Saturday, February 22, 2014


ERMI Testing Not Appropriate In Making Mold Cleanup Decisions
By Edward R. Close, PhD, PE, and Jacquelyn A Close


What is ERMI?                                                                                                     

The Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) test for indoor mold involves the analysis of a dust sample using a mold-specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction (MSQPCR) analysis, a DNA method for identifying mold species. This sounds impressive and very cutting edge, but that is misleading. ERMI testing is useful for preliminary screening because it provides fast turn-around and can provide data concerning the relative level of moldiness of the sampled indoor environment compared with national averages.

It has come to our attention that some well-meaning, but misguided, individuals are using the ERMI sampling method to make decisions about whether to remediate mold in buildings and also using the results provided by ERMI Testing to evaluate the effectiveness of mold remediation. It has also come to light that a number of companies are marketing the ERMI sampling technology and misleading the public into thinking that this sampling method is useful and appropriate for these purposes. In fact, it is not appropriate for anything more than preliminary screening. In this article, we will explain not only what ERMI is, but also what the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) says about it, and why it is inappropriate for making decisions with regard to mold remediation or the effectiveness of mold remediation efforts.

How is an ERMI sample collected?  A sample of dust is collected according to instructions provided and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Once the various species of mold in a dust sample are identified, then the ratio of water damage-related species to species commonly found in indoor samples is calculated and compared with national averages. The resulting score is called the Environmental Relative Moldiness Index or ERMI.The lab provides the sender with an ERMI score for the submitted sample. Whether the ERMI score obtained for a specific home or office building is meaningful depends upon how and where the dust sample is collected. The lab analyzing the sample has no control over the sample collection process. If improper collection techniques are employed, then the sample can be compromised and may be worthless.

The crux of the problem in using ERMI is that an ERMI sample provides data analyzed from a single collection of dust found on some material, such as floors, baseboards, carpets, etc. ERMI sampling does NOT provide any information about what mold species are actually in the air you are breathing, which cause the majority of health problems associated with mold exposure. ERMI sampling does NOT provide any information on sources of mold, or where those sources might be located. Thus, ERMI sampling provides little more information than a single tape lift or swab sample would provide, and will almost always provide a positive result for mold.

Most of the companies promoting ERMI sampling advertise that they can rate your home based on the results of a single sample. They say this because collecting and analyzing an ERMI sample is about five to ten times more expensive than a single air or tape-lift sample, even though it gives you very little more in terms of useable information that can help you in making decisions about how to treat, remediate, or determine the effectiveness of remediation efforts undertaken at a site.

ERMI sampling methods will not give you sufficient data to know when, how, or where to undertake mold remediation.

What Does the US EPA Say About ERMI Sampling?                                                              

After receiving a number of complaints that companies were improperly promoting the use of ERMI sampling results to evaluate homes for indoor mold, the EPA investigated and published a paper* in 2013 stating the following: “We substantiated the allegation that firms were using the mold index tool although the EPA had not evaluated the tool for public use.” And the advertising of these firms “could mislead the public into thinking that these research tools (ERMI and MSQRPCR) are EPA approved methods for evaluating indoor mold.” And “Consequently there is a risk that the public may make inappropriate decisions regarding indoor mold…”

* US EPA Office of the Inspector General Report 13-P-0356, August 22, 2013

Why is ERMI Inappropriate for Mold Remediation Evaluation?                  

The analysis of an ERMI sample using DNA technology sounds impressive, as we said earlier. And comparison to national averages could be useful if you don’t know whether you have a serious mold problem or not. However, ERMI is a preliminary screening method, not an in-depth evaluation. No matter how state-of-the-art and sophisticated the analysis may be, a single dust sample only tells you what is in that one sample, not what is in the air you are breathing in your home or business, where the source of those spores might be located, and it does not tell you whether you have a problem in any specific room, in your heating or air conditioning unit, or anything else about where the spores are or may be originating. The microscopic inspection of a tape-lift sample can tell you almost as much and it costs much less. Both of these sampling methods are totally inappropriate for making decisions about what to do to remediate a space and totally inappropriate, when used by themselves, for determining the effectiveness of mold remediation efforts.

Basing cleanup decisions on the score from a single ERMI sample is problematic and may be dangerous. If the score comes back in the mid-range of the national averages, you may conclude that you do not have a serious mold problem. The ERMI score tells you nothing about the variation of mold infestation from room to room. As a Professional Engineer with more than 40 years of mold sampling experience, I have found the levels and species of mold vary greatly from floor to floor and even room to room. Knowing the variation in mold levels found in air samples collected from specific locations where mold is likely to be found provides information that helps identify potential sources of mold. ERMI cannot do that.

