Jason Earle of GOTMOLD.com gives a fascinating tour of his personal journey and how he ended up breaking the price barrier for lab testing of mold in the air.
Jason Earle of GOTMOLD.com gives a fascinating tour of his personal journey and how he ended up breaking the price barrier for lab testing of mold in the air.
The following podcast is a proud member of The Blue Collar Roots Network. Find all the shows by visiting bluecollarroots.com. He may seem like a mild mannered engineer until you install an HVAC system improperly, then the whole turning green hog shirt ripping thing happens and it’s not pretty. Here’s Bill Spohn.
Bill Spohn 00:29
Hey, welcome back to another episode of the Building HVAC Science Podcast. Our goal here to create a better more knowledgeable HVAC and building performance technicians. By pumping the two professions better understand each other. The ultimate goal of making customers happy in the homes they live in and buildings they work in, happy and healthy. And speaking of health, today we’ll be speaking with Jason Earle of gotmold.com. He’s gonna give us a fascinating tour of his personal journey, and how he ended up breaking the price barrier for lab testing of mold in the air.
It’s really fascinating story, very personal aspects to it. You can find Jason’s products, and a little bit about him at gotmold.com. Let’s listen in to this conversation that Jason and I had in, January of 2022 regarding let’s talk mold. Today, we’re pleased to have Jason Earle, on board with us to discuss the topic of mold. Everybody’s favorite four letter word, Jason, how are you?
Jason Earle 01:30
Excellent Bill. How are you?
Bill Spohn 01:32
I’m great. So Jason and I met at a conference called the Healthy Building Summit that was held in southwestern PA and I think it was 2018. I was doing a presentation or two there. Jason was there as an attendee, and he had a new concept. And that’s sort of what we’re going to focus around today is a new way of getting, can I say, laboratory type mold results, but at a very different price point and ease of use than you might be familiar with. So why don’t you start out with, Jason, your background in the area of indoor air quality testing?
Jason Earle 02:08
Thanks, Phil. First of all, thank you very much for having me and Happy New Year.
Bill Spohn 02:11
Jason Earle 02:12
I am the founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-MOLD?, which is a Mold Inspection Company based in the Northeast, and also MycoLab USA, which is the company that makes and markets the Got Mold? Test Kit, at gotmold.com, which is a professional quality, consumer oriented self testing kit for mold spores. I got into this business, as I think many people do in this industry through a personal experience. I think most of the practitioners that I’ve met that really do great work, come at this from a sort of pay it forward type of mentality. They went through it, they either themselves or someone that they loved, and they realize that this is irreversible knowledge and then go out and try to share what they learned. I’m no exception to that.
So for me, it all began pretty close to the beginning, actually, I was about four years old, when I suddenly lost a lot of weight in a short period. My parents were panicking, they brought me to the pediatrician who said no, you should really take him to the hospital. So they brought me to actually Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which has a robust respiratory care in fact is probably the top in our region for sure in the nation potentially. And their initial diagnosis based upon my family history and the symptoms that I presented with with cystic fibrosis, which is devastating, of course, my parents loathe, but especially to my father, who had four of his cousins passed away before the age of 14, due to that genetic illness. So apparently, they’ve cried for six weeks, until they were able to get a second opinion, and which was also Children’s Hospital and they said no, he does not have cystic fibrosis, congratulations. Actually, he has asthma compounded by pneumonia. And when they tested me for allergies, this is one of my early memories. They put me in a papoose like a straitjacket for toddlers, with a bag exposed and drew a grid on my back and then put all the skin tests into their representative quadrants.
And my dad said I looked like a ladybug, big red swollen pack with dots all over it. I essentially tested positive for allergies to everything that they tested me for grass, wheat, corn, eggs, dogs, cats, even cotton, and soybeans also, which was interesting because I was grew up on a farm surrounded by corn and soy fields. So I was essentially surrounded in all of these allergens indoor and out. And my parents were told that they had a bubble boy and my parents both smoked and hygiene…we didn’t have hygiene in my house, we had low gene. So there wasn’t much to be done there. And so I kind of suffered through it until I was about 12 and my folks split up and moved out of the house and suddenly all my symptoms went away. But nobody really said anything about it either, too. It was one of those things where my grandfather had grown out of his asthma. And so I guess they felt the same thing about me, which is very common. There’s a dramatic, it’s something like a third of people that are chocolate asthmatics actually grow out of it. Anyway, long story short, I didn’t think about it again, until fast forward through a series of strange circumstances. I ended up going to work on Wall Street at a very young age at age sixteen and did that for about nine years.
