Mold Sampling: Viable vs Non-Viable

Concerns surrounding mold come to light throughout all seasons of the year, often discovered after a drainage issue, sewer backup or pipe break. This concern is felt across the board from homeowners to business owners and often the problem may not be perceived as ‘bad enough’ until it becomes quite pressing and allergic symptoms may begin. Once mold is identified it can be a bit of a battle if you don’t approach it the right way.

Viable vs Non-Viable Mold Sampling

When it comes to sampling for mold, bacteria, or yeast, there are a couple different ways of doing it depending on what your end goal is. Here we will explore the different ways of sampling mold and the differences between viable and non-viable mold sampling.

Viable Mold Sampling

Viable mold sampling involves culturing (growing) mold in a laboratory setting once a sample has been collected. This stems off the viability of the mold spores to grow and create a colony to be examined. Viable mold sampling allows identification of mold spores to the species level in most cases. If you are looking to determine the presence or absence of a specific species such as Stachybortrys or Penicillium species (which are indicator species of poor indoor air quality), viable mold sampling may be the best option for you.

One aspect to note is that viable mold sampling cannot detect dead spores, which may be a downside because dead spores can still cause allergic reactions and, in some people, respiratory distress and sensitivities.

Non-Viable Mold Sampling

Non-viable mold sampling involves utilizing a filter membrane or tape to allow for identification of mold spores and hyphal fragments without growing or culturing them. Sampling is not dependent on the viability of the spores to grow (be cultured).

Sampling with the non-viable method allows you to get a general sense of how contaminated the air is in an affected area, by counting total spore counts. This unit of measurement would be beneficial when looking to quantify the effectiveness of mold remediation/abatement because you can reference total spore counts prior to and post abatement.Non-viable mold sampling can be completed the same day, as there is no wait time for spore culturing.

Which Sampling Method Do I Use?

Both methods have benefits, although the right sampling method for your project will be determined by the specific needs and the information you are looking for. If you require specific information regarding a species that is present or absent, viable mold sampling may be right for you, however if you require general total spore counts to get a sense of how contaminated the air may be in an affected area, non-viable sampling may be right for your project.

These two methods of sampling for mold are not opposing methods, as they can be used together to get an overall image of what is going on within a specific workspace or home. Contact an environmental specialist at JADA Solutions (HSE) Inc. today for guidance with your mold concerns.


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