Robin Jade Conde

PODCAST: Mold and health scares

In this episode of the Structure Talk podcast, Reuben Saltzman and Tessa Murry are joined by Eric Larson and Jaden Ghylin to discuss the impact of mold on homeowners. Jaden shares his personal experience of discovering mold in his newly built home and the health issues it caused for him and his wife. They discuss the importance of mold testing and remediation, as well as the genetic factors that can make some individuals more susceptible to mold toxicity. The conversation highlights the need for awareness and education about mold and its potential health effects. The conversation explores the topic of mold testing and inspections in homes. Jaden shares his personal experience with mold-related health issues and the challenges he faced in identifying the problem. The discussion covers different types of mold tests, including urine mycotoxin tests and blood tests for mycotoxin antibodies. The importance of comprehensive mold inspections, including evaluating moisture intrusion and humidity levels, is highlighted. The conversation also emphasizes the need for increased awareness and testing for mold in homes.


Mold can have serious health effects and should be taken seriously
Mold testing and remediation are crucial for maintaining a healthy home
Some individuals may be more genetically susceptible to mold toxicity
Awareness and education about mold are important for homeowners Mold-related
health issues can be difficult to diagnose and often go unnoticed.
Common mold tests include urine mycotoxin tests and blood tests for mycotoxin antibodies.
Comprehensive mold inspections are essential, including evaluating moisture intrusion and humidity levels.
The ERMI test is recommended for screening houses for mold.
Increased awareness and testing for mold in homes is crucial.


00:00 Introductions and Background
07:55 Mold Testing and Results
15:22 Treatment and Recovery
32:19 The benefits of offering mold testing
38:44 The comprehensive nature of mold inspections



The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.


Reuben Saltzman: Welcome to my house. Welcome to the Structure Talk Podcast, a production of Structure Tech Home Inspections. My name is Reuben Saltzman. I’m your host alongside building science geek, Tessa Murray. We help home inspectors up their game through education and we help homeowners to be better stewards of their houses. We’ve been keeping it real on this podcast since 2019 and we’re also the number one home inspection podcast in the world, according to my mom. Welcome back to the Structure Talk Podcast. Tessa, as always great to see you.


Tessa Murray: Good to see.


RS: We’ve got a couple of guests on the show today.


TM: Yeah, we do. I’m so excited. Who do we have?


RS: All right. Well, first we’ve got our very own Eric Larson. Eric is a home inspector at Structure Tech, not to be confused with Eric Hausman, who is a multiple time guest on the podcast, but we’ve got the other Eric. Eric Larson, who has a building science background kind of similar to yours, Tessa going through the same thing, doing energy auditing and all that stuff. But Eric is also the lead mold guy at Structure Tech. We’ve got three people who do mold testing and Eric is the one with the highest level of certifications and training and all that other fun stuff. So he kind of oversees our mold testing and I got… Eric, say hi to everybody.


Eric Larson: Hi, Reuben, Tessa. Thanks for having me.


TM: Its good to see you, Eric.


RS: Thanks for making time, Eric. And so, I’m bringing Eric on the show ’cause we’ve got another guest, Jaden, whom I have known for, well, we met probably 2019 or so through a business owners group called the Entrepreneurs Organization. And so, we were in the same group for a little while. And Jaden has a local company here in the Twin Cities. And I said, people probably seen his billboards for Minnesota home guys. He’s got a few very prominent billboards that I feel like I drive by just about every day where it’s got a cartoon of these two guys kind of leaning up against each other. Jaden, why don’t you just tell us a little bit more about who you are and what your business is?


Jaden Ghylin: Sure. Yeah. Well, I’m Jaden Ghylin. Thanks for having me on the show. Thanks for the intro. Yeah, that business is a, it’s a real estate investment company in the Minneapolis metro area. So basically, buys houses that need fixing, fix them up and resell them to new families. Fix them up together with what the market expectation is for new families to move into. So that’s pretty much what that business does.


RS: Excellent. Excellent. And how long have you had that business? How long have you been doing that?


JG: That specific business 2016, we started that. I’ve been in that, that kind of industry since 2005. But that business specifically was started in 2016.


RS: Okay. All right. Excellent. And then why don’t we transition into why you’re on the show, what it was that you reached out to me about? I wanna hear your whole story.