And then one day woke up after the dot com bubble burst and said, I wasn’t having fun anymore. And I went backpacking and try to figure out what we want to do with my life. And while I was away, I was in Hawaii, and I was reading a story about a guy who’d gotten sick from the local, and the hotel where he was an employee. It was the Hilton Kalia Tower, which many people who listen to this podcast might recall, if you’ve been in the industry for a while. That was, at the time the biggest mold problem, documented mold remediation, it may still stand as the biggest one ever actually paid for. But it was shut down for this mold issue at the time when I was there. And this 40 year old man who had gotten sick from it was talking about developing adult onset asthma. It’s something I’d never heard of. And also sensitivity is all these things you’ve never been sensitive to before. And for me, it was like a deja vu moment or like, immediately, I was like, wow, this guy’s basically my story kind of in reverse. So I called my father from a payphone which probably isn’t there anymore, and said, “Hey, do you think we had a mold problem at Old Trenton Road” and he laughed at me. He said, “Jason, we had mushrooms growing in the basement, of course we had mold. Why do you ask?”
He was just so flippant about it Bill, I just thought that it was just like back then that people just thought, well, this smells like a basement, that’s what basement smell like. We know now that that’s musty odor, and that has implications causes health effects. It’s a very material pollutant. But back then again, he’s smoking talking about it. Well, we have mushrooms in the basement. It’s not for lack of love. It was lack of awareness. And this is a pervasive thing in our culture. And it’s something that we’re emerging from now, which is really exciting thing about being in this industry is that people now no longer take those things for granted, mold is ubiquitously known as something that you shouldn’t be growing in your house. I immediately at moment literally talking to my father realized that I had landed where I wanted to be. I became immediately curious, not about mold, but about the impact of buildings on health. And it’s strange, because mold is obviously the four letter word. But for me, we live and work in these buildings that we essentially treat as boxes that we store our stuff in, keep us out of the rain, and protects us from the wind.
But for some reason I had this inkling then I’ve solidified that feeling now that these buildings are actually an extension of our immune system, and if the building gets sick, we get sick. And when the building heals, guess what it allows for healing within the building. But if we don’t recognize that relationship, then we start to wonder why we’re not doing well within the circumstances, we’re not taking care of something that’s a basic human need. We’re like hermit crabs, we don’t do well without these buildings. And if we don’t take care of it, it won’t take care of us. And so that’s really what got me into this space. And then that curiosity continues to move me through trying to find better ways to deliver better solutions.
Bill Spohn 07:27
You had this aha moment or epiphany, if you want to call it backpacking in Hawaii. And now let’s catch up to where you are today. You must have gone through some other phases. You talked about MycoLab USA, you talked about a East Coast base company that does work in gotmold.com. How did that get formed? And what’s your experiences there?
Jason Earle 07:50
From Hawaii, I literally spent the rest of my time there in Internet cafes, looking up things like mold and asthma. And there was very little out there. This is 2002-2001, there’s now it’s 20 years ago, there was no such thing as an industry, let alone a standard, there was little certifications, you could buy essentially for like 150 bucks into your registered molder. And it was just such a joke. But I immediately began seeing that there was a lack of knowledge about this. And I came back armed with curiosity and some time to pursue this. And I through a series is happenstance stumbled across a company that was looking in the basement waterproofing space that was doing mold remediation. And I said, I wonder what’s going on there went in interviewed that they hired me as a salesman.
And I saw behind the curtain how really scurrilous, these motor mediators can be. And interestingly, they were some of them were stockbrokers, which just told me exactly what I needed to know about them. And so my hackles went up, and I and I realized very quickly that if you wanted to help people, I would have to make a decision here. And that would be that if I wanted to be useful in this space, I have to find out where I can actually add the most value. And I felt that becoming a Mold Inspection Company purely would give me the opportunity to learn the most I could fastest without having a lot of burden of employees and labor issues and not mention equipment or liability and all that stuff. And so I decided to focus firmly on one side of the industry where eventually I figured there would be a bifurcation, every industry, right?
