AMERICAN SOCIETY OF SAFETY ENGINEERS
August 29, 2003
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
RE: Comments Concerning the "United States Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act of 2003" (HR 1268)
Dear Representative Conyers:
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is an organization representing more than 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professionals. Our members are committed to seeing that every American worker has the best possible opportunity to go home healthy and safe from their jobs each day. The Society is the largest professional safety organization and, founded in 1911, has been in existence the longest.
ASSE commends you for taking, once again, the lead in the 108th Congress in addressing the growing national concern over possible health risks associated with mold. Your bill, the "United States Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act of 2003" (HR 1286) reflects your commitment to help alleviate Americans' fears over mold. It also reflects thoughtful reception to the ideas your mold bill engendered in the 107th Congress. While ASSE fully supports your overall goal for this legislation and views HR 1268 as a significant step forward in addressing mold concerns, we respectfully ask you to consider the following suggestions for changes in the bill that, based on the experience and expertise of our members, will help you achieve your goal of addressing Americans' mold concerns.
ASSE urges you to reconsider the use of the term "toxic"
with mold in HR 1268. Use of the term arises out of the media and plays
Again, we are enclosing two articles from recent ASSE publications that indicate just how little is known about the health risks associated with mold, thereby demonstrating how misleading use of the term "toxic" is. An article from Professional Safety, ASSE's professional journal, entitled, "Mold 101: An Overview for Safety, Health and Environmental Professionals" states that much of the information on the health risks of mold is only anecdotal. Another article entitled "Molds and Mycotoxins in Indoor Environments" published recently in ASSE's Industrial Hygiene Practice Specialty newsletter, reiterates the position that, though progress is being made in determining the health effects of mold, still more needs to be learned.
If Congress is to succeed in lowering the fears that Americans have over mold, the use of appropriate terminology in the public debate is important.
Research the Key
ASSE commends you for making research the centerpiece of HR 1268. If we know anything about mold health risks, we know that not enough is known. Before any standards or requirements can be determined, good science needs to be applied to the issue.
However, to ensure that the study and research that would be required by the bill produces the results intended, the bill should provide added funding to the federal agencies so they can conduct meaningful research. Without it, these agencies are being called upon to do an important task out of existing resources. Given that the agencies named already are charged with protecting the public in various ways, they should not be asked to balance the need for research here against their other responsibilities.
Including OSHA and NIOSH
Also necessary for success is the addition in Section 102 of both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Center for Disease Control's National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is responsible for federal workplace safety and health research, to the agencies called on to conduct the study. Americans typically spend about a third of their time in the workplace and are vulnerable to possible health risks on the job as well as at home. OSHA has already established guidelines for mold exposure, and both of these agencies have established communications and programmatic capabilities that would serve the purpose of this study well.
ASSE understands the hope that, following appropriate research and study, national standards concerning mold analysis and remediation could be quickly established. However, the one-year time deadline given to the federal agencies for standards following the passage of the bill is not enough time for appropriate research and study to occur. A more appropriate approach would be to require the promulgation of standards one year after the completion of the multi-agency study required in Section 102.
As we have urged in the past, ASSE urges that consideration be given to the voluntary consensus standard process to establish such a standard. Mold may prove to be an issue for which no firm rule can be established, which would make it unwise for a federal agency to determine a standard.
Inclusion of Appropriate Safety, Health and Environmental Professionals
Looking across state legislative activities concerning mold over the past year, it is apparent that determining who is qualified to practice mold analysis and remediation is a driving concern. Builders and insurance companies are fearful of individuals who hold themselves out as mold experts and give home or business owners incorrect advice on complex questions, some of which even the best safety, health and environmental professionals with extensive mold expertise cannot answer pending more scientific research.
Compounding the problem is the spread of quick mold courses being offered by unqualified individuals resulting in worthless certifications in mold analysis and remediation, confusing the public even further. Costs resulting from this lack of certainty over what training and experience would make a mold practitioner qualified are mounting. Your bill provides a unique opportunity to help set the qualifications mold practitioners should have in order to be able to hold themselves out to the public as professionals. To meet this need, ASSE urges you to consider the following amendments to HR 1268.
Amendments should begin at Section 103(a)(2). It is inappropriate that industrial hygienists alone among qualified practitioners are included in this provision, which calls for federal
Industrial hygienists are only one of a variety of safety, health and environmental professionals who may be certified and otherwise qualified to perform mold analysis and remediation. In fact, Certified Industrial Hygienists are no more inherently qualified to assess or remediate mold risks than a variety of other safety, health and environmental professionals, including but not limited to Certified Safety Professionals, Certified Hazardous Materials Managers, Certified Occupational Health Nurses, Certified Professional Chemists, and Occupational Health and Safety Technologists. Individuals with these credentials are already widely accepted throughout industry for their professional capabilities and responsibility because their credentials are awarded by recognized and accredited certifying bodies, including the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, the American Board of Industrial Hygiene, and the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management. Each of these bodies, in turn, is accredited by the Council on Engineering and Scientific Specialties Board (CESB) or the National Commission on Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
Requiring federal certification of any of these professionals,
as HR 1268 would do, would lead to an unnecessary repetition of what
already is established and universally recognized as ensuring safety,
health and environmental professionalism in the private sector. 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
should not seek to replace these programs.
Then, a new subsection (a)(3) would be inserted (with remaining subsections renumbered) that would read
These changes would utilize an already existing system of ensuring professionalism, thus meeting the needs of consumers, builders and insurers, and, in addition, place the focus on the mold work these professionals will be expected to do or manage.
ASSE commends you for recognizing in HR 1268 the role of prevention in addressing mold concerns. Our members find that many of the mold difficulties they face could have been prevented by basic, good construction methods. We support the call in Section 103(b) for HUD to develop guidelines for eliminating conditions before and during construction that create mold.
For the same reason, ASSE supports involving organizations involved in establishing national building construction standards state and local government authorities in developing the standards, guidelines and recommendations required in Section 103. We urge, however, that this involvement be expanded to organizations representing safety, health and environmental professionals. The perspective of the professionals called in after the fact of construction to correct problems can only help in preventing those problems in the first place.
ASSE again commends you for including in your bill provisions that emphasize public education. As in other public health issues, knowledge leads to improvement. In this instance, ASSE believes that the more people know about the facts about mold, the less fear that will exist. We ask, however, that these provisions be amended to include OSHA and NIOSH. As we have said above, if Americans spend about one third of their time at work, educational outreach should be aimed at the workplace. OSHA and NIOSH can achieve that outreach.
ASSE also asks that consideration be given to including professional safety, health and environmental organizations in the development of public education initiatives, including the development of a mold risk pamphlet and lists of individuals qualified to provide mold professional services. Through the knowledge and expertise of its members, these organizations can help ensure that educational resources provide the best possible information. ASSE members' work already requires communicating effectively to the public, especially in making workplace safety, health and environmental risks understandable to workers. In addition, such organizations already have in place materials and programs that could be incorporated in government outreach efforts. ASSE would welcome the opportunity to work with any federal agency to help educate the public.
Again, ASSE commends you for your leadership in offering legislation to address Americans' fears over mold. Not enough is known about the health risks of mold to address adequately their concerns, and HR 1268 would help greatly in helping expand that knowledge. We are confident, however, that 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. ASSE stands ready to assist you and your staff in to make sure your efforts are effective. We look forward to working with you.
James "Skipper" Kendrick, CSP