OF SAFETY ENGINEERS
1800 East Oakton Street
Des Plaines, Illinois 60018-2187
April 9, 2003
The Honorable Michael S. Bennett
Tallahassee, FL 32399
RE: Recognizing Appropriate Safety, Health and Environmental Professionals in SB 2746
Dear Senator Bennett:
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 30,000 members, more than 1400 work and live in Florida and belong to eight ASSE chapters in Cocoa Beach, Jacksonville, Orlando, Sarasota, Palm Beach, Pensacola, Miami, and St. Petersburg. ASSE's members are committed to seeing that every American worker has the best possible opportunity to go home each night 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 opposition to SB 2746, the bill you sponsored to require registration under Department of Business and Professional Regulation for any company or individual doing mold assessment or remediation work in Florida. Although your intent to address the mold issue is no doubt well intentioned, the bill, as written, inappropriately gives authority to set registration qualifications to the "American Hygiene Association" (assuming the reference is to the American Industrial Hygiene Association) and the "Indoor Air Quality Association." [Section 5(6)(d)].
References to these organizations in a bill meant to regulate the professional practice of both their members and other professionals who would compete in the marketplace establishes an inappropriate conflict of interest. This bill, if enacted, would hand over Florida's responsibility for determining what would be state-protected professional qualifications to private sector organizations that have no unique expertise in determining mold remediation and analysis qualifications and that, by encouraging the introduction of this kind of legislation, have shown a self-serving intent to keep mold analysis and remediation work in Florida to its members.
No individual membership associations can be given the ability to set restraints on competition, as this bill would give AIHA and IAQA. Nothing in the bill would guard against these organizations setting qualifications that best serve their members over the interest of others equally qualified to provide mold analysis and remediation services in Florida. The only proper role for membership organizations like AIHA, IAQA or even ASSE is to make recommendations and work within cooperative legislative groups to help Florida itself establish the kinds of requirements intended by this bill. But to cede responsibility to any specific organization can only lead to self-serving public policy decisions that would be open to challenge by those whose ability to compete in the marketplace of services is harmed.
Also of concern is that the bill would establish AIHA's laboratory accreditation program as the organization that a mold assessment company would have to purchase accreditation from in order to do business in Florida. ASSE is a strong supporter of accreditation as a way of enhancing quality. However, the citation of the AIHA program in a state bill is completely inappropriate and denigrates other equally capable and established professional programs.
Mold Expertise Not Limited to CIHs
AIHA and IAQA primarily represent Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs) and others who practice industrial hygiene. ASSE's concern is not that those who practice in the industrial hygiene area are unqualified to provide mold analysis and remediation services. In fact, ASSE's own Industrial Hygiene Practice Specialty is the fastest growing segment of ASSE membership. What is important 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.
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, Professional Engineers, 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 high level of certainty that professional designations truly measure the professional capabilities they say the do.
Contrary to what is implied by the inclusion of AIHA and IAQA in SB 2746, no specific certification or designation alone guarantees that an individual is capable of addressing mold health risks. While we oppose this bill, if a registration approach is determined to be necessary in Florida, ASSE suggests another approach that would provide a level of assurance that SH&E professionals are certified by recognized, quality entities. Such an 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 SB 2746 would do.
Mold Risks Not Established
Although ASSE appreciates your well-intentioned desire to protect your constituents from what appears, from anecdotal 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 this type of legislation at this time. Contrary to what the media and some organizations that may have a self-serving 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 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.
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 SB 2746 and to work with a variety of organizations representing SH&E professionals, not only industrial hygiene organizations. Cooperative efforts that reach across the spectrum of those who are qualified to provide mold analysis and remediation services would result in 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.
Mark D. Hansen, PE, CSP
Click here to go back