Lead paint, asbestos, they always it’s always happens, right? You’re either one or the other. You’re either an effector, or a mediator, or you’re conflicted and so I chose not to be conflicted day one. Started a company doing mold inspections on the side, happened to find out about mold sniffing dogs right around that time, and I got one who happened to be one of the first in the world.
Bill Spohn 09:31
That’s your logo, isn’t it?
Jason Earle 09:32
It was my logo, still is on 1-800-GOT-MOLD? and got Oreo met her through, it was actually my girlfriend’s mother at the time, who was watching some late night TV and heard about it and said, “You hear about these guys training dogs to sniff out mold? Don’t you think that’s ridiculous?” And I was like, “What?! That’s brilliant!” So went down and found Oreo, brought her up. And before you know it, we had Channel Six Action News descending upon us trying to debunk us, but I didn’t know that and they had mold in the house, which we found in a few minutes.
And instead of debunking us, they endorsed us. And I didn’t even have my website, but my phone started ringing and we got some local doctors who started referring some difficult patients to us that had like mysterious illnesses, and we found some hidden mold and they got better. And then that turned into some major other national press, it turned into a Good Morning America episode. And then that turned into Extreme Makeover Home Edition. And then it just kept snowballing and so that ultimately became 1-800-GOT-MOLD?, our Mold Inspection Company. And we’ve had to do very little in terms of advertising, because honestly, we use rescue dogs to fix the homes, and that plays well with the press. And it’s been really great for the consumer. But ultimately, that mold inspection business, which is we went through some franchising exercises and determined that that was not in the best interest of our end users, our customer base, but ultimately, the thing that really caused me to look at what we were doing and how we can help the most was when I realized that our mold inspections, and average mold inspection from a qualified professional are over 1000 bucks, I’d say, to do a proper inspection, you’re probably 1500 or more. And that is simply out of budget for the average consumer, certainly for most renters unless you’re in Manhattan, or a little more San Francisco.
So that always bothered me, because most of the people who call this couldn’t afford us, and healthy indoor air should not be cost prohibitive. In my opinion, it’s a basic human need. And I bristle at the idea of people commoditizing things like water and air and basic sustenance. And so here I am capitalizing on air in such a way that it always bothered me. But yet we couldn’t reduce prices and still offer the value that we did. And my own parents, interestingly, could not have afforded to hire us. Isn’t that interesting. So here I am trying to solve a problem to prevent other families from going through it my family did, and yet I created a product that was out of reach.
Bill Spohn 11:34
But you needed a new approach. Right? So tell me about what that approach is.
Jason Earle 11:39
If you want to have your house tested for mold, right now you have to hire a professional if you want to get good results. And that means having a guy come in with an air sampling pump, well, you know, you’re going to do a proper inspection. It’s like a physical for the body, you look at the whole body, and then you determine where you want to do tests just like a physical in the doctor’s office. And when it comes time to do the tests, he’s generally going to pull it he or she will pull out a pump and air sampling pump on a tripod. And that pump interfaces with an air sampling cassette, usually a spore trap, that spore trap allows you to collect air samples, and five minutes or so and have them be shipped off without refrigeration or anything to a lab where they can be analyzed immediately.
And you can get a quick idea as to what the spore counts are in the air in the areas where you collect the samples. It’s a very common form of air testing. Unfortunately, it’s expensive. And oftentimes the reports that are generated from those results are impossible to read unless you have some experience and often times misread, you misuse the data…data is misused to manipulate consumers into remediation, and they may or may not need. And so we took a look at that and said how can we make that easy? So the consumer can get the level of results that they should be getting but without all the nonsense. Does that make sense?
Bill Spohn 12:45
Sure, in the air sampling pump the details behind why that is an expensive device. What does it have to do? Why does it have to be so expensive, what is its characteristics?
Jason Earle 12:54
The nature of an air sampling pump is that it pulls a fixed volume of air at a consistent flow rate through a piece of media that will then capture the target pollutant. So, to speak in English, basically we’re taking 75 liters of air, pulling it through a filter and then we’re going to do that outside, and we’re going to do that in areas where we’re concerned indoors, and then ideally you’re going to do one that you don’t care about so much indoors, you have some comparisons. But essentially, the results of the sampling is a comparative analysis between these different samples. So the outside being the baseline for what’s normal in your area at the time of sampling. Compared to the indoor environment, which by the way, almost all the spores in your house should be coming from outside.
