FAQ

Helpful Information

Usually a week. Takes a few days for viable (living) samples to grow in an incubator at 27'C so they can be counted and generally identified, total-count (dead + viable) samples stained and counted under a microscope, the results collated, photographs cropped and inserted, thermographic images processed and the final report prepared in a compact .pdf file and emailed to you.

Nope. I get asked that a lot. So do plumbers, electricians, brickies, chippies, etc. We all charge at least a call-out fee, unless for an obligation-free quote for a larger job or such.

Sure! I charge standard rates for my travel time and distance from Footscray, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and reasonable rates per hour on-site, and for the time spent processing scientific samples and writing the report. Will travel worldwide if you pay for my time and expenses.

Footscray, an innner-ish suburb a little west of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Don't forget to tell us where YOU are so we can give you a reasonable cost estimate given time/distance/airfares/expenses...

Never ask a hairdresser if you need a haircut...

Biotopia has no vested interest in finding microbes then 'fixing' a problem you never had.


Many of our clients are relieved to know there's no mould, moisture or whatever. We really don't stand to gain from finding mould, moisture, bacteria, damage and faults that aren't there, or vice versa!


Additionally, Dr Wes Black is a trained and experienced scientist firstly, and looks for both symptoms and root causes, and how best to manage tradies and remediators to fix them. 

Better to know what the problem really is so it's fixed right the first time for the right price.

Also helps in court cases, insurance claims disputes, etc., if you know what I mean... just sayin'...

In the premises we're assessing?


We test humidity, temperature; 'viable' ('living') and 'total' airborne and surface mould/bacteria; moisture in soil, brick, masonry, wood; chemicals in dust, soil and water such as Lead, Aluminium, Cadmium, Zinc, etc.


We photograph premises and use thermographic infra-red cameras to find cold/hot regions representing possible moisture issues, poor insulation, drafts, etc.


We can write you a report that can help guide you in fixing the mould and moisture problem. This means the builder, plumber, plasterer, cleaner you hire knows what to fix and how to fix it.

We also do post-remediation verification (PRV) for remediators, demonstrating that the site is now mould and moisture-free... or what needs doing to get it all the way there.

Dr Wes Black is often found presenting reports to AFCA (the Financial Ombudsman), insurance IDR (Internal Dispute Resolution), state Tribunals like VCAT, NCAT, QCAT, and even the Financial Services Royal Commission.

When not doing that, Wes can be found mucking out a neglected marine fishtank or faffing 'round with a telescope looking at planets. 

You can try. Let us know how you go.


When it comes back, we can help you identify why the mould was growing there in the first place, often poor ventilation or a leak somewhere, and assist you in fixing the root cause...


...and definitely some better treatments.


Same for 'vinegar' and many other 'magic foo-foo juice' solutions... there is no substitute for elbow-grease and a sensible experienced approach, then having it tested again after to check it worked!

I READ ONLINE VINEGAR IS THE BEST FOR MOULD

You can try vinegar...

We are happy to receive your call later when the mould comes back, however.


The alkaline pH of plasterboard tends to neutralise the acid pH of the vinegar pretty quickly. Same goes for concrete, mortar, lime.

Acid will tend to degrade vegetable fibres in wood, paper, cotton clothing, etc., and tends to damage marble and some other finishes.

The trick seems to be to fix the leak, rising damp or whatever is causing the moisture problem that leads to the mould problem.


Then carefully drying the building materials that hold a much larger amount of water than most people (tradies included) ever realise.

This is especially so for thick masonry, footings/foundations, slabs, subfloor soil, and even thick timbers. 

Don't even bother trying to clean and/or dry fibrous insulation, it never works.

I HEARD MOULD IS TOXIC. WHAT'S THE DEAL THERE?

They fight dirty. No, really! Usually many different microorganisms simultaneously colonise any convenient food source.


They can secrete substances to inhibit the growth of competing organisms.


The drug, Penicillin (from the mould, Penicillium chrysogenum) is one such mould 'toxin' that inhibits bacterial growth, but doesn't harm us unless you're allergic.


There are plenty of fungal toxins that do, however, including toadstools like the 'death cap mushroom' Amanita phalloides (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanita_phalloides) which occasionally cause fatalities in Australia after people eat them by accident.

It's unclear if many types of mould and other fungi/organisms found in damp houses actually have much toxin, or always have them depending on exact species/strain and the growth conditions and what they're growing on, with, etc.

Usually the allergic effects are far more common and severe, increasing over time and exposure to mould dusts, especially live / viable mould spores that may germinate in the nose and throat, which the body does NOT like.

Dr Wes Black, our CEO, has a doctorate (PhD) in microbiology, post-graduate diploma in biotechnology, and a bachelor of science (BSc) majoring in microbiology, all from The University of Melbourne.


He also has qualifications/experience in cGMP/GLP at the pharmaceutical giant, CSL Ltd., and is a recognised Member of the Australian Society of Microbiologists (MASM).


He was a research scientist and has many publications in reputable scientific journals.


He worked as a quality auditor / validation metrologist for many years at CSL Limited, which included much environmental validation, monitoring sterile dispensing suites.

He did a short stint lecturing in Biotechnology at RMIT, and teaching microbiology stuff to vet and biotech undergrads, and regretfully, high school students after various funding bodies declared in about 2007 there'd never ever be some sort of respiratory viral pandemic that would need a new antiviral drug and/or vaccine... 

Many insurance policies for domestic and commercial premises include flood, storm and water damage including leaky water pipes, roofs, guttering, etc.


Sometimes these are not evident immediately, taking a while for mould to grow and cause discolouration on walls and odours in rooms.


A professional report from a microbiologist can assist in the resolution of such claims.

This is often of benefit to the insurer, too, helping expedite the claim, preventing claim leakage and variations, and limiting exposure.

That's your garden variety bacteria (bacterium) that came from faeces.


Usually, these organisms are quite harmless but are used to demonstrate that faeces are present, which could (but not always) have more harmful organisms (yeasts, moulds, bacteria, viruses) that are much harder to detect reliably.


After flooding events the sewer systems do tend to back-up and spill into houses.


If flooding has occured in the street outside, they can be brought in on dirty shoes, clothing and pets.

Australian standard spelling, not US of A.


The words 'mould' and 'mildew' are derived from the same Norse word for 'fuzzy', describing how mould usually looks on a surface.


Technically "mildew" doesn't grow in houses, but plant pathogens like 'powdery mildew' do infect some plants... whole other kettle of fish...


The word 'mold' is derived from the French/Latin 'molde' meaning 'to shape or form'.


In my books, 'mould' describes the growing fungus, while 'mold' describes a thing you might pour jelly into. Powdery mildew is what might bother your rose bushes.


There is some confusion about this worldwide.

It just seems more and more people are allergic to the strangest things, like peanuts, or tree nuts, or seafood, or dust, or pollen, or even cow's milk.


There seems to be an association between these severe immune reactions and autoimmune diseases. No-one's really certain, or at least, there are quite a few competing theories on why.


My favorite is the 'hygiene theory' in which we evolved to expect many lifelong immune challenges such as intestinal parasites and other diseases, but no longer are exposed to them and our immune systems over-react to fairly harmless things.

Also, new houses, apartments and offices are much more sealed up to achieve better energy efficiencies for heating/cooling, but usually at the cost of ventilation and the removal of moisture from normal things like breathing, showering, cooking, laundry, etc.


Apartments are especially prone to this.

Then it seems a lot of buildings are just not well maintained, or a number of home-spun fixes and shoddy reno's, or not well built to begin with.

 
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