For decades inspectors across the world have depended on using cassettes and laboratory analysis to perform indoor air quality sampling for mold. Our company collects over 2,000 of these spore trap samples every year! However, there are some drawbacks to sampling like this, such as deciding on how many samples to take and where to collect them, and waiting days for the laboratory results to come in. Imagine if there was a way that you could get real-time mold readings in every room of a property in just a few minutes.
Real-Time Air Sampling For Mold
No need to stretch your imagination too hard, because this instrument exists in our world right now. The device is called Instascope, and it is a very sophisticated type of particle counter that can differentiate between various biological particles. This instrument can simultaneously measure pollen, bacteria, and fungal particles in just a few minutes. As air is drawn into the device, a laser is used to determine the size of the particles. When particles are hit with the laser, the particles give off UV light. Where the magic comes in is how the Instascope analyzes the UV light signature given off by the sampled particle to make a determination if that particle is mold, bacteria, pollen, or other. While the technology hasn’t quite developed to the point at which it can determine the exact species of mold that is present, the Instascope can be used as a very sophisticated screening tool, and in some cases can replace traditional air sampling all together.
Where The Instascope Shines
This instrument isn’t going to make sampling cassettes go the way of the dodo anytime soon. Spore trap cassettes have been the industry standard for collecting air samples for mold, and bring different information than the Instascope. With that being said, there are a few applications where the Instascope shines. For example, this instrument can be used in coordination with traditional air sampling. Prior to collecting laboratory air samples for mold, a reading from each room can be collected with the Instascope to determine which rooms have relatively higher concentrations of mold. Another practical application would be collecting readings from inside of wall cavities. Traditionally, a spore trap cassette can be used to sample from one stud cavity in a wall. Using the Instascope means you can collect readings from as many cavities as you would like with no extended laboratory costs. The Instascope can also be used to assess HVAC systems to help determine if there might be microbial growth in the ducts or air handler. By taking readings from the supply vents around the home and comparing the results to the air near the return registers, we can use the Instascope to look at if the HVAC equipment may have mold growth inside.
As the technology advances, there is hope that these sophisticated machines will get to a level in which they could be used to identify the genus of the mold, bacteria, or pollen that are present in the air.
Indoor Science is currently the only Chicago based company using the Instascope. If you have questions regarding this instrument or mold inspections in general, give us a call and we would be happy to discuss your options with you!