If they’re coming from inside, that’s the reason why we’re doing testing. So if we see different quantities and types, what we call biodiversity, you see different concentrations, significantly different concentrations and different types indoors, you probably have a different ecology indoors, ecology means something else is growing. And we know from some of the great books like Rob Dunn’s Never Home Alone, which I highly recommend to anybody who’s interested in this space, that we have a lot of critters growing in our house, our job is to maintain an environment conducive to our health and growth, not the little microbes living in the corner. And so keeping that balance is really what’s all about, but the spore traps that we use this industry standard that again, the problem is first of all, collecting the sample. So we created an air sampling pump that we make for a very small fraction of what it would cost a normal calibrated pump to be manufactured. But this pulls the same airflow rate for the fixed time period, five minutes 15 litres a minute for five minutes, that are professional air sampling pump does. But the best part is it’s also not tied to someone else’s schedule. So you can do this whenever you want. It’s also not tied to $1000 or $1,500 bill so you’d have to get permission or at least run it by your significant other. So you can do this kind of verification with some peace of mind.
And then also you get to keep it so you can resample if you want in the future, you can buy supplies, you can reorder supplies from gotmold.com for a discount, so the $50 discount actually off the cost of each kit. So right now we have a one, two and three room kit available. And it’s 149, 199 and 249. And then you can buy refills, which allow you again to reuse the pump was just a four double A batteries, which we provide, by the way. So those are for one room 99 to retest, 149, and 190. So a significant savings on the retest. And when you get the report, all shipping fees are included, all lab fees are included. So there’s no surprises, you take out your credit card once and when the lab results are released, which is two days once they’re at the lab, then you’ll get a three page report with a simple interpretation green, yellow, orange, red, on what was found, and also the lab report itself so you get the actual data from the analysts. So you can see what scores were found and what concentrations as well as a third page, which has a list of resources, including an ebook that we produce, called How to Find mold, which we can talk about, again, later on some links to the trade associations, who certify and train ACC and IICRC.
Bill Spohn 16:07
Those train the remediators and…
Jason Earle 16:09
And the inspectors.
Bill Spohn 16:09
Jason Earle 16:11
As well as a link to Hayward Score, where our friend Carl Grimes is doing some good work there in terms of providing a self assessment tool for consumers that want to get a grip on the state of their home and what they can do to improve it. And so in the future, we’ll putting together an online referral network there to connect users, to our customers to professionals that meet the standard.
Bill Spohn 16:30
That can do the work.
Jason Earle 16:31
That can do the work. But for now, we’re still in very much like Henry Ford’s mode, which is he said, you can have a Model T in any color you want, as long as it’s black, we’re kind of in that stage right now. So we’re right down the middle one, two, or three room kit, one through three room refills.
Bill Spohn 16:44
What you’re describing is, you’ve streamlined the process for people to get understandable results, as well as professional results on their own schedule. You don’t tie up an inspection professional to do a test to do this. But the inspection professional could certainly review the results of the test, and have pretty good confidence that they’re meaningful results.
Jason Earle 17:08
Yes, and in fact, I should mention that we’re fortunate to call EMLab P&K, our partner. So the top lab by all measures, so the results are ones you can count on, they’re literally the same results that you would get from a professional. The thing that’s powerful for our product and our approach for the professionals in the industry, is that we serve an underserved audience that currently, every single person who’s an inspector or mediator has gotten more calls than they want to from renters, for example, who simply are not empowered, either by budget or by permission, really can’t even authorize an inspection, even if they wanted to, in most cases, legally at least. And we serve a market there, which is underserved. It’s not served at all. That’s something that we identified a long time ago.
And so we’re not competing with professional inspectors at all. If anything, I kind of look at us, even when it comes to single family, homeowners and people who would be potentially in the market for an inspector, I look at this as a continuum of products. Often times, people will start with these crappy petri dishes, or buy something for 10 bucks to buy a thing that kills. They’ll start with a bucket of bleach. They’ll continue to go up the dollar value until they finally reached the point where they realize they probably need to do something more expensive, because it’s their denial that continues to follow. But the bottom line is, what we’re doing is we’re on that continuum before the professional.