JG: Yeah. Well, I’ll try to keep it not too long. I was actually just thinking recently, I’m like when you go through something profound in your life, sometimes you start to wonder why this happened to you and what? I’m very… I have very strong faith. I live my life, my faith in God. And so having a lot of talks with God about what did he want me to get out of this experience? And I’ll get into what that experience is in a bit. I’m not trying to give you a cliffhanger or anything, but and what I got out of it was I’m supposed to help other people that are going through this ’cause it’s not easy to figure this out, what’s going on onto you. And luckily. I was able to figure it out eventually.


JG: And so, I’m supposed to help get the word out there for about this and help other people that are going through this, which I’ve been trying to do as much as possible. So I was going through my brain. I’m like, who do I know that could help me get the word out? And like, where’s the best entry point to get the word out about this specific issue, which is mold we’re talking about. And I thought, well, geez, the best place to do it is in a real estate transaction when a house is being sold, but it’s really for the buyer side of it, not the seller side. So that’s really where home inspectors come in is there on the buyer side of the equation trying to protect the buyers going into a new house. And I thought that’s probably the best place to go. So that’s why I reached out to you Reuben.


RS: Excellent. Excellent. And what’s your story, Jaden, what happened to you?


JG: Yeah. So we actually live in Florida. We moved to Florida about four and a half years ago and about a year and a half ago, we built a new house down here or we bought a house that was new construction. We didn’t build it. It was a national builder that built it and we had a home inspection done inspector down here that we hired and everything checked out just brand new house inspector basically cleared everything ’cause it’s brand new. There was no issues, no major issues. We moved in and I think it was about, it was August of 2022. We moved in and by December, my wife was having some health issues, some mental health issues and some different things that were kind of just random. They kind of just came out of nowhere and we just, okay, maybe she’s got, I don’t know, we didn’t really know what was going on, but it just, we’re kind of like, there was a month or two of pretty tough health stuff. And then like two months later I started having like MS like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s symptoms like muscle tremor, like full body tremors, body vibration, muscle twitching, memory loss. I couldn’t even think my brain was like stopped working. I was having difficulty forming words. I couldn’t fill out, like couldn’t write on paper…


TM: That is scary.


JG: I couldn’t write things down very easily. I basically had to stop working ’cause I just couldn’t, I couldn’t function and I was declining pretty rapidly. So I was like, just getting sicker pretty much every week. And I couldn’t, so I got to a point where I couldn’t sleep. My body was vibrating and my mind wouldn’t go to sleep. So I had insomnia. That was actually the worst thing. It was like, I just could not sleep. It was when you’re sick, you wanna go to sleep to recover. And I could not sleep, could not do it. I tried sleeping pills, all kinds of things. I could not get to sleep. I eventually ended up in the emergency room because of that. And they gave me a pill that got me to sleep. But it was something that I couldn’t take more than once at a time, basically. So, eventually I had figured out what was going on through a lot of research on the internet basically is what happened. I was researching all my symptoms and I had to try to figure out what was going on. I narrowed it down to a Lyme disease or a mold.


JG: And so I went to a functional medicine doctor and I said, “Run every test you have regarding Lyme disease and mold.” And I actually told him what some of the tests were that he should run. ‘Cause a lot of doctors don’t actually know what tests to run. So I told him what to run and they came back and it looked like more likely mold than Lyme. And I learned through all this process that Lyme specifically is very hard to actually get a yes or no diagnosis on. It’s very difficult to do that. But mold is a little easier to tell you like, yep, you’re being affected by mold. That’s pretty, there’s a urine test, there’s a blood test and some other stuff too. But that one is kind of like, it’s a little bit more obvious. And that one came back as positive. So that was, geez, I think it was like June, I think, June or July.


JG: So my symptoms started in January of 2023. And by June or July, I had this result that came back that said, “Okay, you’re toxic with mold.” And I had already thought that’s what was going on. So confirmed what I thought. And then I had a mold inspector come to the house, but I had already scheduled before I got these results back. And he showed up like the next day after my test came back and he found a patch of mold in our master bedroom closet. And there was, the wall was pretty wet from one of the pipes leaking. So it was basically where we sleep is where it was. And thank God our kids sleep upstairs and they’re in a different air conditioner system. So they weren’t affected for the most part, they were not affected. But my wife and I were pretty severely affected, myself more so than her.


