Mold testing professionals and other users should consider several factors in choosing a mold testing laboratory. This article refers to laboratories that specializes in identification and enumeration of mold and bacteria commonly detected in air, fluids and bulk samples collected from homes, schools, offices, hospitals, industrial, agricultural, and other work environments. Mold testing laboratories are generally not regulated by provincial or federal agencies. Consequently, it is important for mold testing professionals to investigate these laboratories by obtaining information about their performance, operation, and service before sending mold samples for analysis. A mold testing professional requires assurance that the test results will be of quality, be credible, and meaningful. Specific guidelines are discussed here to aid the mold testing professional in evaluating a mold testing laboratory.
Factors to Consider
Test Methods – The use of appropriate test methods is very important in order to accurately identify and/or enumerate mold spores or colony forming units (CFU) in an air sample.
Laboratory Proficiency – The proficiency of a mold testing laboratory refers to its ability to produce accurate and precise test results. It is difficult for a laboratory to independently assess this factor. Thus, reputable labs participate in AIHA sponsored EMPAT program. The Environmental Microbiology Proficiency Analytical Testing (EMPAT) Program is a voluntary performance evaluation program, administered by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), for environmental microbiology laboratories. A main purpose of the EMPAT is to provide proficiency testing samples to laboratories who wish to monitor and improve the quality of their mold testing data. Participating laboratories receive a summary of their performance for each field of testing (FoT). Continued self-evaluation and adjustment improves the integrity of the mold test results. A prospective client should ask the laboratory management if they are members of the EMPAT program.
Laboratory’s EMPAT Results – It is important that a representative of the mold testing laboratory review with the potential client their EMPAT quarterly test results with those summarized for all EMPAT participating laboratories. Information for each FoT of interest to the client should be included. Mold testing professionals should ask for this comparison in order to make a good decision about a laboratory. Some laboratories that participate in the EMPAT program are not proficient.
Other Customers – The potential client should ask the mold testing laboratory to provide the names and telephone numbers of some customers. This allows the mold testing professional to evaluate the laboratory from the perspective of users like themselves.
Laboratory Results – Ask a laboratory representative for copies of sample results and ask them to explain the meaning of the units if they are unclear.
Turn-Around Time – Ask how long it takes the mold testing laboratory to do the routine mold testing and return the results. In order for the results and recommendations to be useful, the turn-around time must be as short as possible. A good laboratory should be able to provide the results in two to three working days for the routine mold tests of direct microscopic examination. It is also very important to make sure the laboratory does not sacrifice accuracy by short cutting the methods to attain this turn-around time. It is a good idea to check the turn-around time with those who have used the laboratory.
Visiting the Laboratory – Where possible, it is important to visit the mold testing laboratory before submitting samples. A representative of the laboratory should not hesitate to show a potential client the testing area. During the visit, observe the orderliness and cleanliness of the work area. Ask how the samples are handled. In addition, ask how the data is handled and ask about quality control that is used.
Sampling Supplies – Most mold testing laboratories supply test media such as agar, air-0-cells, and swabs to their customers. Find out about the supplies and how they are obtained from the laboratory.
Professionals Mycologists – Find out if the mold testing laboratory has professionals who are trained in mycology (the study of molds and yeasts) or microbiology to work with the customer. Before deciding on a mold testing laboratory, visit the laboratory and meet with a professional to discuss concerns about testing mold. When visiting a mold testing laboratory, ask to review the educational credentials of the professionals. Find out about the training background of the analysts.
Laboratory Test Prices – Prices for mold testing often vary greatly from one laboratory to the next. Ask about the prices. Determine if the price for each test or test package is given in writing. Also find out if discounts are given for large numbers of samples and whether prices are negotiable.
If you’re looking for a mold testing laboratory, please call 905-290-9101.