Dr. Oz did a good job on his show providing tips to avoid becoming a victim to mold removal scam artists.
But, while most of the information on this recent episode of Dr. Oz Healthy Home Investigation was correct, a simple mold fact check reveals some important errors.
First, the good parts of this show:
Dr. Oz did cover the types of mold scam artists out there. He teamed up with Mike Holmes (of Holmes on Homes fame) and consumer expert Lisa Lee Freeman and demonstrated some of the common mold inspection and remediation scams.
From a backdrop of investigative reporting, Dr. Oz summed up the 5 biggest red flags that alert you to mold scam artists.
So if you see:
- Mold inspectors that have no equipment like meters to measure the moisture.
- Mold inspectors with no licenses.
- A mold removal contractor who suggests you clean with bleach.
- Or any mold inspector or remediator who suggests that “your homeowner’s insurance will pay to remove mold.” (Most homeowner and business insurance policies don’t cover mold remediation, unless you paid to have a “mold rider” on your policy.)
- Or if a mold abatement contractor gives a verbal estimate, usually a high dollar amount, without a written, detailed scope of work.
Then be wary!
Like it says on the show: “This is just a scare tactic.”
And, we heartily agree! Don’t be fooled! If you see any of these red flags when a mold inspector and removal contractor visits your home, be on guard!
However, there are a couple of errors with the presentation that need clarification.
Here’s where a mold fact check with industry experts might have helped.
First, Mike Holmes says:
“You hire an electrician and they don’t have a license, would you let him do the electrical? I don’t think so. The same should be true of mold.”
Yeah, that sounds good.
But here’s the deal….
Consumers in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Cherry Hill, New Jersey area need to know there is NO license or certification required to perform mold inspection or mold removal in our area.
In fact, there are currently only three states New York, Texas, and Florida, that actually require mold inspectors and mold removal contractors to have a license to operate.
What that means is that you can be at a greater risk of a mold scam in our area.
Mold removal companies in our area are only required to register with the State of Pennsylvania and/or the State of New Jersey as a home improvement contractor.
But, that doesn’t mean that every contractor who has a home improvement license or certificate knows how to remove mold safely from your home.
Second, Mike Holmes states you don’t use bleach to kill mold. And, most times, we agree with that.
I understand that the investigators were trying to make a point. They were trying to illustrate the prevalence of mold removal scams. But, it’s only partly true that you don’t use bleach to kill mold.
Here’s where a mold fact check might have helped.
In this section of the program, the investigators were in a bathroom, examining tile floor and tile shower surround.
In this instance, and in this instance only, bleach is acceptable for homeowners to use. Why? Because bleach can clean mold on non-porous surfaces. So bathrooms are really the only place to use bleach to kill mold, and then, only if the mold is on tile or around the tub. If the mold is on the bathroom walls or ceiling, you may have a bigger problem that needs investigation. Especially if you clean it and it keeps coming back.
However, Mike is correct when he states that if a mold inspector or mold removal expert recommends using bleach anywhere else, run. That’s a sign you’re not dealing with a mold removal professional.
Because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), stopped recommending the use of bleach for dealing with mold problems. And because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated their guide as well, removing the suggestion to use bleach to kill mold.
But most importantly, because there are many safe and effective EPA approved antimicrobial solutions specifically created for mold removal.
In the next section of the program Dr. Oz shares 3 questions every homeowner should ask their mold inspector or mold remediation company during the initial site visit.
- The first questions is “Are you certified?”
- The second question is “How long have they been certified?” And Dr. Oz suggests homeowners ask for documentation to prove this!
- And the last question is, “Do you do both testing and cleaning?”
The experts on the show suggest that if a contractor does both, it’s a conflict of interest. Because we’ve written about this issue in a previous blog post, we most definitely agree!
So keeping these questions in mind will, as Dr. Oz says, helps “protect yourself from false claims and blatant lies from something as scary as mold.”
But then Mike Holmes states:
“In most places you’re not even allowed to do both.”
And this is simply not true!
A simple mold fact check reveals that there are only three states that specifically prohibit companies from doing both mold testing and mold remediation.
As mentioned above, those states are Florida, Texas, and New York.
In our Philadelphia, PA and Southern New Jersey region, there is no law that prohibits mold inspectors and mold testing companies from also performing mold removal.
So in our Greater Philadelphia area, the chance of getting scammed by someone who does both mold testing and mold removal is much higher!
