“Home environments are a big part of health care,” says Michael Rubino, mold and air quality expert and president of Change the Air Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to improve indoor air quality for people nationwide. “The dust floating around in the air that we breathe can harbor mold and toxins that place extra stress on our bodies, especially our immune system,” he says.
Rubino says that about 75 percent of the homes he inspects have significant mold or bacteria contamination, often due to a water leak. If your health is suffering from unknown causes and you suspect it’s due to mold growth, working with a physician and testing your home can help determine whether this is the case.
If you have an energy-efficient home, HVAC filtration system, or water damage, you are more likely to have mold contamination, Rubino says. Here’s why:
- The way that energy-efficient houses have commonly been built—using spray foam—is great for insulating homes but severely limits outdoor air exchange, creating an incubation chamber for mold, bacteria, and toxins.
- Poor HVAC filtration systems don’t efficiently filter mold out of the air. And if they have a leak, which is common, the system itself can be a source of mold contamination.
- About 50 percent of homes have water damage, according to the EPA, and if they’re not remediated (or if the remediation hasn’t been performed properly), excess mold growth can accumulate. Signs of water damage include (but are not limited to) coffee-like stains on ceilings or walls, a recent leak (mold can grow as quickly as 24 to 48 hours from the start of a leak), and a musty smell—from gas by-products of mold growth.
The Dust Test
Rubino recently created an innovative way to test for mold called The Dust Test, which checks off three important boxes.
- It tests dust instead of air. “It’s important to test the dust inside the home for mold, bacteria, and toxins,” says Rubino. The dust is where they settle and move throughout the home. Testing the dust in a home allows for a more thorough measurement of the mold, bacteria, and toxins present. Rubino says that testing the air in the home is an outdated way of checking for mold toxicity and can miss major mold contamination present.
- It uses PCR technology that quantifies larger and smaller bacteria. The smaller bacteria can be overlooked by other tests, yet they can be the most toxic, so PCR is your best bet for measuring any mold, bacteria, or toxins that could be present in your home.
- You get context for your results. “We don’t live in a sterile world, so it’s normal to have some [bacteria in your home],” he says. Having an expert perspective on what are considered low or high bacteria and mold levels in your home helps determine the severity of the contamination and the chances of it affecting your health.
Surprisingly, The Dust Test is also simple and fast—it took me less than 10 minutes to collect my samples when I tried it out. And the video and written instructions made it seamless. A 20-minute consultation call with an expert is included with the kit; a mold expert explains and clarifies any questions about your results. Depending on what’s found, they’ll also guide you toward the best next step. In my case, I was guided to change a HEPA filter or two. But they let you know if they think professional remediation is required—Rubino says if that’s the case, it’s imperative that you work with research-based experts in the field who will properly remove it.
This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.