The other thing is that we’re also in many cases I think we are curating or kind of an incubator for the contractors, because many times the person who’s looking at this and says, “Do I want to hire a professional? Do I want to spend 1000? Not as the first step I may need to but do I need to do that as the first step?” And I think a qualified well informed consumer are the best customers for everybody.
Bill Spohn 18:47
Yeah, I’m seeing that in a lot of areas that we touch on like in HVAC and building performance, that the more the customer knows you’re better you have a better dialogue with them. They can do some of the initial legwork or provide insights to you, including things like the Hayward Score, like you mentioned, which is people aren’t familiar, I’ve mentioned in the podcast before, but it’s sort of a self evaluation by an occupant as to what do they feel sense detect themselves without any test gear just themselves? The answer the score, they get a result.
And it’s interesting to do it. When you have several household members and have each one of them do it because you’ll get different results. And it starts to bring home that difference like you talked about, it’s the connecting the building health with the occupant health, but it expresses in different ways with different people. This is a very, very intriguing. You’ve gone through and you’ve really simplified the process. It’s as simple as like going to a website, plopping down a credit card, getting a kit, doing the test, mailing in the kit, and getting your results. It’s almost like a pregnancy test.
Jason Earle 19:49
Yeah, it really is.
Bill Spohn 19:50
Except you need that professional lab result.
Jason Earle 19:52
Yeah, but you know, it’s interesting, we use the pregnancy test kit at the risk of pregnant women saying AAHHH!, but we do use that metaphor because it is very similar in that sense that because of baby, you get the positive for pregnancy, you don’t start buying baby furniture, you go to the doctor. And that’s what we encourage people to, again we’re not competing with professionals here, if anything, we’re expanding the marketplace to give people the ability to confirm their fears or concerns, and then giving them the foundation to validate themselves. People get confused, they get overwhelmed, and they stop, they get shut down. This, I think, is a lever for change for people to actually get out of that inertia. And to take some action, get validated, and then go out to the marketplace.
Bill Spohn 20:29
And I haven’t looked at your ebook yet but that sounds like that’ll be the backfill of knowledge and information, as to what may be actually going on. But again, to prepare people for that initial process, perhaps shock, perhaps a sigh of relief, once they understand what might be going on.
Jason Earle 20:46
Yes. And then also, we’re focusing a lot of our resources now that we’ve got the kit out, and we’ve done the heavy lifting for that piece out of the way. Now, we’re investing a lot in our Learning Center. And we’re putting up about a dozen new articles a month starting this month, on various different aspects of indoor air quality and healthy living indoors, and working with some of the other professionals that you know, some other well known names in the space. As contributors to our Learning Center, we’re putting some online courses together in partnership with the University, which will remain nameless at this point. But the idea is to give all that stuff away for free, and then to allow people to actually get completion badges at the end.
So that ultimately, we put a forum together, and we can let people help each other. Let them discuss this issue, because it’s confusing to the consumer. And again, it’s hard to find most people are going to Facebook to get answers, or they’re calling contractors who they’ll never pay for their services. So we want to again incubate these people where they are and their awareness curve on this subject, give them a place where they can get the tools and knowledge they need, and then interact with each other to support each other because a lot of these people will want to help each other. And that also, ultimately is good for us for business.
But it’s also good for the contractors, because, again, well informed consumers that are being educated about the industry standard. They’re being educated about best practices, those people are not so difficult to work with those people are a breeze, they understand clearance testing, they understand there’s no such thing as mold free, they understand they have to keep the ventilation going during remediation. These are the things that are, would be covered in some of this follow up knowledge that we’re offering, once people use the kit.
Bill Spohn 22:14
So the kit is actually available right now the 123 room kit?
Jason Earle 22:17
It is at gotmold.com
Bill Spohn 22:19
Gotmold.com. You mentioned to me when we spoke before that you do have some contractors coming to you. You said some plumbing and basement contractors coming to you. So this is not a consumer kit, this is a professional grade kit that can be used easily by consumers, but as well, by professionals. Tell me a little bit more about that.
