Frequently Asked Questions
Home Air Check is an advanced analysis of an air sample taken in a home that provides a report on the total concentration of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and the total concentration of Mold Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs) present in the home.
VOCs are invisible gases that are emitted from solids and liquids found in the home, such as building materials, cooking sources, gasoline and fuel, air fresheners, paints/varnishes, dry-cleaning, laser printers, carpeting, adhesives, cleaning solutions, and many other sources. These chemicals can build up in houses, especially in the winter and summer months when homes are generally closed up. Repeated exposure to VOCs can cause blurred vision, headaches, nausea, dizziness, coughing, lethargy, burning eyes, respiratory irritation, skin rashes, reduced lung function, respiratory illness, concentration difficulties, depression, and, in extreme cases, loss of consciousness and suffocation. Higher exposure can lead to liver damage, kidney and central nervous system irregularities. Some VOCs can cause cancer.
MVOCs are gases (chemicals) produced by actively growing mold. Just as humans expire gases, so do molds. These chemicals can be monitored to determine the level of actively growing mold in the house. A Home Air Check measurement is an excellent way to determine the level of mold growing in a house – even behind walls. This is possible because Home Air Check is a chemical analysis of the air, and chemicals move more freely through a house than mold spores (particulates) which can be trapped by walls and thereby go undetected. When mold levels are elevated and there is chronic exposure in the home, some individuals can experience negative health effects, or worsening of existing illnesses, that could run the gamut from mild to serious. These health effects could include allergies, skin irritations, asthma, respiratory infection, and toxic poisoning. In addition, individuals with suppressed immune systems may be particularly vulnerable to illnesses caused by mold contamination.
Why should I measure for these chemicals in my home?
The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and the European Union (EU) suggest that levels greater than 500 ng/L of VOCs could pose a health hazard in homes. High levels of VOCs can lead to respiratory irritation, mental confusion, headaches, lethargy, or worse, and can exacerbate existing medical conditions such as asthma. The levels of these compounds tend to be higher in homes built after 1970 because fresh air infiltration has been reduced to conserve heat with improved insulation, tighter door and window seals, and better construction technology in general. MVOCs detected above 30 ng/L indicate significant actively growing mold. Even this slightly elevated level could produce health concerns for some people.
Do VOCs and MVOCs stay in my house?
Yes, these materials will stay in the house until they are removed. The house is full of VOC sources as mentioned in the above question “What are VOCs,” and the amount in the air will eventually reach a constant level within a few days to a week in a closed house. MVOCs, since they are generated by growing organisms, can increase in concentration if mold growth is expanding in the house. This can lead to unsafe levels.
How do I reduce my home VOC and MVOC exposure?
The best way to maintain a low level, and thus, safe level of volatile chemicals in the house is to remove sources of VOCs and MVOCs from the house, if they can be identified. VOCs and MVOCs can be reduced, but not eliminated, by circulating fresh air from an open window or ceiling/attic exhaust fans.
If a house is opened up through windows and exhaust fans, the VOCs should be at their lowest level, assuming you are not living in heavy industrial chemical areas with chemical plants or fuel refining plants. If you live in a heavily industrialized area, you should probably have your air quality checked since it could be significantly above recommended standards.
The level of MVOCs will be the lowest in a dry home. If windows are open and the house becomes damp, then higher levels of microbial activity will be present and higher levels of MVOCs can be produced. In this case, turning on dehumidifiers and/or air conditioners and keeping the house closed will produce lower MVOCs.
How long does it take for VOCs and MVOCs to leave my house?
The length of time that it takes for VOCs or MVOCs to leave the home depends upon their source (see section on VOCs). Gasoline cans and kerosene lamps kept in an attached garage or in the home can generate significant VOCs, since they are generally stored in larger containers. VOCs from these sources can only be reduced by removing them from the home. If the VOC source cannot be removed from the home, replacing the home air with fresh air on a regular basis will keep the VOCs at their lowest levels and will reduce your exposure.
