The ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) was developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Research and Development as a research tool.
The ERMI test involves the analysis of a single sample of dust from a home. Since mold spores can settle onto dust the DNA from the mold in the dust can be identified. This sample is compared to the national Relative Moldiness Index (RMI) Scale. The RMI database was initially created from a study done by the EPA of 1,096 homes across the U.S. that compared the concentrations of different mold species in “moldy homes” (homes with visible mold growth or a history of water damage) and “reference homes” (homes with no visible mold) were compared.
The ERMI test is representative of mold levels over time rather than a “snap shot” of the current state of mold spores in the home. It has many uses, including helping to determine if a home has suffered water damage in the past that had resulted in mold. This is because the initial study included homes that had suffered water damage resulting in mold so the DNA being tested specifically includes molds that are commonly found when there has been water damage in a home.
The hope is that further research will enable the ERMI to assess health risks for susceptible individuals and provide a method for screening homes for mold.
According to the EPA, “The ERMI should be used only for research. The ERMI has not been validated for routine pubic use in homes, schools, or other buildings.”
The EPA website contains the following disclaimer: “The EPA has not endorsed or validated any tools or methods to determine mold burden in homes including MSQPCR and ERMI. The EPA licensed this test to laboratories including EMLab P&K. However, the transfer of this technology under the Federal Technology Transfer Act cannot be used to make any claims suggesting that the ERMI is an EPA-approved or validated test.”
The EPA website also contains the publication, Public May Be Making Indoor Mold Cleanup Decisions Based on EPA Tool Developed Only for Research Applications, which further contains the warning, “…one current and one past licensee’s advertising could mislead the public into thinking that these research tools are EPA-approved methods for evaluating indoor mold.”
Industry Recognized Testing Techniques
Mold Bros and the rest of the mold remediation industry do not use ERMI tests to determine if mold is present or if remediation procedures have been successful. The tests standardly recognized in the industry are the Air Quality Sample test and Direct Exams.
Air Quality Sample test: Samples are taken both inside and outside of the home to detect mold spores that are in the air. Mold is a plant and the spores are its seeds. It is necessary to take a sample outside the home because mold is consistently present in the environment and the quantity of spores in the air changes month by month and across the country—states with higher humidity have more mold spores in the air than dryer states do. Since spores can and do enter the home, it is common for some spores to appear in an Air Quality Sample taken inside a home, even if there is no mold living in the home.
By comparing the quantity of mold spores inside and outside the home, and the types of mold captured in the samples, it is possible to determine if there is mold growing in the home.
Direct Exam: A sample is taken from an area where there is visible evidence of growth or where mold is suspected. This may be done with a swab, tape sample (sticky tape is applied to the surface to collect samples), or a bulk sample (a piece of the material with the mold is sent to the lab). The sample is then examined under a microscope.
Both of these tests give results of the amount of mold or mold spores that are currently in the area being tested.
At the end of each job Mold Bros takes Air Quality samples to determine if the mold has been killed. This is done for internal Quality Control purposes.
Mold Bros does not do any testing prior to treating a property to determine if mold is present.
In the mold remediation industry there have been abuses having to do with companies doing both testing and remediation of the same property. This has to do with companies falsely reporting that mold has been found in a property to drum up work for the remediation division of the same company. Therefore, in the state of Florida, and a few other states, it is illegal for a mold remediation company to perform mold tests to determine if a home has mold and then do remediation on that same property.