Jason Earle 22:37
Yeah, it was designed for consumers no doubt. We have a very specific consumer in mind for this. But like most tools, you will find that there are other uses. And we’ve been getting a number of plumbers contacting us. They’re using our test kit to test in spaces where they’re being brought in for something where they think there might be water damage, or specifically for water damage and they’ll test right before as soon as they get there. Just grab an air sample, to make sure that there’s not any pre existing mold problem so that they don’t get brought in to say that they cause mold.
So that’s a very interesting piece. The other one is HVAC contractors are interested in this because they can test the air and helps them in terms of upselling. It helps them in terms of being able to, they’ve got filters in various different indoor air quality improvement devices, that data helps support the marketing. We’re seeing more and more of these kinds of cases. And then even some of the home inspectors, we’re seeing home inspectors that are interested in using our pump because it’s super lightweight, and it doesn’t require calibration. And also the ease of use, they can just grab it right there and just drop it in the mail. There’s no forms, there’s no paperwork to fill out. It’s really, we’ve just made it as easy as you possibly can.
Bill Spohn 23:43
So everything is coded somehow, barcoded or something?
Jason Earle 23:47
Yeah, there’s barcodes on everything, every single cassette. In fact, here’s one of the when you buy a Got Mold? Test Kit, it comes in, you get the kit like this, okay, and inside are two different boxes. There’s a box that contains the air sampling pump, and there’s a box contains the cassettes. And so this is box number two, and that contains the air sampling cassettes. And they are all coded. There’s a barcode here, there’s a barcode on this cassette, so everything is linked.
So even if they were to break apart at the lat, you would still be able to connect the dots. There’s lots of different fail safes built into that. So the kit sets come in this box. But then when you’re done, you activate the kit, put in your sampling data. And then this is the return mailer. This goes right in, so…
Bill Spohn 24:28
Jason Earle 24:28
Bill Spohn 24:30
Goes back to that professional lab you mentioned before, EMlab P&K.
Jason Earle 24:34
That’s right. And we’re working on right now, honestly, but we’re going with one location, and we’re working with him. This is in the interest of we’re still early in this. So we’re still one little lab location, one fulfillment house. So some of the mail is slow right now because of COVID and holidays and stuff. So we’ll ultimately be working with all the different locations from multiple facilities. So the turnaround times moves very fast. Their turnaround time at the lab is two days, but once they get there, so sometimes the mail hold things up, but we’re working through that. So I’d say in the next six months or so we should probably be able to get the result back in three to five business days on average, which is a pretty fast turnaround.
Bill Spohn 25:05
Just want to make sure you’re aware of the fact that Got Mold? has created a special landing page for our listeners, basically you, www.gotmold.com/trutech t r u t e c h. And if you wish to purchase a Got Mold? Kit, you can use the discount code, trutech10, t r u t e c h 10. So take a look at the website, and if you’re interested, purchase a kick. I have a couple coming my way shortly, and I’ll be using them and also giving some feedback. Thanks. Tell me about the process of going from a concept to what you had to work through timewise. Not money wise so much, but the investment of what it took to get to this point. And were there any points along the way where you were ready to let it go?
Jason Earle 26:00
I always say when people ask me, should I start a business, I try to get to there why. I try to figure it out because the risk is that you if you’re going to go for something really meaningful, there’s always potential collateral damage. I started this 20 years ago. It’s been an uphill battle the whole time. This concept I started in 2007, really, and I did a beta test and then it went on ice. And then really when I read it some expansion struggles with 1-800-GOT-MOLD?, I realized that I was pushing on the wrong door. I was pushing on it on a door they said open, it said pull, was pushing on it and with all my brute force. I was pushing on on a door that said pull. And so when I stopped and relax for a moment and pulled something I was like, wow, what’s behind here. I pulled our beta test out and said hey, this is what the consumer needs right now the consumer is ready for it 23 andme, Kolaga, all these do it yourself Test Kits are now in vogue and the consumer has been trained, especially with COVID testing, too. I started doing this when I started way before COVID but COVID has really accelerated that. So it has taken me, by the way, I’ve raised it relatively significant amount of outside capital. Fortunately, it’s been mostly through my customer base, my mold inspection customers have been my primary investors in our test kit, which is gratifying.
And also, it’s very organic and grassroots. So these people who we helped, they want to help others and that’s just totally in alignment with me. And yes, I’ve nearly lost everything at times, I seriously we’ve been teetered we’ve teetered more times than I care to admit. But I’m proud to admit it now because we survived. And there were many times I said, I wanted to quit. But at the end of the day, the opportunity here and problem continues to grow. And there’s nothing else I could do that would be more meaningful. And I’d rather die trying than look back and wish I had pushed a little harder.