If the VOCs are from furnishings like wood and plastic, they will be at their highest levels when they are new, but will continue to emit VOCs for many years. In addition, VOCs from water-based paints can be present for up to 18 months after application.
MVOCs will continue to be emitted from areas that have mold. The only way to remove this source is to have the existing mold removed and then prevent building materials like wood and drywall from getting wet, either from excessive humidity, leaky plumbing, or water intrusion from rain or ground water.
Why use Home Air Check and not some other method?
With a single test, Home Air Check provides a comprehensive picture of chemical levels that the home occupants are breathing in the home. It also indicates a level of actively growing mold present in the home. Since these chemicals are tested simultaneously, the sophisticated analysis becomes less expensive. Also, the samples are collected without the use of toxic chemicals, so there are no health risks using Home Air Check. No other home air test can match the level of completeness, sophistication, prediction, and value of Home Air Check.
What if my home has elevated levels of VOCs or MVOCs?
Because Home Air Check uses state-of-the-art technology, an entire chemical fingerprint of the home is produced which allows us to predict the primary and secondary sources of air contamination. Along with the analysis reports, we provide a Contamination Index™ Report that lists these potential contamination sources, along with recommendations on how to remove or reduce them. If, however, the VOC or MVOC levels exceed acceptable standards, Prism can assist with the necessary next steps to improve the home’s air quality with a consultation, further testing, or referral to a knowledgeable industrial hygienist or other professional specializing in indoor air quality issues.
What about mold behind walls due to water leaks from plumbing or construction?
One of the main benefits of Home Air Check™ is that it can still see chemicals being emitted from growing mold even if the mold is behind a wall. Most mold tests require the mold to be almost obvious before they are able to detect it. Home Air Check can detect mold even when it is not visible.
How do I get an air sample in my home?
After you place an order for the Home Air Check test, for analysis. Sampling time is approximately 2.5 to 3 hours. That’s it! The test is extremely simple and easy to perform
How big of an area does Home Air Check cover?
Each Home Air Check™ test can sample up to a 2,000 sq. ft. area. Therefore, if the area you wish to test is 2,000 sq. ft. or under, we recommend ordering a single Home Air Check test For testing areas greater than 2,000 sq. ft., or for testing a completely separate/closed-off area of the home such as a basement, we recommend ordering multiple Home Air Check tests. Special package pricing is available for multiple test orders.
How much does A Home Air Check cost?
The price of a single Home Air Check test is only $225.00 – less than the cost of a night out with your family. We also offer discounted pricing if you order two or more test .
How long will it take to receive my analysis report?
Once the sample is received , it will be analyzed within 5 business days and an easy-to-read report that details the levels of VOCs and MVOCs (actively growing mold) will be emailed to you.
When I receive my report will other information or support be provided?
In addition to the analysis report describing the levels of VOCs and actively growing mold in the home, you will receive a Contamination Index™ Report that lists the predicted sources of air contaminants and suggestions for removal from the home. If extremely high levels of air contaminants are found, we will offer you assistance in finding an Industrial Hygiene Professional that can address your concerns and help you determine the next steps in improving your indoor air quality.
Do I have to worry about chemical exposure while collecting the sample?
The sampling tube is a solid material that emits no chemicals while being utilized. In fact, the entire methodology from sampling to analysis has been developed as a “Green” Method.
Formaldehyde is listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) and is a suspected carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). Since formaldehyde is frequently found in homes and the Occupational Safety Permissible Exposure Limit of 8 hours is below 10 parts per billion in the air, a special test is done for this chemical at an additional cost. A second sample tube is sent and collected in a similar fashion to the first air sample. When this tube is returned it is analyzed specifically for formaldehyde. The additional price for this Formaldehyde test is $65.