ERMI utilizes statistical methods to provide the ERMI score. The danger here is in the misinterpretation of a statistical result. For instance, it is like sitting on a red-hot stove with your feet in a bucket of ice water. You can say quite accurately that ‘on the average,’ your temperature is in the comfortable range!

Even if the dust sample collected is representative of your home, or building as a whole, you may have dangerous levels of mold in one part of your home or work place, masked by adding in dust from extra clean, moldless areas, and this would produce an acceptable ERMI total.

To avoid costly mistakes and serious health problems, effective mold remediation decisions should be based on more detailed information collected as part of a thorough inspection and site-specific sampling and analysis.

ERMI sampling before and after remediation is not helpful for determining how to remediate, and is not appropriate for determining the effectiveness of remediation, because ERMI sampling can easily produce either a false negative or false positive result. It may give a false negative result because the ERMI result only applies to the spot or spots where the dust sample was collected, and there may be a more serious mold infestation elsewhere but without sufficient inspection and air sampling this source would not be found. I have often found that the source of mold spores is not visible, even in homes and businesses that appear extraordinarily clean and mold free based on visual inspection. Mold colonies can hide from sight in attics, crawl spaces, inside walls or in HVAC ductwork, under sinks, in and behind shower stalls, and numerous other places. Spores can spread through a building by the smallest air currents, especially Aspergillus and Pennicillium that are extremely light-weight spores that can remain airborne for over 24 hours after a breeze or even doing something as simple as walking into or through a room.

ERMI sampling does not differentiate between living and dead spores, and does not determine whether the DNA is produced by spores or hyphae (the mold fruiting structures) or hyphal fragments. Therefore, ERMI sampling may give a false positive after remediation because dead hyphae may remain. Hyphae are much more dense in structure than mold spores; for help in understanding their relative size, you could think of the hyphae as trees and spores as the pollen produced by those tress. Hyphae are much larger and much more dense, and may not be completely broken down and digested or dissolved by diffusing. This is why a part of the Close Protocol includes cleaning all affected areas with the Thieves Household Cleaner, especially areas where visible mold is found.

Further, since DNA analysis does not tell you whether the mold in the ERMI sample is dead or alive, it is possible to have dead hyphal fragments that are not producing spores, or mycotoxins, or allergic responses. It may be possible that hyphal fragments not digested by diffusing essential oils, in accordance with the Close Protocol, could provide DNA that would be reported in an ERMI sample. In any case, relying on ERMI scores to make remediation decisions can lead to costly mistakes.

There is some evidence based on anecdotal reports from users of the Close Protocol for preventing and eliminating mold in buildings that mycotoxins may also be digested or broken down by the essential oils. This warrants further study. While dust may get airborne, if disturbed, in cases where the Close Protocol was utilized, individuals have reported that the Protocol provided relief from allergic responses.

We recently received the following from an individual who contacted us personally for help:


Being a Respiratory Therapist Nurse (retired) I knew how terrifying it could be to folks when they were not be able to breathe, but I had not experienced that panic or fear myself until I experienced anaphylaxis from mold exposure. Through God’s Grace, I found     Dr. Ed and Jacqui Close’s website and contacted them for help. I had been told I was allergic to cinnamon, so Jacqui suggested I use Purification, but I wanted to test the Thieves oil as well as the Purification. To my great surprise, I loved the Thieves oil and I was able to stay right beside the diffuser while it dispensed the Young Living Thieves Oil and had no problem with the cinnamon in that blend of oils. I called Jacqui the next day and told her:  “I Can Breathe! For the first time I can breathe deep again.” I am so thankful to God that He directed me to Dr. Ed and Jacqui Close and so very thankful for these precious oils, filled with God’s Love.
~ Ruth H, Vermont

The Close Protocol recommends:

  1. Collect a minimum of 3 Air Samples, including one outdoor air sample, and one in each room and on each floor of a building. Plus, collect Tape-lift and/or Swab Samples of visible mold. This will help identify potential source locations, as well as provide information that can be used to determine how long to diffuse to clear a space of mold.
  2. Diffuse each room with Young Living's Thieves Essential Oil blend for at least 24 hours and up to 72 hours, using the recommended diffuser and directions found here -- 2014 DIFFUSER RECOMMENDATIONS
  3. Repair all leaks and water damage; remove and replace mold infested materials
  4. Clean with Young Living's Thieves Household Cleaner
  5. Diffuse with the Thieves Essential Oil blend again for at least 24 hours.
  6. Re-Sample to verify that all sources of mold have been addressed and the space is clear of mold
  7. If required, repeat the process. Otherwise, diffuse 2-3 days per week for 30 minutes or longer in each room for maintenance and prevention

Why Do We Recommend Young Living's Thieves Oil and Thieves Household Cleaner?