RS: Now, let me… I want to dig into this. So you had a pipe leaking inside the wall of the closet in your master bedroom?


JG: Yep.


RS: Was there any visual evidence of this? Could you see anything?


JG: So it was the pipe that goes up to the shower. So we have a walk-in shower and it was leaking at the connection of where the, inside the wall where the shower rod goes in and connects to the pipe inside the wall. That junction there was just a little bit loose apparently. And so when the shower was on, it would leak, probably dripping. And then when the shower was off, it would stop leaking. So it wasn’t enough water to come through anywhere. It was just enough water to wet the wall on the inside. And we were using that shower for, geez, like nine or 10 months by the time we found that, maybe almost a year. And the mold had just popped through the other side of the wall in our closet. It was behind clothes. So we didn’t see it until we moved the clothes, but it was like probably the size of a, like a, I don’t know, like a dollar coin, is how much mold came through. And I think it had just happened when the inspector had got there and found it. But then he popped his, he had a fiber optic scope. He looked inside the wall and the entire wall cavity was covered in moisture and mold.


RS: Oh, boy.


TM: Wow.


RS: Oh, boy. Okay.


TM: Do you know what type of mold it was, Jaden?


RS: Oh, wow.


EL: Yeah. What kind of testing did the inspector do?


JG: Yeah. So we did a little bit of research and asked the doctors who to call for this because in the mold business, and maybe you guys are familiar with this too, there’s a lot of maybe less than reputable companies you can call. So we found one through a doctor, certified mold assessors down here. I don’t know if there are other places too, but they’re down here and they’re well known in Tampa. And so they came out and they did an air sample inside the wall cavity. So they cut a little hole in there, like, I don’t know, like an eighth or a quarter inch hole probably. And then popped, somehow they put a tube in there, I think they pulled some air out and they sampled the air inside there. And I think they did a swab test.


JG: They somehow swabbed inside the wall and they swabbed the actual mold. So they did that as well. And then they did an air test inside the closet, air test inside the bathroom. And air tests in general aren’t very good. Unless you have like really active bad mold, then they’re okay. And we did. So for that, it was okay, I guess. And they visually found it anyway, so they kind of knew where to be testing. So those were the main tests. Then the test of the rest of the house, the air tests of the other rooms of the house, ’cause we wanted to make sure there wasn’t mold somewhere else too. So they tested the whole house with air samples. And then they went up in the attic and checked the air conditioner systems visually, did some like swabbing up there and some air sample tests up there too.


JG: And then they did an ERMI test too. So they did a dust test on the main floor for ERMI and then they compared it to the outside dust, like I think in front of our front door. And the ERMI test is kind of the most helpful, like a screener test to see if you have a mold problem or not. ‘Cause if you have mold in your house somewhere, the dust particles will collect in your living space. And that’s what the ERMI test picks up. So yeah, so that’s what they did. And they came back and they had a lot of data for us, ’cause they did all those different tests. And they pretty much ruled out mold being anywhere else in the house, which was helpful. The ERMI test obviously picked up mold from the bathroom. And then the air test also showed it. They were testing the master closet and the bathroom. And then all the tests that they did inside the wall also showed what types of mold it was. So that was helpful to know what kind of mold we were dealing with.


RS: Do you remember what that was?


JG: Yeah, there was… The main one that they were concerned about was called, Chaetomium is, C-H-A-E-T-O-M-I-U-M.


TM: Chaetomium. Yeah.


JG: So it’s a cousin to Stachybotrys apparently.


RS: Okay. All right. Yep.


EL: Yeah. Stachybotrys would be the mold type that most people would commonly refer to as like toxic black mold, just in lingo, or black mold. And then like Jaden said, yeah, Chaetomium is kind of thought to be as a cousin to Stachybotrys. So, you know, those two molds can definitely, have more toxigenic effects than some of the other molds that we find indoors. Although, all molds that you find indoors can have toxigenic effects or have sensitivities that people would be sensitive to who have different mold allergies, so.