In the third section of the program focusing on mold, “Healthy Home Experts,” Lisa and Ron Beres, evaluate the effectiveness of 3 different “at home” mold testing kits.
First, they tested the petri dish method.
I was relieved to hear Lisa state, “These can create false positives and false negatives. … I’d say this test is not worth it. Skip it.”
Next, they evaluated the swab test method.
Again, I was relieved to hear Ron state that these tests are “Fairly limited because it only focuses on one specific type of mold. It won’t give a detailed analysis if there are other molds there.”
And we agree with this too!
But then, the third test Ron recommended was the ERMI test, or the “Environmental Relative Moldiness Index.”
He states it involves “Taking a dust sample from your carpet.” And then he claims “It’s going to give you accurate results.”
A simple mold fact check would have revealed that the ERMI test should NOT be used for do it yourself, in-home mold testing!
The EPA developed this test for research purposes, and then patented it. It’s been on the market since the year 2000 for licensed professionals to use.
As a matter of fact, in August of 2013, the EPA specifically warned against using the ERMI in applications outside research settings.
And while a search on the internet reveals many companies doing the ERMI test, it’s one of the biggest scams out there because it was never developed for this purpose.
A recent (2015) paper by Gary Rosen, Ph.D. “Is ERMI Testing Being Used For Its Intended Purpose?” outlines the problems of the ERMI test, and how it may be being used for scam purposes:
“Evaluating current conditions is not the intended purpose of ERMI nor will applying a technique developed to study the history of water damage in a home be reliable for making current assessments.
… the research published by the developers of ERMI quite clearly show that ERMI analysis of carpet dust (or floor dust) does not correlate with current conditions.
And Michael Pinto of Wondermakers states:
“Just like any powerful tool, ERMI samples can be dangerous to those who do not understand how to use them properly. . . . ERMI samples and the interpretation guidelines developed by the EPA are valuable tools for professionals in the mold remediation field. Even so, like any powerful tool, they can cause problems if the operator is not knowledgeable and experienced.”
for Ron Beres and Dr. Oz to suggest that in-home ERMI testing is in fact useful and reliable is simply increasing the chance that homeowners will be scammed by unethical mold removal contractors.
In our experience, the only test that gives homeowners useful information is an air sampling test.
As its name implies, an air sampling test takes samples from inside the home. Then, for comparison, a sample is taken of the air outdoors. Because molds are everywhere, the only way you can know if your home or business is safe from mold toxicity is to know if the indoor mold spore counts exceed outdoor mold spore counts.
But, if you don’t have access to an indoor air quality professional, or you prefer to do the testing for yourself, there is a reliable in-home test available from the Mold Sensitized website called the Wonder Air Machine.
The benefits of the Wonder Air Machine for do it yourself in-home testing are:
- First, it’s an easy-to-use, do-it-yourself air sampler and comes with complete instructions for fool-proof collection of simultaneous indoor and outdoor sampling.
- Second, they promise a seven business day turnaround on analysis of the samples. Or, for an additional cost they will provide a rush analysis.
- Third, it comes with a laboratory analysis of 2 samples in the cost of the rental. Additional testing cassettes are available for $65 each.
- Fourth, the analysis tells you what types of mold spores, particulates and pollen are in your indoor and outdoor air. It comes with an understandable explanation in the report
So the 2 morals of this story are:
1. Don’t let yourself get scammed by less than honorable contractors who pretend to be mold removal professionals.
And 2. Don’t believe everything you hear on TV!
If you find mold in your Philadelphia or Cherry Hill home, do your homework.
- Make sure you hire an IICRC certified mold remediation company like PuroClean Emergency Recovery Services to do the work of removing mold in your home. We’ve helped hundreds of businesses and families throughout the Delaware Valley and down at the Jersey shore, delivering their homes to safety with our mold remediation expertise.
- We’ll ask you to get a test for mold before we start so you can know if you really do have a problem that needs mold remediation.
- Then, we’ll guide you through the mold removal process, and educate you every step of the way with a detailed estimate based on the scope of work determined by the mold test.
- And at the end of the job, we want you to test our work. We’ll ask you to get a clearance test that demonstrates we protected your home or business by clearing the mold for you,
and show you that you got what you paid for!
For professional mold removal in the Greater Philadelphia and Cherry Hill area call 877-750-7876