Bill Spohn 27:40
Do people ever reach you, contact you about the product and have a misunderstanding about it? Is there anything typical like, “Oh, you mean, it doesn’t do this?”
Jason Earle 27:49
Everyone wants to know if it can test for COVID? And which makes a reasonable question, but the answer is no. And because COVID will come and go, mold will be here until we’re gone and then some. So I’m betting on that horse, instead. Plus, the other one that’s really common is people want to combine test kits, they want to test 10 rooms, and they want to use one kit or combined kits and they want to see how can a daisy chain these together and get one report that kind of thing, which you can’t do again, it goes back to the Henry Ford thing, you can have a Model T in any color you want, as long as it’s black, right now for us is one, two or three rooms.
That’s a common one too, people also want a desperate hidden mold with this. And this can be a little bit tricky. If there’s hidden mold, hidden mold doesn’t sporulate into the open air in most cases. So there are cases where a test kit that would be looking for the VOCs, or the musty smell made by a company there’s one, by company called PRISM Analytical, that I like a lot home air check. There will be misunderstandings about this because testing is confusing to answer your question.
Bill Spohn 28:42
Could you spend a minute and describe hidden mold a little more, that seems to be important here?
Jason Earle 28:46
Super important. Like any tests, there are false positives and false negatives, any test really will have proclivity towards one or the other or sometimes both, unfortunately. In this particular case, what we’re testing for is evidenced by the name of the device spore traps, we’re looking for spores. So mold produces spores when it’s growing, which are like these microscopic seeds and they will break free from the surface and become airborne and be redisturbed by track traffic and air movement and become airborne again. And so in areas where there’s dampness in a building where the mold is growing on the surfaces that you can see in a room, those spores can easily break free and become airborne and cause air quality issues which can be measured using a spore trap.
Where it gets tricky and this is the big dark secret of a lot of mold testing, is that mold growing in a wall, where there is no visible mold and if you were to even look at it microscope, there is no mold growth on the surfaces that you see, but there is on the blind side on the other side of that wall. If you have mold growth in a wall cavity like that it will be pumping out other byproducts of digestion. So like you’ve got spores, which are the seeds, saying hey, we’re gonna spread out we’re gonna get out there. We’re gonna grow some more folks. But there’s another thing that’s grown that’s being produced which is the musty odor. Everyone’s focused on mycotoxins, but really the musty odor doesn’t get enough attention. And that musty odor is basically mold burps, or mold farts as some people call them, and it’s released. Mold is releasing enzymes onto the material that wants to eat, digesting it outside of body unlike us, and it produces these digestive byproducts. And that musty smell is a chemical potpourri of compounds, which look a lot like industrial solvents. Many of them are carcinogenic, or the very least, they’re less than ideal for human health, and cause immune reactions in sensitive people. In fact, the musty smell, the presence of a musty smell doubles the asthma risk in children. And it also is the second leading indicator behind maternal smoking as a predictor of asthma in children to just the exposure to the musty odor. And this is something that’s not well understood not well, and not so much about understood, but it is not popular knowledge, especially.
So the hidden mold will produce this and that will permeate through sheetrock. That’s what the dogs that we used back in the day, we no longer have mold sniffing dogs, but they are trained to detect the source of that and hone in on that. And then we would drill holes in walls there and sample. So really, when you’re looking at an air quality problem to hyper reduce it, you’re either going to have a pollutant, that’s particulate, that’s little bits of matter, biological or not. And then you’re gonna have gases, oversimplification. And so to properly screen your building for a mold problem without hiring a professional, you’d want it to consider doing spore traps, because they’re the cost effective, very quick turnaround time. And that’s why we launched with that. But you might consider pairing it with a VOC test kit, which would look for microbial VOCs, as well, that would indicate a hidden mold issue. And if you pair those up, you’ve got yourself a really powerful screening tool combo, that for less than 500 bucks, you can get a powerful read on whether or not you have a high likelihood of a mold problem or not hidden or otherwise.
Bill Spohn 31:52
Are you tipping your hand towards a future product?