JG: Yeah. And luckily this certified mold assessors, you know, we got all the reports, but the report saying what kind of mold types were in there. You know, I read it and I’m like, oh, Chaetomium it’s not stachybotrys. It must be fine. And as I didn’t think that much of it until we had our phone call with them. And they said, no, that’s really problematic. You can’t… Like basically you can’t live in the house until we get that fixed. So having somebody that knows what they’re talking about interpret the results is really important.


RS: Yeah. So what did you end up having done?


JG: Well, we moved out of the house. Actually, when we saw the mold on the wall, we moved out immediately, moved into an Airbnb. And then the house was actually under warranty with the builders still. So we had the builder come out and they came out right away, I think the same day, and assessed the problem. We gave them the reports from the inspectors and the inspectors actually give you kind of a scope of work of what needs to be done to fix it. And so we handed them the scope of work. They hired a remediation company out of Tampa that deals with water damage. And they ripped out that wall in the bathroom, basically ripped out the wall between the shower and the bathroom, or the shower and the closet and that was a tiled wall, so it was like they ripped out the sheetrock and the tile and everything. And yeah, demoed all that under negative air pressure with the scrubbers. They plastered off the entire room, so it was sealed. So they did an okay job kind of containing it. They could have done, there’s definitely some things they could have done better, but it was better than a normal contractor would have done for sure. And they did that and then they rebuilt it to about two months to get through the whole process.


TM: I’m just wondering, I mean, did you start feeling better immediately as soon as you left the house, Jaden? And how long did it take for your symptoms to go away? And have they gone away completely for you and your wife?


JG: Yeah, I did not feel better. Some people when they leave the moldy area will start to feel better almost immediately, like within a day or two. And I’ve learned a lot about why this is and how this stuff works. It’s kind of related to your genetics. So some people have a gene that allows them to detox mold toxins kind of like pretty well and almost like other toxins. It just kind of your bile captures it and gets rid of it pretty well. But I have a, 25% of people have this gene where they don’t detox mold toxins very well at all. So the body just recirculates the toxins and you’ve got to take special binders to bind the toxins in your body and get rid of them. So I’m in that pool of people that one in four people have that. And so if you have that, you really have to take some like medicine basically to get rid of it.


JG: And so, I was on this, I’m actually still on the medicine. I’ve been on it for 9 months or 9-10 months, something like that. And the gene, the gene is called the HLA-DR gene. If you look it up, you’ll find articles about it, but it’s about 25% of people have this type of gene that their body doesn’t detox mold toxins very well and it recirculates them. So it goes through your bio pathway and in your liver, goes into your intestines, and then your intestines reabsorb it back into your body and you just keep on recirculating it. So if you have that gene and you can do a test for it, the test is not expensive, you pretty much have to take a binder. And there’s two binders that are used. One of them is called cholestyramine. They’re actually cholesterol binders. They’re cholesterol medicines actually but they bind bile acids and they bind toxins, mold toxins specifically, and they pull them out of your body. So anyway, so that’s what I’ve been on for nine months, and that’s what I use to detox my body. And I didn’t start feeling better until, I don’t know, probably month three on that.


RS: Wow.


JG: So it’s very slowly, slowly got better. I started being able to sleep after about four months. I was able to start sleeping like 8 hours. I was sleeping probably three to four hours before that. And finally, once I went through some, I did a lot of other detox stuff besides that. I did a whole lot of things. But after about four or five months of detoxing, I was doing IV detoxes too. Then I was able to sleep a full night. And once I could sleep for 8 hours, my body started to get better. That made a huge difference.


RS: What about your wife?


JG: Yeah, so she didn’t, she was not as affected as I was from this. She got some… I would call it, I don’t know, they’re not minor. I mean, she definitely had some effects. She still has some effects from it that she’s working on now. So like some urinary tract stuff, interstitial cystitis, which is a irritation of the urinary tract that comes and goes. So she’s still dealing with that. And that from the doctor’s perspective is from mold toxins. We found a doctor that specializes in mold toxicity, so. Which is very hard to find, but we found one in Clearwater that’s been very good. So she’s actually just starting treatment like now because she wanted to get me through most of my stuff first. Because she’s kind of, we have three kids, she’s taking her to the family and me, and it was too much for her to try to start doing anything herself. So she’s just starting now to detox herself. And I think her body probably has the better gene for detoxing, because she did not fall as hard and fast as I did. Not even close.


