Viable verses Nonviable Mold Testing?

I will be purchasing one of the two Mold kits (see below) today or tomorrow.



A) Kit includes:

  • 1 E-Lite pump with Rotameter
  • 6 ft. of Tubing
  • 3-30L Rotameter (attached to Sampling Pump)
  • 10 Air-O-Cell cassettes
  • 10 Mold swabs
  • 10 Tape samples
  • 1 Sampling stand
  • Heavy- Duty case with padding
  • Price $299

B) Everything you need to begin sampling for** viable** mold and fungi. This kit utilizes the ultra quite and light weight E-Lite pump.

  • EMSL VP-400 Impactor
  • E-Lite Pump
  • Tripod sampling stand
  • Adjustable flow meter
  • Tubing
  • Toolbox style carrying case Agar Plates -FREE to EMSL Customers, Call for Details
  • Price $419

Kit A contains all for a nonviable sampling which to me is a pretty good price.
If I buy Kit B, they will include 10 Air-O-Cell cassettes, 10 Mold swabs, 10 Tape samples. All for a total cost of $530.00, including taxes and shipping. Its like buying Kit A and the EMSL VP-400 Impactor.

My decision problem is, Viable or Nonviable makes no significant difference to me. Any mold found is an issue that needs remediation.
What am I missing…?? Because viable sampling is available…

My Question for the experienced users:
How often will I be doing any viable sampling for my clients?

Any other positive comments will also be welcome.
Thanks for your input.

Just getting into the business, you will hardly ever get calls to do viable sampling. I would stick to doing non-viable until you know exactly what you are doing and the difference between the two types of sampling. One problem with viable sampling is that your sampling media must be fresh and you need to know what type you are going to use for your target species of mold. Viable sampling uses different kinds of agar depending on the type of mold you are looking for. Not all species of mold will grow on generic sampling agar. Using non-viable sampling, you can store your sampling media at room temperature and use it in different environments.

I get all of what you are saying except.
“depending on the type of mold you are looking for”

Sounds advanced…Why would I be looking for a particular type of mold? I guess if maybe the client already knows they are sensitive to a particular mold…? But if the client has no idea. Then a viable test should be taken to provide the species and growth. The client could then provide their health care physician with these results.

I am understanding the nonviable Air-O-Cell sample will not provide the species or whether the mold spores will in fact grow.
I am understanding the viable Agar air samples will provide the species and whether the mold spores will in fact grow.

Am I understanding correctly?

Viable sampling is useful to differentiate between different species of molds after you know what genus are elevated in a space. Typical process would be to do non-viable sampling to identify what genus of molds are present. Look at the results and determine what species you want to try to isolate based on client and physician directions. With identification down to the genus level, you can get normal outdoor molds showing up on the interior that have little effect on people health wise. Identifying down to the species level, you can isolate potential pathogens where a client may be experiencing symptoms.

Keep in mind, all molds do not like the same kind of food source or will not grow on certain pH levels. Therefore, you need to know what type of mold you are looking for in order to choose the correct agar plate to use for sampling. If you are looking for Stachy, you wouldn’t want to use a agar plate that is favorable for Aspergillus or Penicillium. The pH level and starch levels won’t be sufficient to get a good culture. You need to have some clinical microbiology experience in order to effectively perform viable testing, either that or some pretty extensive cheat sheets to constantly reference. Viable testing is recommended after you have some extensive experience in proper sampling methodology and result interpretation. It is real easy to cross contaminate samples and get false positives because of improper sampling media handling.

The basic premise of mold sampling is to identify if the is a problem. This is best accomplished with non-viable sampling because of the ease of sampling and reduce chance of false positive or negative results compared to viable sampling. Honestly, I get very few clients who actually want to know what species of mold they have in their home. They just want to know if there are elevated levels and where so that they can have someone come in and clean it up and get it all.

Very informative Scott, almost sounds like the EMSL consultant was saying. I seem to have a good understanding and direction for marketing. Although it all sounds cut and dry, experience is the best teacher.

My plans are to do a thorough mold inspection down to the species, but this will come up to a year from now. So if I purchased the Kit B from EMSL, I get an EMSL VP-400 Impactor for $119, which list at $375 on their site. As far as the agar plates, I can pick them up free of charge as the’re only a 45 minute drive from me. I can rent it for $30, but at this price, it’s kinda hard to beat. Like you Scott, they seem to be willing to help me now and in the future.
So given my future plans, would you spend the additional $119 for the Impactor? Or would you take the wife out for a night on the town?

If you are just getting into the business, a small little E-Lite pump will get you going. After a while, you will learn that there are different pumps out there that will help you speed the sampling process along very quickly. I use a Buck Bio-Aire for my primary sampling pump for doing basic samplings. I still have a E-Lite for backups and for doing intracavity sampling. I also have a rotary vane pump if I need to take samples over a long period of time or for higher flow rates such as carpet sampling. Ideally you want a better pump than an E-lite to do impactor sampling. The E-Lite is pushing the limit at the recommended sampling flow rate and will probably not last very long running at those flows.

Start out with what you can afford. The E-Lite kit served me well for a couple of years, but with the volume of sampling that I do, I need to get in and get out as fast as possible to get the next job. Set up and break down time between rooms chews up an incredible amount of time once you add it up at the end of the day. The nice thing about battery operated pumps also is that they have built in timers. You don’t have to baby sit the pump to turn it off at the right time. They are more expensive, but time is money in my book. You can always buy an Anderson Impactor later on down the line for a good price when you need one. No sense buying something that you will probably not need right away and will set in the bottom of your kit for years.

Great advice Scott Thanks. I looked at the Buck also but prefer to start at the bottom until I prove to myself as time moves along that a more expensive model is now warranted.
Personaly I’m finding the scientific side to mold inspections extremly interesting. I’m also looking forward to Water Quality and Radon as being as interesting.

Keep in mind that, for almost all real estate transactions in Fort Pierce, FL, time is of the essence. And viable or not usually will have no impact on to buy or not to buy. The potential buyer wants an answer quickly and most likely will not be willing to wait the extended several days required for the viable test results.

Get in, get out, deliver the results and move on.

Keep in mind that Kokomo is 19 hours 12 mins or 1,138.7 miles from Fort Pierce. That may make a difference.

After 8 years never had the need for an impactor, most if not all are not going to pay for the service.

I never get a call for one either.

I didn’t realize it was that close…that changes everything…

I’m rather surprised at that answer. I understand that it is not our fee but the Lab fee that makes it so expensive.

My Thoughts:
A buyer of a new or used home will request a mold inspection if

  1. there is apparent visible mold
  2. any other suspects of mold
    If there is apparent mold then a remediation company would need to provide an estimate, or option 2, the buyer could walk away.
    This doesn’t even touch on whether the buyer already knows they have an allergy to a specific mold, so when the results come back, they have to take it to their physician.

On the other hand. The owner of a home would request a mold inspection if

  1. mysteriously becomming ill
  2. an apparent visible mold
  3. other suspects of mold
    And the same as above, inspection, physician, remediation. This could possibly lead into a more intense investigation, maybe even the call for viable samples.

Agreed. I have clients paying extra for quick turns on their mold analyses. Contigiency periods are tight, and as seems to be the case down here in San Diego, buyers wait till the last minute to schedule their home inspections.