ASSE: Proposed Florida Mold Bill Unfair to Consumers

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) urged key Florida House leaders in letters sent this week to reject HB 1659, a bill requiring licensing of all safety, health, environmental and engineering professionals who work on mold analysis and remediation in Florida except industrial hygienists.

Intended to set standards for mold analysis and remediation, ASSE claims the measure as written would reduce consumer access to mold professionals in Florida and provide a loophole for certified industrial hygienists (CIH) to avoid consumer protection provisions that mold licensing would provide.

"It's disturbing that a licensing bill meant to protect Floridians from fraud and unqualified people would exempt one kind of practitioner," ASSE President Mark Hansen, P.E., C.S.P., said. "Why would one group even want to exempt themselves from rules to protect consumers? You don't see one kind of lawyer or one medical specialty trying to get out of Florida's licensing laws. Most professionals understand the benefits to the people they serve."

Hansen's comments were clearly directed at industrial hygienists, and CIHs around the country and one of their professional organizations, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), have been quick to respond.

The issue of licensing has been heating up the group's listserve, and Aaron Trippler, government affairs director for AIHA, responded to members' questions and comments, noting, "AIHA is not supportive of licensing for individuals involved with mold and have not stated we are supportive of licensing. Our language to sponsor such bills has stated clearly 'that we do not believe licensing is the answer at this time, yet we do recognize that some sort of regulation is probably necessary.'"

He noted AIHA did not request certified industrial hygienists (CIH) be exempt from the bill in Florida or in the other bills where it has appeared. And, said Trippler, "AIHA is not attempting to limit members of ASSE from anything."

"This was a decision of the drafter and sponsor of the legislation," said Trippler. "In other words, these individuals believe that CIHs are what I would call 'pre-qualified' for inspection, evaluation and analysis of mold problems."

However, said Trippler, whenever the CIH has been listed in legislation, AIHA has been supportive of this. "In other words," said Trippler, "while we do not believe licensing is the right way to go at this time, if licensing is the choice, we believe that CIHs should be one of those considered pre-qualified. We have never stated they should be the only ones pre-qualified. [But] Why wouldn't we support this [pre-qualification]? This is what our members do."

Another problem area of the bill, ASSE'sHansen noted, is that mold professional licensing would be under the Florida Department of Health, not the Department of Business and Professional Regulations where all other professions are licensed in Florida.

"Not being treated like other professionals would create an unfortunate conflict of interest. A mold professional representing a client could be in a position of having to negotiate with the department over remediation issues. If the Department of Health holds that professional's license, how can he or she independently represent a client?" Hansen asked.

If it is important enough to license safety, health, environmental and engineering professionals in Florida, he noted, they should be afforded the same consideration and benefits under law as other professionals licensed in Florida.

Hansen also pointed out his group feels not enough is known about the actual threats posed by mold at this time to warrant this kind of legislative action.

If the bill goes forward, Hansen claims it would limit the number of qualified occupational safety, health, environmental and engineering professionals who now help Florida businesses and individuals address possible health threats from mold

"This bill would also unfairly give certified industrial hygienists a government-sanctioned competitive advantage over a professional activity that other equally qualified and in some cases more qualified safety, health, environmental and engineering professionals now provide in Florida."

He said he hopes the state legislature "moves with caution" on the issue, adding that because of the costs involved in setting up another new licensing bureaucracy, as well as requiring mold remediation and analysis standards to be written by the state, "it seems best to make sure that any investment made will address actual health threats."

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