RS: Okay. And do you know what type of test this is that people could have done to test for this marker or whatever this gene is? What is it called?


JG: Yes, I know it by the HLA-DR. If you just talk to a functional medicine doctor and you say you want the HLA-DR test, that’s what I would. I think Quest Labs and LabCorp do it, and I think the insurance can cover it if it’s put in right by your doctor.


RS: Okay.


JG: But yeah, that’s what I’ve always called it. And it is the HLA-DR test.


RS: Interesting. Okay.


JG: Yep. And if you wanna get tested for like the common tests for mould in your body there’s a urine mycotoxin test. So it’s a urine test. There’s a number of companies that do it. RealTime Labs is well known for it. There’s a few others that do it too. That’s probably the most common test that doctors use, functional medicine doctors use. And then there’s also a blood test called, it’s an antibody test for mycotoxins where they measure the serum antibody levels to mycotoxins in your blood. I just had this done recently. And so it tells you how your body’s responding to these toxins. So if you have toxins in your body, your body will initiate an immune response to them and they can measure that. So that’s what that is. That one is not as commonly done ’cause it’s a newer test, but it’s, I think a lot more accurate than the urine test.


RS: Okay. All right.


TM: So Jaden, what piece of information would you wish that you could tell old Jayden? If you could go back in time, what would you tell him now that you’ve been through this experience?


JG: Yeah, so I remember trying to get, our house is tested. I’ve worried about mould for a long time, for some reason. I don’t know why, but I just knew to worry about mould and I had mould inspectors come to our houses to look for mould and I don’t think anybody knew how to do it right. The one thing I would tell everybody about this, is the test you need to do if you’re gonna screen a house and maybe your mould guy can add or comment on this, is the ERMI test. The ERMI test will tell you ’cause it’s collecting the dust in the house, and that dust may have been there for nine months or a year. And as the air circulates through the house, it’ll bring dust particles from throughout the house and you actually collect dust from different parts of the house and combine them together.


JG: So that test will tell you if you have this Chaetomium in the dust or Stachybotrys or any other problematic moulds, it should show up in the dust. Whereas, it may not show up in air sampling. So air sampling is just a point in time, and if you sample air when there doesn’t happen to be anything bad in the air, you’re not gonna show anything. So air sampling is pretty known to miss things pretty frequently. So I’d be cautious with air sampling, but ERMI I think is a good one to do. And I won’t move anywhere now without doing an ERMI test in the house before I go in, before we buy a house or rent or whatever. So it’s ERMI is what it is.


RS: And Eric, can you tackle a bit about what our processes, let’s say we have not done a home inspection at a house and we’re just hired to come out to do a mould inspection. What do our mould inspections look like?


EL: Yeah, so if we’re coming out just to address someone’s concern about mould independently, usually we’ll talk to them in advance because typically somebody’s gonna have some level of concern about mould if they’re calling us out, either like in Jayden’s case, health effects that they suspect and they’ve been asked by a doctor to check for mould, or maybe there was a known water event, water intrusion, or a leak, or somebody notices something visually staining or mould growth. So, typically we want to talk to the client in advance and get a sense of why is it that they’re testing for mould and want this inspection. Then we come out to the house and we have about a two-hour process that we go through looking at the home from a moisture intrusions perspective. So we’re looking at the outside of the home, a lot of, in Minnesota, we have a lot of basements that are finished, and so we wanna pay attention to what’s going on on the outside of the home.


EL: If there’s poor water management details, then that can lead to water intrusion in the basement, which is, it is one of the most common yeah reasons that you would see mould in Minnesota in our climate and our way of building houses. So, looking at the outside water details, the roof, the gutters, the drainage and grading, and then just taking a look at their areas of concern too. We have some tools that we use that aren’t very intrusive, but they are good detectors to identify potential moisture intrusion, like moisture meters and infrared cameras. Things we use on inspections too, but we’re just having a little bit more focused look in the mould inspection from a visual standpoint. So kind of wanna go around, collect information, we take samples at the home of humidity and temperature, but we’re really paying attention to those areas of concern. And then, the process that we use for laboratory sampling, that’s the other side of it. So the first part of it is a visual evaluation of the home. From there, we’re determining what are the highest areas of concern that we have, and that’s where we’re gonna do our laboratory sampling.


