OF SAFETY ENGINEERS
1800 East Oakton Street
August 23, 2002
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
RE: Comments on the "United States Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act" (HR 5040)
Dear Representative Conyers:
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) represents more than 30,000 safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals dedicated to workplace safety. They are committed to seeing that every American worker has the best possible opportunity to go home healthy and safe from their jobs. As the enclosed fact sheet indicates, the Society is the largest professional safety organization and, founded in 1911, has been in existence the longest.
Therefore, on behalf of ASSE's members, we commend you for addressing in legislation the rapidly growing national concern over the health risks associated with mold. The "United States Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act of 2002" (HR 5040) sponsored by you is a significant, meaningful first step in finding ways at the federal level to address the mold issue and to provide a safety net of protections to those whose health is compromised by it. Your leadership in this issue is greatly appreciated.
We respectfully ask you to consider several suggestions for changes in the bill that, based on the experience and expertise of our members, we believe will help you achieve your goal of meeting the threats posed by mold. ASSE's specific comments concern the following:
Although ASSE understands the desire to move quickly to address the threats posed by mold, not enough is known about that threat to be able to say that standards can be written in a year, as the bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in conjunction with appropriate federal agencies to do. Use of the term "toxic mold" itself reflects how inadequately the issue of health threats posed by mold has been defined. "Toxic mold" is being used in the popular press as an umbrella term to represent a broad spectrum of health threats, from substances that might cause mild allergic reactions in some people to environmental threats such as leaking sewage pipe contamination that threaten all people.
Enclosed is a recent article from Professional Safety, ASSE's professional journal, entitled, "Mold 101: An Overview for Safety, Health and Environmental Professionals." In short, the article states that, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) currently offer guidelines for determining mold risks, much of the information on the health risks of mold is only anecdotal. The article goes on to say
Enclosed is another article entitled "Molds and Mycotoxins in Indoor Environments" published recently in ASSE's Industrial Hygiene Practice Specialty newsletter. The article reiterates the position that, though progress is being made in determining the health effects of mold, still more needs to be learned.
ASSE is confident more will be known in the near future. ASSE's own Environmental Practice Specialty and Industrial Hygiene Practice Specialty are currently studying the issue and will be making recommendations about how to proceed in addressing mold threats. Until more is known about the science of the issue, ASSE suggests it would not be appropriate to move forward with a standard at this time. Perhaps more useful now would be targeted increases in funding to EPA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which spearheads research in workplace safety issues. At this point, the need for research that can determine the link between mold and health far outweighs the need for specific action.
The Society also hopes that consideration be given to looking towards the voluntary consensus standard process to establish such a standard. It could be that mold is an issue that will allow no firm rules to be established, which would make it extremely difficult for a federal agency to determine a standard. If so, the guidelines already recommended by OSHA, ACGIH and other organizations could become the basis for establishing consensus among stakeholders in housing, business, labor, safety, health and environmental professional organizations, and groups that represent public interests. Such a process could more effectively establish acceptable risks.
The voluntary consensus standard building process also will ensure inclusion of those organizations that develop national building construction standards and codes in determining the best approaches to dealing with mold. Organizations like Building Official Code Administrators International and the National Fire Protection Association could play a key role in determining comprehensive solutions to the difficulties caused by mold. Much of the evidence indicates that the primary cause of mold is moisture being trapped in buildings, the result either of existing construction standards not being followed or construction standards not being adequate to prevent mold. It will be difficult to achieve comprehensive solutions to the problems caused by mold without addressing construction standards.
ASSE is deeply concerned that the bill does not reflect the long-standing reality that a variety of SH&E professionals are highly qualified to perform the inspections, remediation and planning work that this bill would encourage. While the bill leaves the establishment of specific certification standards to the EPA and other appropriate federal agencies, the language gives the appearance of limiting such certification to industrial hygienists [Section 103(a)(2)]. The same apparent limitation is included in language concerning public housing inspections in Section 203(d) of the bill. Restricting the kinds of professionals who may address mold not only overlooks most professionals who businesses and public agencies now turn to in order to make buildings safe from environmental threats such as mold, it would also keep the bill from achieving its goal. Simply, there are not enough industrial hygienists to provide the services envisioned in HR 5040.