Our Home Air Check can actually test for about 50 HAPs on the EPA’s comprehensive list of 188 identified toxic pollutants. However, because of the exposure limit on formaldehyde specifically, a separate test needs to be conducted for this HAP.
What are my risks if I don’t test my home?
What you don’t know about the air in your home could hurt you and your family. Many of the things we are exposed to every day in our homes, including products and materials we use on a routine basis, are considered harmful chemicals. In addition, many areas of the country have problems with humidity, and mold is often found actively growing in homes, silently causing more health concerns. There are serious health risks with repeated and prolonged exposure to VOCs and mold. These risks are elevated for individuals already suffering from chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma, allergies, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Some VOCs are considered Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) and have been linked to cancer. Our homes are supposed to be our safe-havens – not places where we are put at risk. With such a comprehensive, inexpensive test available, why wouldn’t you want to give yourself peace of mind that you’re doing everything you can to protect the well-being of the ones you love most?
Basically, they are tiny seeds, microscopic and invisible to the naked eye, that spawn from molds and float through outdoor and indoor air. When they land in an appropriate environment, they will grow into new mold.
Can I have mold spores in my home and not have any mold growth?
Yes, mold spores travel through the air and by foot traffic and can make it into the home via the outdoor air and grounds. Although these spores are in the home and can end up on many surfaces, they do not grow and damage surfaces unless they have nutrients and a moisture source.
Are there natural sources of mold spores in my home?
Potentially, yes. Potted plants have mold spores and active mold growth in the soil. Potting soils generally have plenty of nutrients and water that can produce mold growth which in turn can produce mold spores. Mold spores are also produced by some food products such as blue cheese.
Why are mold spore tests done both indoors and outdoors?
Mold spores are everywhere outdoors and are being swept by winds into locations where there may not be any mold growth. These spores can be brought into the home through the air and by foot traffic. If an outdoor test is not performed, the home may be incorrectly assessed as having a mold problem.
Why does Home Air Check only measure indoor air?
Home Air Check is only measuring for the chemicals generated by active mold growth and not for mold spores. Therefore, the presence of mold spores does not influence the ability of Home Air Check to accurately identify active mold growth inside the home. The only instance where an outdoor Home Air Check sample is recommended is when the home is located in a forested area or other area where substantial, active mold growth outdoors, close to the home is expected.
Can mold growth be measured in a crawl space with Home Air Check?
We normally do not suggest monitoring for mold growth in crawl spaces that are highly vented. This is because the chemicals (mold VOCs) emitted by any mold growth are swept quickly out of the vents. In these cases, a visual inspection of the underside of the house is a preferred method for determining any mold growth. Where the crawl space is not vented nor has minimal venting, A Home Air Check can be an effective tool for finding active mold growth.
Would mold growth in a crawl space be observed by a Home Air Check test performed inside the home?
If the crawl space is highly vented, the chemicals generated by the mold growth would be quickly swept out through the vents before they could get into the home and be detected using a Home Air Check. Also, if a sealed, plastic membrane has been installed between where the mold growth is and the interior of the home, the mold would not be detected. However, if the crawl space is not vented nor has minimal venting, and there is no sealed, plastic membrane, the mold VOCs can usually be detected inside the home.
I plan to sell my house. Can I have a Home Air Check test as part of a pre-inspection?
Yes, absolutely. It is a wise decision to have a complete pre-inspection and indoor air quality assessment performed prior to putting your home on the market to make sure no hidden issues will be revealed after a potential buyer has made an offer to buy your home. In this case, you would need to have a Home Air Check Professional test (a more detailed analysis of the home air) conducted by a home inspector who participates in our Home Air Check Professional network. A Home Air Check Professional test gives you the ability to conduct a more detailed analysis of the top 10 chemical compounds found in your home’s air, should you need to have this information. Plus, the home inspector takes care of performing the test and handling all the paperwork and shipping. Having a certified report from a home inspector that the air quality in your home meets recommended or acceptable levels gives credibility to the overall value of your home.