EL: The processes that we use, we do follow the air sampling for mold spores which is what most inspectors do in our market up here is using cassette air samples. So that takes a 10-minute draw of air over like a sticky microscopic slide. And then that slide is sent to a mold lab and it’s evaluated for mold spores both types and quantities. And then we take that air sample that we take inside the home and we compare it to a reference of what’s outside of the home, because mold exists outside naturally, obviously from plants and mushrooms and everything. And so, what we wanna determine is, is there something inside the home that’s significantly different and elevated from what you see outside? And then in that case, it does give you more confidence that there may be a mold related source or issue at the interior of the home. We also will take surface samples, sometimes swabs or tape lifts.


EL: We don’t subscribe to ERMI testing. In our opinion, it’s not been verified by the EPA as a legitimate. It’s still exploratory. So some mold inspectors do use it, but we follow the guidance of some of the more seasoned and established mold inspectors in our market that tend not to follow ERMI. Just because there is some question of how long that dust has been around and it may be giving you a false positive sometime. So we don’t like to use, we don’t even have the capacity to test ERMI. People do that. They can do that as another way of getting at it, but that’s our process. And then, we’ll take those results that come back from the mold laboratory and we’ll analyze them and we’ll interpret them and then we’ll put that into a report that we deliver to the client. And in addition to that, we’ll have a followup conversation if needed, if there seems to be a mold related issue on site.


RS: Interesting. And I just wonder, is there any way that this original home inspector who went through the house could have found this leak? Jayden, do you think there was any way you could have found it?


JG: Yeah, I don’t think so. I can’t really hardly imagine how he would have, even if he turned the shower on and let it run for say 30 minutes. He would have had to turn the shower on and run it for 30 minutes and then have a moisture sensor and go to sense the back of that wall to see if there was moisture in the back of the wall. If he had done that, maybe he would have seen it. Or if he had an infrared camera, he could have maybe seen the moisture then. There’s a lot of maybes there. I don’t know. Yeah. There’s a lot of maybes. So I don’t really blame him. I’m just thinking more through how many people have had something like this happen where this was… If we had sold this house, not knowing that pipe is leaking, the next people would have moved in here and had no clue. And there’s no way unless they did some significant mold inspection of the house, they would have gotten sick just like I did. And they probably would have had a normal inspector come through and not, if they didn’t tell him to do a mold inspection, they would not have ever known there was a problem.


RS: Sure. Sure.


JG: So I just wonder how many houses are sold like that where there’s something significant going on in the house that’s affecting the health of the people in the house and no one knows it. No one has any idea.


RS: Yeah. That’s a great question.


TM: Do you know, it’s so interesting. I was just talking to Eric and Reuben before this podcast and Jayden too, about how I was just taking inventory of the clients I’ve been working with over the past like eight months with like your house coach business. And out of like the 40 clients I’ve been talking to about 45% of them, their main concern is mold and about 20% of my clients have gotten sick from mold or other indoor air quality concerns and they’re actively dealing with health issues or they’ve dealt with them in the past. And I just thought that that was so fascinating. It’s such a big issue. Indoor air quality is such a big issue. And as our houses get more and more airtight and more energy efficient that problem is just gonna increase.


RS: Yeah.


JG: Yeah. What it means to me about those numbers is that, that’s just the people that realize it and know about it. So you ask how many people are in the same boat as those people who and just don’t know. ‘Cause I was asking myself, I’m a researcher type of a person, and I’m an engineer. And so I just dig in and learn and I get to scour the internet and learn things. And it took me, six months to figure this out. And I thought, what are the odds that somebody without my skillset and my access to resources would be able to figure this out? I don’t think the odds are high. So if I figured it out, there might be other people that don’t figure it out. So I would say like for your numbers of people that understand mold has affected their health, there may be four times as many people that don’t know about it.


TM: Exactly. And like you, so many of these clients that I’ve talked to have stories like yours where they’ve gotten sicker and sicker and sicker, and they don’t know what’s going on. And some of them have gone to the doctor and they’ve had these mold screenings and tests and that’s helped them. Or they’ve put the pieces together because they moved and then they suddenly started feeling better. So it is, and I think that’s, yeah. Yeah.


