Mold Regulatory Alert
State of New York Announces Forthcoming Mold Regulations
In response to concerns that arose following cleanup and remediation of mold following Hurricane Sandy, Governor Cuomo has signed legislation that will result in licensing of mold investigators and remediators through the New York State Department of Labor, effective July 2015 (Bill A4759-2015). Licensing, as well as minimal standards for both building investigations for mold and necessary remediation will now become regulated at the State level. This will impact New York Property Owners and Managers.
Summary of Regulations
The regulations are modeled after similar regulations for asbestos that have been in place since the late 1980’s as well as mold licensing requirements in other states such as Maryland and Florida. The new regulations include:
- Minimal age requirement of 18 for licensees;
- Completion of state mandated (and New York Department of Health approved) training;
- Minimal liability and Worker’s Compensation insurance for remediation contractors;
- Prohibition of serving as a mold assessor and remediator for the same project;
- Licensed assessor’s remediation plan to specify work practices, areas of abatement, personal protective equipment, engineering controls, and final acceptability (“clearance”) criteria;
- Remediation addressing underlying sources of moisture-creating mold conditions;
- Site-specific written work plan provided by remediation contractor consistent with the remediation plan prepared by the licensed assessor; and
- Third party (mold assessor) oversight of mold remediation work.
While regulations of this type appear protective, they often result in lowering the bar of the industry’s existing level of quality. Unlike asbestos and lead, which are definitively regulated, there are no set health-based numerical “mold levels” that can be tested through environmental sampling that denote a “safe” vs. “hazardous” condition. No standard for how to test for mold even exists; and no state or federal agency (including the EPA or the CDC) has published a “minimal exposure level” for mold that may cause illness. Building evaluation for mold (fungal) growth and the assessment of health risk is, therefore, much more subjective, and requires a combination of multi-discipline knowledge and experience including, but not limited to, building structure, materials and operational dynamics, mechanical systems, water/moisture pathways, mechanisms of building humidity control and drying, the biology of mold, electronic and infrared moisture monitoring instrumentation, and sophisticated mold sampling and analysis. Integration of these various disciplines within an overall framework of public health, hazard assessment, and building operation is necessary to place building conditions and potential risk to occupants within the proper context.
To address this, various professional organizations such as the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provide comprehensive credentials, such as a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), while the American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC) provides specific certifications for mold assessment (e.g., Certified Microbial Consultant) and remediation (e.g., Certified Microbial Remediation Supervisor). For many years, these have been recognized as the appropriate level of professionalism required for such work. Similarly, the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is recognized internationally and has offered various levels of restoration and mold remediation certifications for more than 40 years. In contrast, these well-established and nationally recognized certification programs are in place and exceed the minimal mold licensing requirements established by New York’s new regulations, which do not require any significant experience or formal environmental/public health training other than what is necessary to pass a one hour licensing examination. Finally, it should also be recognized that professional organizations such as the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) have published guidelines and standards for assessment of buildings with suspect water damage and the potential for mold growth.
While WCD applauds the State of New York in its recognition of the need to have qualified professionals engaged in mold assessment and remediation, licensing is only one step in addressing the potentially significant public health and economic issues involved. We firmly assert that basic state licensing and validated professional certifications are not the same, and we are discouraged by the low professional standards established by the new regulations. The new licensing standards do not reflect the multi-discipline approach necessary to fully understand and effectively address mold issues in buildings. Building owners and managers should not assume that an individual or firm licensed under the new regulations is fully capable of thorough assessment of mold conditions and associated risks, or lack thereof.
The WCD Group has been providing technical assessment and remediation services for water damage and mold growth for the construction and real estate sectors for twenty years under the supervision of board certified professionals. We participate in the ASTM committee that is developing standards for the various functions necessary in appropriate building assessment. We have developed assessment and sampling techniques which have been peer reviewed and published in several technical journals to include the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, and presented same to various organizations to include the AIHA and the International Society for Indoor Air Quality and Climate. We have defended owners and insurance companies in over 100 mold claims and litigations, including class action suits in Florida and Louisiana following hurricane damage, as well as extensive response to super storm Sandy. WCD and our staff are also fully certified by the IICRC. We firmly assert that basic state licensing and certifications do not represent equivalence in knowledge, experience, or value that can brought to bear for a particular building or circumstance.
Want to Learn More?
To discuss the developing regulations and the WCD approach, please do not hesitate to contact WCD at 212 631-9000.