Jason Earle 31:55
Bill Spohn 31:56
Jason Earle 31:56
Yeah, we’re working on some stuff in that space. And the spore traps serve a great purpose. But every test, and this is something I want to emphasize to anyone who’s looking at testing, there is no silver bullet, there’s no one test that you can take that would eliminate the need for a professional, because you’re always going to have to have the context of the building conditions. In other words, no test results, no single test result is actionable by itself, and that plays through to even to medical tests. You just might have high cholesterol, that doesn’t mean you have heart disease, the doctor will say I need to get more data. And the same thing goes you have high spore counts, I need more data.
What’s the source of the moisture? Is there a visible mold? What are the symptoms of the occupants? How long has this been going on? Is the building occupied or not? You see that that looks a lot like an inspection. And so if you’re going to have remediation done, you have to have that you wouldn’t schedule surgery without having a physical done first. And that’s the same thing. The building as a body as a metaphor plays through really well here. And inspection is a lot like going to the doctor getting a physical, and you would not go get surgery before going to having a proper physical exam and having proper testing done. And so the same thing goes here.
Bill Spohn 33:03
So put a ribbon around this, if you will, is you have this new product, you come with a lot of background, you’ve really studied the topic, you’ve personally experienced it, you’ve got this new product, which solves a problem, part of the problem, but in an important way. Very accessible in the products available now. You mentioned the ebook, is that available now? But through come only when you do a test or can you get it otherwise?
Jason Earle 33:26
Yes, well, actually, thank you for bringing that up. So for your listeners, what we have done is created a welcome page on our website, and it’s located at gotmold.com/trutech, that’s t r u t e c h. And there, you will find a coupon code offering a 10% discount to any of your listeners, which will be trutech10, by the way, t r u t e c h 10. And also there you’ll find a link to download our ebook How to Find mold, which again, just is a 45 page resource filled with inspection checklists and frequently asked questions. We get a lot of really positive feedback on that. I always say that if anyone’s got questions about that they should read that first go through it first. Get fully familiar with your building.
What we’re really encouraging at the end of day with all of this is for people to reestablish a relationship with their house, because your house is your home and your home is your health. And if you can just keep that in mind that this is really your relationship with your home is much more than just this physical thing where you live and work in it. It really is a symbiotic thing. You take care of the building, buildings have a birthday and possibly a death day, the longevity is determined by how well they’re cared for. And so you really do have this opportunity to invest in that and think about it a little bit differently and you’ll be amazed at the dividends it pays you take care of your building. It’ll take care of you.
Bill Spohn 34:47
Yeah, absolutely. Wow. I like the way you close there with the symbiosis. And the building has a lifecycle too, and it needs to be taken care of because it is it does reflect on your own personal health well being and happiness, really in life, a lot of…
Jason Earle 35:01
No doubt about it. I can’t think of anything that has a better return on investment really, truly. And that also has the greatest consequences if you choose not to make that investment.
Bill Spohn 35:09
Right the shelter aspect. Jason, has been very fascinating. I want to thank you for spending the time really glad we had a chance meeting there back almost two and a half years ago, three years ago. I look forward to seeing more good things from you. And I hope we stay in touch and I’m glad I could connect you with my listeners. I appreciate it, Jason.
Jason Earle 35:28
Thank you. I really appreciate it. I’m most grateful
Bill Spohn 35:30
I want to thank you for listening in to the building HVAC Science Podcast. I feel indebted sometimes to all the great individuals I met in the podcasting universe, especially Brian Orr who brought me into podcasting, helped me find my voice. He does the HVACR school, which is a conglomerate of different media and resources. Zach Psioda of HVAC Shop Talk, Stephen Reardon, HVAC reefer guy whose Mike Mayberry, Brennan Billy at Tool Pros. Church its service business mastery, Zac DesJardins at quality HVAC. Folks at HVAC Overtime, Chris Stevens at HVACR videos.
Corbett and Grace Lunsford at homediagnosis.tv, which is the first TV show inhome performance. And of course, Tim Bergmann, who carries a lot of information, conveyed a lot of information in the measure quick YouTube channel. So paint a little debt of gratitude here to all these individuals who helped shaped my ability to do what I do, in building HVAC Science. So thank you for listening in to the building HVAC Science Podcast. We hope you come back again to learn more, what we experienced and what we learned and now take care.