The Close Protocol has now been used successfully by thousands of people across the world. Personally, Dr. Ed Close has supervised, managed and consulted on the use of The Close Protocol in homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, day-care facilities, restaurants, health clubs, and elsewhere. Before and after sampling conducted at over 300 locations throughout the USA have provided undeniable proof of the efficacy of these products. In every single case where Dr. Close was involved, and before and after sampling was conducted, The Close Protocol was successful, removing 100% of all mold spores for species found only indoors, and 97.3% of all mold species including those found in the ambient outdoor air.  

Young Living oils and cleaner were used in the tests conducted by Dr. Edward R Close, because, to our knowledge, they are the only essential oils company that says their oils are safe enough to take internally. "If you can't eat it, don't wear it," is a long-standing moto of the Young Living Company and they teach that if you can't eat the oil, or take it internally, then you definitely do not want to diffuse it or apply it topically because oils used in such a manner may be absorbed into your body, your brain, and your bloodstream as quickly as taking them internally. If you are synthetically or chemically sensitive, then most oils available for sale through various other outlets will be detrimental to your health. Don't sacrifice quality. Protect your health. Prevent and eliminate mold spores safely. 

We recommend Young Living oils and products because they work extremely well, better than any other option currently available for addressing mold in buildings, when used in accordance with The Close Protocol. 
Summary and Conclusion: 

ERMI sampling was developed by EPA and HUD researchers for use as a “moldiness screening tool.” They released their results and allowed the method to be licensed, but have not approved it for general use by the public. An ERMI score may be useful for determining whether your home or workplace has a mold infestation problem by comparing the relative moldiness of your home or workplace with national averages. The results will almost always show mold present. Using ERMI for even such a limited purpose is a useful option only if the method of sample collection is appropriate for the building in question and is representative of conditions in that specific indoor environment. ERMI sampling will not give you sufficient data to know when, how, or where to undertake mold remediation.

The EPA has determined that some companies have produced misleading advertisements promoting ERMI sampling as a method for making decisions regarding mold cleanup and evaluation. ERMI scores are not appropriate for use in making cleanup decisions and evaluating mold remediation results because they lack the detail needed to make such decisions. Decisions based on ERMI scores alone can lead to costly mistakes and unnecessary mold exposure that may lead to serious health problems.

What kind of health problems? 

We reported on this in November, 2013, in our article "Common Symptoms of Mold Exposure," which can be accessed here:  COMMON SYMPTOMS.

According to a report on Mycotoxins by J.W. Bennett and M. Klich, in the Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 2003 July, 16(3): 497-516: 

“Fungi cause human illness in different ways…Primary pathogens affect otherwise healthy individuals with normal immune systems. Opportunistic pathogens produce illness by taking advantage of debilitated or immunocompromised hosts…Some infections remain localized, while others progress to systemic infection…The symptoms of a mycotoxicosis depend on the type of mycotoxin; the amount and duration of the exposure; the age, health, and sex of the exposed individual; and many poorly understood synergistic effects involving genetics, dietary status, and interactions with other toxic insults. Thus, the severity of mycotoxin poisoning can be compounded by factors such as vitamin deficiency, caloric deprivation, alcohol abuse, and infectious disease status. In turn mycotoxicoses can heighten vulnerability to microbial diseases, worsen the effects of malnutrition, and interact synergistically with other toxins…Mycoses are frequently acquired via inhalation of spores from an environmental reservoir …Mycotoxins usually enter the body via ingestion of contaminated foods, but inhalation of toxigenic spores and direct dermal contact are also important routes.


While there is still a great need for further research, you have available to you an option that has been used by pregnant and nursing mothers, hospitals, Neo-Natal Intensive Care Units, schools, nurses, and a growing number of medical doctors, as well as thousands of homeowners with children and pets, without negative side effects. We do not know and cannot predict how a specific individual will respond to the essential oils because we are all unique creations of God. We have different body types, different blood types, different body chemistries, and what works for one person may not work the same way for another. However, we know without question that the Close Protocol for preventing and eliminating mold in buildings is currently the best option available to address this growing attack on our health and wellness. In order to eliminate mold from your body, and restore health, you must first eliminate mold from your environment to the extent possible. Why not choose a non-toxic, eco-friendly, life-supporting, God-created remedy that provides your body with the support it requires to return you to the State of Perfect Health intended for you by God from the first moment of creation? 

If you would like to try the Close Protocol, please click this link for information on what to order:  WHAT TO ORDER.

If you would like help in using the Close Protocol, please visit REQUEST HELP

Wishing You Vibrant Health and Abundant Blessings!

Dr. Ed and Jacqui Close

Edward R Close and Jacquelyn A Close
© Copyright February 22, 2014
Jacquelyn A Close, Edward R Close, and EJC Advantage LLC
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