JG: Yeah. Right. While you go on vacation. [chuckle]


TM: You’re right though. I think there’s a lot of undiagnosed health issues that can be traced back to our indoor environment and the things that we’re breathing. And mold is a huge one, but there’s particulates, there’s VOCs, there’s a lot of other things that can be impacting our health. And we spend what? 90% of our lives indoors?


JG: Yeah. 100% in…


TM: So, yeah.


JG: Yeah, especially in Minnesota for sure you’re indoors a lot ’cause it’s too cold outside. But what I’ve, learned is a lot of common health issues, like hypothyroidism for instance, is a pretty common health issue, and that is one of the first things that mold causes in most people. It creates autoimmunity in your body. And one of the first things that autoimmune conditions cause is hypothyroidism. It’s an early thing that happens. So, many people that have that it may be related to mold toxicity from a house that they’ve lived in the past or the current one they live in.


RS: Wow. Well, and I’ll just share, on the home inspection perspective, the way that we’ve approached this, we started offering mold testing, I don’t know how many years ago. And the main reason we did it, was because we would have so many of our clients asking us, can you do mold testing? I mean, people would just, people want this. But we also set it up as kind of a defense against ourselves because, we never did get a lot of complaints about mold. Like, “Hey, you missed mold in the house,” ’cause mold is specifically excluded from home inspection standards of practice. Home inspectors are not responsible for finding or identifying mold, even if they see it. But good luck in convincing people that it’s not your job. I mean, if you’re hiring a home inspector, everybody expects the home inspector to find mold.


RS: And we would get about maybe one complaint every one to two years that we missed mold and for a single operator, it’s like, that’d be a lot of complaints. But for a company our size with the number of inspections we’re doing, I feel like that was a very small number, but still those were some of the most expensive insurance claims that I ever had to deal with every time. I mean, it would hit my insurance deductible and it was very painful to deal with every one of those. And we said, how do we make this go away? We make it go away by offering mold testing [laughter] and making it clear that, look, if you want us to find mold, you’re gonna have to pay us to do a specialized mold inspection. We’re looking for moisture during the home inspection and we find a ton of mold during home inspections and we talk about it when we see it. But if that’s a huge concern of yours, you need to pay for a separate service. And once we started offering that, I’d say now we do mold tests or mold inspections, I shouldn’t say tests, mold inspections at about 10 to 15% of our home inspections. I mean, it has really grown and the number of complaints that we’ve received about missing mold has fallen off a cliff. We don’t get any, nobody ever complains about it because they’re given the option to purchase a mold inspection at the same time, so.


JG: Yeah. Perfect.


RS: That’s what changed our approach and why we started offering it. Because for a very long time I was opposed to us doing any type of inspection, any type of testing. I just said that’s outside the standard of practice for home inspections. We’re not doing it. And I don’t wanna sell people a bill of goods. I don’t wanna sell them a service they don’t need. But there’s so many people who probably do need it and they’re very concerned about it. So that’s really what changed our process.


JG: Yeah. And I think, I’m glad to hear that 10 or 15% are taking you up on it, but really it should be probably a lot higher than that. There was a study done by the EPA, I think 10 or 20 years ago, that’s where the ERMI test came out of and it was from the, I think it was the EPA, it was from the government, and they went and tested like a 1000 buildings, the dust, and they found out it was 40 or 50% of the buildings had water damage and mold problems.


RS: Wow.


JG: Active problems. And this is like a number that’s cited is very commonly today in the mold industry is 40 to 50% of buildings have some level of water damage and mold, in the building and this is including houses. This is houses, schools, government buildings, everything. So really, probably should be more than 10% of people getting this tested because it’s a lot more common than we realized.


TM: And, back to what, Eric Larson was saying earlier, Eric, when you were describing the process that you do when you go out to a house and you do a full mold inspection, I just wanna make it clear to people listening that is not like a national standard or something that every mold inspector will do. That is unique to structure tech.


