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SUBJECT: Grenfell chemist explores new method for mold detection with support from Centre of Environmental Excellence
DATE: June 9, 2009

CORNER BROOK – Mold: it’s the word that strikes fear in the hearts of administrators and asthmatics alike. In recent years, the M-word has surfaced again and again in the media, as schools and other public buildings contend with the ramifications of poor air quality. 

Detection of molds is difficult as molds have rest periods and/or can decompose. Further, the methods used for detecting the presence of mold can be time and resource consuming. But Don-Roger Parkinson, a faculty member in Sir Wilfred Grenfell College’s Division of Science, has recently confirmed another method that is just as effective, less expensive and timelier. 

In an article titled “Comparison of methyl benzoate and ergosterol for the quantification of mold in indoor buildings and materials” published in American Laboratory (Vol. 41, No. 5), Dr. Parkinson notes that during mold growth, microbial volatile organic compounds are discharged into the air, allowing detection of individual components. His work focuses on the detection of a specific compound, called methyl benzoate. Dr. Parkinson’s research compares this compound with another, ergosterol, which is more commonly used. The process involving ergosterol is slow and it can decompose while being analyzed, hence that method requires extra check procedures.

“This new work demonstrates that it may be possible to consider methyl benzoate as one biomarker for mold analysis since it seems to compare well with ergosterol,” said Dr. Parkinson. “Because of its speed, the technique is less prone to decomposition while extraction and sample workup are ongoing.  In addition, methyl benzoate could be used in air analysis, whereas ergosterol analysis cannot.”

These findings may help environmental consultants in future as they conduct inspections in mold-suspect buildings.  

The research was made possible by the Centre of Environmental Excellence (CEE), which is housed in Grenfell’s Forestry Centre building. The centre works closely with faculty members at both Grenfell College and the College of the North Atlantic in an effort to identify areas of research that qualify for assistance from the Centre.   There is a special focus on supporting and facilitating research that has the potential to help the region. 

 “Because of the significant potential benefits that could accrue from the successful development of a cost-effective, quick, reliable sampling and detection method for mold in indoor air and building materials, the CEE decided to support Dr. Parkinson’s request to fund this project ,” said Dr. Doreen Churchill, project officer with CEE. 

The focus of the centre is to support worthwhile research projects that fall within its mandated areas of interest, such as rural and municipal infrastructure, tourism and forestry. The CEE also functions as a facilitator and utilizes its funding to leverage research monies from several other sources, thus enhancing the overall scope of the type and number of projects it is able to support.

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