ” Jake you know all about that IAQ stuff right”. “Yes Ronald I know all about Indoor Air Quality”. He then proceeds to tell me that his girlfriend’s grandmother is always sick, and that he noticed all this black junk on one of the air conditioning grills the last time he was over there. He asked me to go take a look at it and tell grandma what I thought and what she should do. Well I am going to show all of you a picture of what I saw, and I hope it doesn’t look familiar to anyone who maybe keeping up with the Inspector’s Corner.                                               

I get there and rem0141ove the filter from in front of this coil and I can’t believe my eyes. I put the filter back in front of the coil and went out to my truck. I found my rubber gloves and my respirator and had one hand on my hazmat suit. I didn’t want to scare poor grandma so I left it in the truck and told myself to be careful. You must understand that I see this almost every day and each time I do I still don’t understand why. There are people out there breathing this in, making themselves sick and not even realizing it. This includes this grandmother.




Showing the progression of Microbial Matter is very important in explaining a client’s indoor air quality issues. For those who don’t understand the process the blower motor pulls the cold air off an evaporator coil and sends it through the supply plenum to the duct system. The air handler is center stage when it comes to the average indoor environment. While the system is running air is continuously re-circulating from the return into and out of the evaporator coil to the blower and out the duct system. It is a vicious circle that needs to be broken.



The evaporator coil, blower motor, and the unit’s insulation are full of Microbial Growth. As a National  Certified Mold and Air Quality Inspector I do not like it when I hear about others calling this mold. This word is thrown around by air conditioning companies to get home owners upset and worried and I guess in the mood to buy what ever is presented.

After I do a visual inspection I need to decide whether to recommend to my client to have lab testing done. In this case there is so much Microbial Growth that lab testing is the next logical step. We need to know if there is something in this home that could be dangerous. Most people do not realize that there are thousands of different molds with many sub species that look so much alike under the microscope that they are just lumped into one category. The EPA has developed a testing system called ERMI/DNA Mold Testing. This is the only mold testing developed by the EPA. It is very technical, it goes directly to the mold DNA where they can separate out the sub species. It is very CSI like, and very expensive. It is not every day mold testing. This type of mold testing is for Law suites and litigation or for insurance purposes. Mold effects us in different ways. Some people react to it from as far as 100 feet away where some can stand over it and not be bothered. It is well documented that mold usually effects the young and the old and those with breathing issues and immune system deficiencies. Molds that produce Mycotoxins usually effects everyone. Molds like the “Black Mold” which is actually called Stachybotrys.

In the case of grandma I took a swab sample of the evaporator coil, blower motor wheel, and a supply vent. Results came back from the lab with four different types of mold. It also came back with something called back ground particulate. Which is dust, dirt, pollen, pet dander, dead skin cells, bug parts and etc. etc. etc. Back ground particulate can be considered food for mold along with paper, drywall, dead plant material, etc. etc. etc. Another item came back in the test results called Hyphae which is the feeding apparatus of the mold. This usually means that there is a growing and feeding mold colony in the area where the testing was taken. Mold needs only two things to grow, moisture and a food source. Well we have already discussed the food source. Mold will grow in 70% humidity. There is always 70% humidity in Florida. I have seen it 65 degrees outside and 90% humidity.

An air conditioner’s air handler is a prime area fod mold growth. An air handler can be it’s own environmental system. The air conditioner is a dehumidifier with cold air being a by product. Remember the evaporator is exposed to the air in your house and then removes your home’s humidity. Combine that with the dust, dirt, pollen, etc. and you have the two items needed for mold to grow and start a living feeding colony. This is my passion. I want everyone to have good quality air. If you see dirt on the air conditioning supply grills in your home you may have a growing, feeding mold colony inside your air handler. You might want to call a Certified Mold Inspector and find out if you may have a problem with your indoor air quality. If you have kids that seem to always be sick. People have told just when they thought they were better they were sick again. If your nose starts running and your eyes keep watering you may have allergies or you could have mold in your house. People are allergic to mold. Florida is the number one state for breathing problems. In closing I would like to share the most stupid thing anyone has ever said to me about these issues. It was from one of those know it all wise guys we have all met. He actually  told me, “Mold is not that bad once you get use to it”. My answer to him was, “Well it’s obvious you do not care about your indoor air quality, how about your wife and kids”. My motto is “without air quality, we cannot have quality of life”.

Jacob Mermin CHI/CMI