AMERICAN SOCIETY
OF SAFETY ENGINEERS

1800 East Oakton Street
Des Plaines, Illinois 60018-2187

847.699.2929
FAX 847.296.3769
www.asse.org

April 4, 2003

The Honorable Mike Hogan
House of Representatives
State of Florida
The Capitol
Tallahassee, Florida 32399

RE: Comments on HB 1659

Dear Representative Hogan:

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is an international organization that represents more than 30,000 safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals dedicated to workplace safety and health. Of those 30,000 members, more than 1200 work and live in Florida and belong to eight ASSE chapters in Florida in Cocoa Beach, Orlando, Sarasota, Palm Beach, Pensacola, Miami, St. Petersburg, and Jacksonville, which is in your District. ASSE's members 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, ASSE is the largest professional occupational safety and health organization and, founded in 1911, has been in existence by far the longest.

On behalf of ASSE's members in Florida, ASSE expresses its concern with your bill, HB 1659, which would require licensing for anyone who deals with the mold issue in Florida but exempt Certified Industrial Hygienists from that same requirement. Although your intent to address the mold issue is no doubt well intentioned, the bill, as written, not only would unnecessarily limit the number of Florida safety and health professionals who could help address any possible health threat from mold, it would also unfairly establish in Florida law a government-sanctioned competitive corner on a professional activity without any rational basis for doing so.

Contrary to the impression given by anecdotal information from the media and those who would unfairly try to benefit from the wide-spread lack of understanding of mold, not enough is known about the actual threats posed by mold at this time to warrant legislative action, including the establishment of a licensing mechanism whose cost would no doubt be born by the taxpayers of Florida. As a result, ASSE and its members in Florida respectfully ask you to reconsider your sponsorship of HB 1659 and not support any further action on the bill until full consideration of the following concerns are addressed.

Mold Expertise Not Limited to CIHs

Among its members, ASSE is proud to count a variety of kinds of SH&E professionals, including Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs) who would be exempt from the licensing provisions of this bill. That most CIHs have the professional capability to help Floridians address the possible health risks of mold is not in question. What is important for you to know is that a variety of other SH&E professionals also have the necessary training that allows them to gain experience in assessing and correcting mold risks in the same professional way CIHs with proper experience have.

As one example, Certified Safety Professionals (CSPs) are a core group of ASSE members, and their stringent and long-established certification examination administered by the independent Board of Certified Safety Professionals includes mastery of industrial hygiene. But, in addition to CIHs and CSPs, there is a long list of other SH&E designations that allow individuals to gain professional capabilities in mold testing and remediation, including but not limited to Certified Hazardous Materials Managers, Certified Health Physicists, Certified Occupational Health Nurses, Certified Professional Chemists, Occupational Health and Safety Technologists, Registered Environmental Assessors, Registered Environmental Health Specialists, Registered Hazardous Substance Professionals, Registered Hazardous Substance Specialists, and Registered Safety Professionals. Each of these professional designations are accredited by either the Council on Engineering and Scientific Specialties Board (CESB) or the National Commission on Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the two internationally recognized bodies that provide a level of certainty that professional designations truly measure the professional capabilities they say the do.

Contrary to what HB 1659 implies, no specific educational training or designation alone guarantees that an individual is capable of addressing mold health risks. Given that fact, if mold is enough of a problem in Florida to warrant a licensing bill, then enough professionals with mold testing and remediation capability should be available for Floridians to use. While no specific numbers are available, it is generally thought that AIHA, the organizations that represents primarily CIHs, has no more than 300 members in Florida. Given that small number and that they are already engaged in professional pursuits, it would only make sense that the full range of capable SH&E professionals be allowed to help deal with any possible threat of mold.

If a concern exists to protect Floridians from unqualified individuals, ASSE suggest that another approach be taken that represents more correctly the current professional status of SH&E professionals without giving one designation what would amount to an unfair economic advantage over similarly capable SH&E designations. That approach would mirror a 2002 New Jersey law that provided titling protection to SH&E designations accredited by the two bodies mentioned above, the Council on Engineering and Scientific Specialties Board (CESB) or the National Commission on Certifying Agencies (NCCA). A copy of the New Jersey bill is attached. The same bill introduced in Florida, or even one limited to professional mold services, would serve your purpose of protecting Floridians without making unfounded decisions about which SH&E professionals are more or less qualified to address possible mold risks in Florida, as HB 1659 would do.

Mold Risks Not Established

Although ASSE understands and appreciates your well-intentioned desire to protect your constituents from what appears, from anecdotal media accounts, to be a widespread threat to the health and safety of Floridians, ASSE would recommend caution and due deliberation in addressing this issue through legislation at this time. Contrary to what the media and some organizations that may have a self-serving but unrelated agenda would lead most to believe, in fact, not enough is known about the actual threats posed by mold to say that any legislative action is the correct action to take at this time. 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

(i)t is hoped that continued studies of the relationship between airborne mold levels and health effects will eventually move the information from a quasi-industry standard to a full-fledged consensus standard and perhaps ultimately, provide the basis for regulatory guidance.

Also enclosed is an 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 any legislation, especially one that would require the adoption of standards and the establishment of a licensing mechanism that, given the small number of professionals involved, would most likely have to be paid for by Florida taxpayers. Given the uncertain nature of the economy and the current threats to the health and security of all Americans, Florida certainly has greater priorities to address than the uncertain possibilities that mold may present.

Other Concerns

HB 1659 poses other specific difficulties that should be addressed before any further action is taken.

For one, licensing by the Florida Department of Health, as the bill proposes, is inappropriate and poses possible conflict of interest problems both for the Department of Health and those who would be licensed under this bill. A professional dealing with mold issue for a client could very well be in a position of having to negotiate with the Department over remediation issues. Having that professional's license held by the Department would certainly compromise that professional's independence and ability to represent her or his client adequately. Like other professions in Florida, the proper authority to license mold professionals is the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. If it is important enough to license SH&E professionals in Florida, as your bill intends, they should be afforded the same consideration and benefits under law as other professionals licensed in Florida.

Also of concern is that the bill contains various provisions -- including insurance requirements and bars to conflicts of interest in delivering services -- that are meant to protect Floridians from fraudulent behavior by those holding themselves out as mold professionals. No individual professional training or certification or even experience guarantees that an individual will not act fraudulently. As a result, licensure laws are never written to exempt, for example, one type of lawyer or one medical practice specialty. SH&E professionals cannot be treated any differently. That this bill exempts CIHs from these provisions only demonstrates the bill's unfortunate intent of advancing the narrow economic interests of a few at the possible expense of those the bill intends to protect.


Conclusion

Again, while your well-meant intent to help protect Floridians from what appears to be a risk to their health and safety is understood, ASSE and our members in Florida urge you to reconsider your sponsorship of HB 1659 and work with all SH&E professionals, not only CIHs, to establish the most effective ways to address the actual health and safety risks posed by mold. ASSE looks forward to working with you and others in the Florida legislature to ensure that the best legislative means are found to ease Floridians' concerns over the threat of mold.

Sincerely,

Mark D. Hansen, PE, CSP
President

 

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