OF SAFETY ENGINEERS
1800 East Oakton Street
Des Plaines, Illinois 60018-2187
April 8, 2003
The Honorable Samuel Thomas III
610 Farnum Building
Post Office Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536
RE: Including Appropriate Safety, Health and Environmental Professionals in SB 185
Dear Senator Thomas:
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is an international organization representing more than 30,000 safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals dedicated to workplace safety and health. Of those members, more than 900 work and live in Michigan and belong to three chapters in Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids. ASSE's members are committed to seeing that every American worker has the best possible opportunity to return 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 Michigan, ASSE respectfully asks that you reconsider or amend SB 185, the bill you sponsored to establish a task force that would help the Department of Community Health establish permissible mold exposure limits for Michigan. ASSE's concern is that, because Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs) are the only SH&E designation included in the task force proposed by SB 185, the bill does not reflect the fact that a variety of other SH&E professionals also have both the training and experience to provide expertise on mold issues. Not including a wider representation of SH&E professionals limits the capabilities of the task force from the beginning and leaves open the possibility that one SH&E designation may be given economic favor over others in the way Michigan ultimately decides to address the mold issue.
CIHs Not Only SH&E Mold Professionals
That CIHs are qualified to be included in the task force is not in question. ASSE is proud to count a variety of SH&E professionals, including CIHs, among its members. In fact, ASSE's Industrial Hygiene Practice Specialty is the fastest growing area of the Society's membership. What is important is that, if the task force is to provide the best advice on the issue, it should include the widest possible breadth of knowledge and experience available so that the most appropriate recommendations can be made to the Department of Community Health.
CIHs are not the only SH&E designation capable of addressing mold analysis and remediation issues. As one example, Certified Safety Professionals (CSPs), which are a core group of ASSE members, must pass a stringent and long-established certification examination administered by the independent Board of Certified Safety Professionals that includes demonstrating mastery of industrial hygiene. In addition, 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.
ASSE suggests that the bill be amended to include on the task force safety, health and environmental professionals with designations accredited by CESB or NCCA. This change would ensure that Michigan receives the widest and best possible advice from qualified SH&E professionals. But it would also help guard against the possible unintended result of giving an unfair economic advantage to one group of professionals if the ultimate recommendations made by the task force do not reflect that a variety of SH&E professional are capable of addressing the possible risk associated with mold. Included here is a New Jersey law passed last year that uses this approach in assuring title protection for both CIHs and other safety professionals, something CSPs, CIHs and other safety professionals in New Jersey worked on together to achieve.
Mold Risks Not Fully Established
Although ASSE appreciates your well intentioned desire to protect Michigan's citizens from what appears, from anecdotal media accounts, to be a widespread threat to health and safety, 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 agenda would lead most to believe, 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 what is actually 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 permissible exposure limits for mold.
Both our members in Michigan and staff at ASSE's national headquarters stand ready to help you fulfill your goal of helping Michigan's residents and businesses deal with the possibility of mold risks to health and safety. ASSE appreciates your time and consideration of the Society's concerns.
Mark D. Hansen, PE, CSP
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