Building Testing

Part 5: Building testing

5.1 How do I test my house/place of work for mould?

While your sense of sight, smell and touch are useful tools for identifying mould and feeling dampness much of the time mould overgrowth is not visible or odorous. The current standard for determining mould levels in a building which will impact the health of CIRS patients is by doing an ERMI.

ERMI stands for Environmental Relative Moldiness Index and was developed in conjunction with the EPA to determine the mould burden of a building using quantified PCR (DNA) testing of settled dust. The ERMI is able to detect full spores and spore fragments which can be 500 times more numerous than intact spores and which most of the biotoxins are attached to. 

5.2 What type of testing do I need for legal issues?

While ERMIs are the most useful index for CIRS patients for legal purposes testing methods that include bacterial air plates and tape lifting from certified mycologists/microbiologists will be required. See the resources section.

5.3 What is the difference between ERMI and HERTSMI-2?

ERMI is a QPCR mould test and a score calculated from the test. ERMI tests for 36 species of indoor (21) and outdoor mould (14). The ERMI score is derived from subtracting the latter from the former.

HERTSMI-2 is a score,  which focuses on five of the most toxigenic mould species, derived from the ERMI. However you can get a stand alone HERTSMI test.

It is generally recommended to do an ERMI first as it provides you with much more information and calculate the HERTSMI from that. If repeat tests are required, after remediation for example, then you can just do a HERTSMI as follow-up.

5.4 What is a safe HERTSMI score?

  • HERTSMI-2 Total > 15: This building is permanently off-limits to those with CIRS.
  • HERTSMI-2 Total 11 – 15: This building must be remediated before those with CIRS can enter.
  • If HERTSMI-2 Points < 11: This building is most likely safe for CIRS people.

Use the HERTSMI calculator to determine the HERSTMI from the ERMI.

Note 1: Some particularly sensitive people may need a lower HERTSMI than 10.
Note 2: Dr. Shoemaker has recommended thorough statistical analysis of patients in Australia and for a new HERTSMI-2 scale to be created if significant differences are found between USA and Australia.

5.5 What is a safe ERMI score?

The ERMI score is not used any more as HERTSMI is more accurate to determine if people will relapse in a building. Previously, however, an ERMI score of 2 or below was considered safe for those with CIRS for re-entry. However if your MSH is less than 35 and your C4a is higher than 20,000 then the safe level reduced to -1 or below.

5.6 How do I perform an ERMI?

MouldLab is currently the only company doing ERMI testing in Australia. MouldLab will give you a kit with either a vacuum attachment or a Swiffer cloth (similar to a pledge cloth). Most people use the Swiffer cloth method. If using the Swiffer method you will wipe down dusty surfaces in one direction, don’t wipe back and forth, in the room(s) you want to test. Generally these are the master bedroom and living room. You should aim to have both sides of the cloth covered with approximately 80% of visible dust. Good surfaces to dust are the topside of ceiling fans, desktop fans, light fittings, top of cupboards, bookshelves, fridges, painting and poster frames, underneath the fridge, fridge coils and underneath furniture.

Avoid window and door areas and floor or skirting boards and do not dust visible mould as this may skew the results. Use latex/plastic cloves when performing dusting so no cross contamination occurs. Put the cloth in a plastic zip lock bag and mail to MouldLab with the completed forms.

5.7 What is the cost and turnaround time of an ERMI?

The current cost of an ERMI via Swiffer cloth is $395 while the HERTSMI is $179. The time from MouldLab receiving the sample to emailing the report is 5-7 business days.

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