Mail-in mold testing: legitimate service?

Back in 2005, after having sinus surgery and dealing with mold allergies and migraines, I got a mold testing kit through National Allergy Supply. Their mold-test kits at that time came from Nelco Laboratories. You paid, they sent you petri dishes with agar which you exposed for a particular amount of time, then sent back. They cultured and assessed the dishes and emailed you a report with photos of your cultures. It all seemed very scientific and reliable and stuff.

Well, I’d like to do this again in our present house, but I have doubts now. Consumer Reports tested kits like this in 2006 and basically said they’re a crock. They didn’t test Nelco specifically, but did three other labs, and all seemed to be contaminated (unexposed control dishes grew plenty of mold).

National Allergy doesn’t sell Nelco brand kits now; they have Immunolytics kits. Googling Immunolytics brings up several obviously paid blog plugs for them, and nothing that looks impartial.

Does anyone know anything about this? Are there any reliable home test kits for mold? Is a home kit simply a poor choice? What are the alternatives?

Note I’m not worried about “toxic” mold, just the garden-variety allergenic stuff like Cladosporium, Alternaria, etc. After three rounds of allergy (desenitization) shots in my life, molds are the only category of allergen that still gives me real trouble. (Dusts, most pollens, danders, and especially down are no longer problems. Yay, allergy shots!)

Well, if you don’t have visible mold, then sampling and testing is pretty much the only way to find anything, and yeah, a home test kit’s not going to do much – passive sampling, like what you describe, is the least effective technique. What you really want is a certified mold inspector, aka “IAQ inspector”, who can use an air sampler to test a large volume of air, and who knows how to preserve the integrity of the samples and materials. A CMI will also be able to spot risk areas, take contact plates, and other stuff. Of course, they’ll also charge $200 - $300 dollars to come out to your home; you don’t say where you live (I don’t know what “up hieah” means), but I’m sure these services are offered in your area.

Some health advisors, consumer advocate groups have trained dogs to sniff mold, esp. for mold that’s hidden behind something. So you could try that.

New England. Yeah, I bet we’ve got people who do that.

= Indoor Air Quality inspector?