| As published in the Asbury Park Press
His son's asthma set executive on a path that led to new career Aberdeen man will tell you if your house has a mold problem.
by DAVID P. WILLIS/BUSINESS WRITER
LEARNING about indoor environmental conditions years ago to help deal with his son 's asthma helped Aberdeen resident Steve Levy find a new career .
In 2003, Levy, 46, left his job as vice president of sales at Cablevision Systems to start Certified Mold Inspections Inc.
The company tests homes and businesses for high indoor mold levels. He also advises people how to avoid mold and how to get rid of the problem if high levels are found.
Health officials say indoor mold, with its musty smell, can be a problem. It is associated with asthma symptoms in asthmatics sensitive to mold and can cause coughing, wheezing, and upper respiratory tract conditions in otherwise healthy people, according to a report last year by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, based in Washington D.C.
Levy, who earned a bachelor's degree in computer science in 1982, grew up in a Chicago suburb before moving to New Jersey about 16 years ago. He has lived in Aberdeen for about a year.
Levy has long been concerned about indoor environmental triggers, such as pet dander, which can influence his now 14-year-old son 's asthma .
"This is something I have always been in tune to," said Levy, who is divorced and has three children. "When you have a child and you have to rush him to the hospital, that is not a fun thing."
He studied and read books. In 2000, Levy also talked to a friend who owns a New York City mold inspection business.
"The more he talked about it, the more I became interested in it," Levy said. He asked his friend if he could observe his inspections and learn more.
While working full time at Cablevision, Levy underwent training courses and worked to become certified by trade groups such as the National Association of Mold Professionals and the .
Levy, who spent 23 years working for telecommunication companies such as Cablevision, said it was a good time in his life to start a business.
"I wanted to start something that I felt would be a business that I would feel good about," he said.
Levy started the company doing investigations for friends and family. Afterward, he started to promote the business by taking out advertisements in newspapers and talking to groups about mold.
He also is a member of a networking group called the High Impact Networking Team, which is made up of other small business owners who meet once a week and share business leads. He also started a Web site, www.findingthemold.com.
Levy had to spend thousands of dollars on equipment such as an infrared camera that can detect mold-causing moisture behind walls as well as a fiber-optic scope that can be used to see mold inside a home's wall.
Besides these measures, investigators also take air samples to compare mold levels indoors to those that occur naturally outside.
Levy wouldn't disclose sales revenue, but he said in 2003, he almost broke even with 150 inspections. In 2004, he doubled his revenue with close to 400 inspections. A typical inspection can cost $600 to $1,100, Levy said.
While the company does mold inspections, Levy does not remediate the problem.
"I think doing remediation work and testing is a conflict of interest," Levy said. "I decided to just keep it to inspections only."
So what causes mold?
A mold problem is a moisture problem, said Glenn Fellman, executive director of the Indoor Air Quality Association in Rockville, Md.
"Before you spend too much time cleaning the mold or even testing to figure out what kind of mold you have, you have to figure out where the water is coming from," Fellman said.
A source could be a leaky pipe behind a wall or water that has seeped in through a home's foundation, he said.
Mold can be located in various places, including behind a wall, under flooring or on ceiling tiles.
Fellman said mold is a growing problem. For instance, some newly constructed homes have defects that allow water inside, he said.
Besides health issues, mold also can damage a home, Levy said.
"I believe that more and more people are becoming aware of the need to do mold inspections," Levy said. People buy homes and have health concerns about what is happening in the environment, he added.
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