The purpose of the standard, announced at the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists' (ACGIH) "Mold Remediation: The National Quest for Uniformity" symposium in Orlando, is to establish minimum requirements and recommended procedures to be implemented by employers to minimize employee exposure to mold. The proposed standard will not, however, establish an exposure level or action level for identification purposes or trigger remediation activities.
"Mold is an important safety, health and environmental issue for everyone," ASSE Environmental Practice Specialty member Mary Ann Latko, CSP, CIH, QEP, stated in her symposium presentation. "Since safety, health and environmental professionals (SH&E) are already responding to mold-related concerns and are working without a universally accepted standard from a cognizant authority, a standard aimed at protecting workers is very much needed."
Because there is no one universally accepted consensus standard that can be held as the standard of care to protect mold remediation workers in an indoor environment, ASSE petitioned the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to be the secretariat of a canvass standard initiative, Z690, to address worker safety and health during mold remediation projects. ANSI approved the petition.
Although adverse health effects related to exposure to some types of mold have been reported, at this time, there is no conclusive evidence that mold-related illnesses are increasing. Currently, there is no consensus among safety and health and healthcare professionals as to the level of mold exposure that is acceptable in indoor environments.
"Minimizing worker exposure to mold is extremely important. We cannot wait until we are comfortable with the science of mold, we need to protect workers from potential adverse health effects now," Latko said.
Workplace situations and activities have the potential to expose workers to mold. Employers and workers need to be aware of such situations and be able to identify activities that may result in increased potential harm for workers and building occupants to be exposed to excessive levels of mold.
"A key part of the mold debate is that as of today there is still no documentation of universal adverse health effects related to exposure to mold. In contrast, for many hazardous chemicals there are such documented universal adverse effects directly related to certain levels of exposure. For example, any person whose skin comes into contact with concentrated acid will develop a burn and any person exposed to a certain level of nitrogen gas will become unconscious and eventually die," said Latko.
During her presentation, Latko described ASSE's recommended standard of care for workers, preventive measures to use for workers doing indoor mold remediation work, how to assess the mold problem, sampling and testing, interpreting the results, minimizing worker exposure to mold, remediation approaches and responses, and training and certification.
For the full report, the position statement and more information check ASSE's Web site at www.asse.org/prac_spec_cops_issues.htm.