Rather than requiring the promulgation of standards for specific safety and health professions, the bill should address requirements for education and training of those involved in the recognition, evaluation and control of mold-related problems. Further, the bill should specify and recognize basic education and experience qualifications that would exempt individuals from additional education and training requirements. Examples would include those with an advanced degree - M.S. or Ph.D. -- in the life sciences, physicians, and other qualified health professionals who have demonstrated education, expertise, and experience in recognition, evaluation and control of mold-related problems. Such individuals would also include those with certifications awarded by accredited certifying bodies in safety or industrial hygiene. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals, the American Board of Industrial Hygiene, and the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management are examples of such accredited certifying bodies. Each is accredited by the Council on Engineering and Scientific Specialties Board (CESB) or the National Commission on Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The protections your bill seeks to ensure mold expertise would be enhanced simply by requiring that professional credentials be accredited by at least one of these two organizations.
A similar concern is that the bill would require standards
for certification of mold testing labs when, in fact, well established
systems of accreditation of such laboratories already exist and have proven
to be successful. The Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory, the American
National Standards Institute and the American Industrial Hygiene Association
all have accreditation programs used in the private sector. The bill could
recognize these programs and be assured that quality in mold testing will
The Society urges you to consider including in HR 5040
OSHA and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
where federal agencies are tasked with responsibilities. While the bill
properly addresses the threat of mold in housing and public buildings,
the same possible health threats exist in workplaces where working Americans
spend about a third of their time. OSHA's enforcement officers are already
addressing mold as a health threat in workplaces. NIOSH is the national
leader in workplace safety research and would certainly have much to offer.
In provisions that would establish a standard in Section 103 and public
education programs in Section 104, OSHA and NIOSH should be directly mentioned.
Likewise, in Section 102, OSHA and NIOSH should take part in the comprehensive
study of mold that would be required.
Education repeatedly has proven to be a forceful weapon in combating public health threats. Including provisions in your bill to provide public education to help face the threat of mold recognizes this fact and is commendable. To help make this effort most effective, ASSE asks that consideration be given to including professional safety, health and environmental organizations in the development of public education initiatives.
Through the knowledge and expertise of SH&E members, such organizations can help develop educational resources that address mold. ASSE members' work already requires communicating effectively to the public, especially in making workplace health and environmental risk understandable to workers. In addition, such organizations already have in place materials and programs that could be incorporated in government outreach efforts. For example, ASSE's own National Registry of Safety Professionals is a resource of SH&E professionals already freely available online (www.asse.org) to help the public find qualified professionals to deal with mold threats. ASSE would welcome the opportunity to work with any federal agency to help educate the public.
ASSE has long called for tax incentives to encourage
private sector interests to invest in workplace safety. Therefore, we
commend you for your foresight in including such incentives here for mold
inspection and remediation. Of course, such a tax credit would come at
the cost of public revenue. We would hope that, if such a credit were
instituted, a cost benefit analysis would be conducted to ensure that
the credit would provide a reciprocal benefit by also reducing costs to
the public. Typically, investment in safety results in savings beyond
saving lives and reducing injuries. ASSE is confident that the same outcome
will result from this public investment.
Finally, ASSE applauds you for your foresight in including provisions that would provide antitrust protections for the development of industry standards addressing mold-retardant building products. If necessary to encourage the development of such a standard for mold, we ask you to consider making such an incentive applicable in general to all industry efforts aimed at establishing standards that can help bring safer, healthier and environmentally sound products to market.
Again, ASSE commends you for your leadership in offering legislation to address the health risks Americans face from mold both at home and at work. ASSE stands ready to assist you and your staff to make sure your legislative initiative reaches its potential in addressing the health risks posed by mold. We look forward to working with you.
Mark D. Hansen, PE, CSP
to go back to the ASSE Federal Statements and Testimony page.