EL: Right. And yeah, and as Jayden was saying too, all the mold inspectors are not created equal or rated equally or certified equally. So there’s different certifying bodies that provide certifications and we obtained one through the ECAC, which is nationally known as a reputable certification. But yeah, there are, some services that will just come out and just tests, and just not do any sort of, as far as I’m concerned, I guess, I am speaking from secondhand knowledge. I haven’t personally witnessed any other mold inspectors, but that will just go out and test a few rooms in the house without doing a comprehensive evaluation of moisture intrusion or moisture management or anything of… Or humidity, within the home and talking about that. So that’s, I think a partially different factor for also this.


TM: Definitely. Yeah. And as you mentioned, looking for areas of water intrusion from the exterior is a huge factor for mold growth. And it can lead to mold growth in the wall cavities or other areas where you can’t visually see it, but it could be a result of increased relative humidity inside or ventilation strategies that aren’t working right or aren’t working at all. Or it could be just basic physics of someone has a below grade basement that they finish and it’s a 1950s house and there’s no waterproofing on the exterior. And even if they’ve got gutters and downspouts and good grading, we all know if that below grade basement wall is finished with poly vapor barrier and fiberglass insulation, there is a good chance that there is moisture behind that finished wall.


TM: That that moisture migration from the soil, trying to dry inward through that concrete block and the capillary action is going to lead to that moisture getting trapped on the inside because of the vapor barrier. And so it doesn’t even have to be a mistake from the builder or a flaw or someone’s fault is, well, it’s whoever decided to finish the basement, it’s their fault, [chuckle] but they probably did it unknowingly. And so having someone who understands that the house holistically and is doing this walkthrough and looking for all these potential sources of moisture, I think is so crucial to being able to ultimately resolve the problem to not just say, yeah, you’ve got mold, but figure out how it’s forming and why it’s forming and how to get rid of it too.


RS: Yes. And that’s why we’re careful to call this a mold inspection, not mold testing. This is a lot more than simply going in there and taking a couple swabs or taking an air sample. It’s a comprehensive evaluation by somebody who understands houses. They understand home inspections. They understand building science. They understand air movement. They understand all these different components. They’re not just someone taking a quick sample.


TM: Yes. Yeah. I don’t think there’s enough people out there doing that [laughter] I guess, we need more.


RS: Yeah. Well, Jayden, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it. Thanks for sharing your story. This is something that I think more people need to hear.


JG: Yeah, that was my hope is that let’s get the word out as much as possible. My hope is that more and more people will take this seriously and understand how much it could affect your life and your health and get your house tested for it.


RS: Yeah. Excellent. And Eric, thank you for coming on the show. First time on. Surely won’t be the last time. I appreciate what you had to share.


EL: That’s right. Thank you.


RS: And I appreciate all the hard work you do with all these mold inspections. You’re killing it out there, man.


EL: All right. I appreciate it. Yeah. Appreciate the opportunity.


RS: Exactly. All right. Tessa, great to see you.


TM: Good to see you too. We’re gonna have to continue this discussion on mold ’cause I have a bunch of more questions that I wanna talk to Eric Larson about. And also, I was just mentioning to you guys before we started recording that this podcast is coincides with a lecture that I was just a part of at the University of Minnesota through this building science class I’m co-teaching. We had an environmental hygienist in to talk about indoor air quality this week. And he’s employed by the University of Minnesota, and he showed about a million slides of all the different places that mold grows in air handlers and duct work in slab duct work in carpet that he is actively trying to mitigate and resolve on campus.


TM: And he does a bunch of other work for other industries too, but it just highlights that this is a very real issue. And it strikes me that it is not a part of the standard of a home inspection process, at least with lots of organizations that set standards. And so, it’s just, I think it’s really important we have these discussions. So thank you, Jayden, for coming on our show and sharing your experience and trying to educate the population that’s out there to think about mold and to just be aware of the impact that mold and other indoor air quality concerns can have on our health. So thank you. Yeah.


JG: Absolutely. Thanks for having us.


RS: Thanks again. God bless and…


TM: [laughter] Yeah. And if…


RS: We’ll catch everyone next week.


TM: But yeah. And if anyone has their own mold story or indoor air quality story, how do they reach us, Reuben? ‘Cause we wanna hear about it.


RS: Oh, good point, Tessa. Thank you. If you got something to share, please email us, We’ll read every one of those.


TM: Yeah. So let us know. Thanks. We’ll catch you next time.


RS: Bye. Thanks, everyone. Take care.


TM: See ya!


JG: Awesome. Thank you.