Florida's Mold: In the Eye of the Hurricane

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Tallahassee's building assessment and remediation stakeholder meeting puts Florida in the forefront of the national mold debate.

Tallahassee, Fla., August 30, 2005 -- The national mold storm's eye has moved over Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). At Governor Jeb Bush's request, a series of meetings by industry stakeholders are taking place with the goal of shaping the regulatory and legislative landscape for the assessment and remediation of mold.

Mold is a major global issue and has become a multi-billion dollar industry with repercussions in health, education, construction, legal, and real estate. Nationally, powerful lobbies have moved quickly to protect their interests, which have resulted in several state agencies enacting mold policies or legislation that have, in many cases, abandoned the consumer.

Florida has long been on the front lines of the mold battle. Hurricane Katrina, with its enormous devastation on a dozen states, will cause havoc for years to come as a result of the latent mold and bacteria that will not be professionally identified or remeidatied. Just last year, a single insurer had over 250,000 insurance mold claims filed. All of those claims were the result of water damage from hurricanes. A year later, many of those prior claims have resulted in legal action against contractors and others due to poor workmanship and lack of standards during the mold remediation processes. With the DBPR's latest actions, Florida is moving into the forefront of the national mold debate by actively engaging in addressing its regulatory shortcomings.

Ed Ziegler, Business Development Manager with Pure Air Control Services, Inc. attended last week's building assessment and remediation stakeholder meeting in Tallahassee. "Much of the "mold is gold" crowd has been operating under the radar of regulatory agencies within Florida's state boundaries as unlicensed contractors," said Mr. Ziegler. "These unmonitored operations have resulted in too many consumers and businesses being fleeced."

Florida's legislative past efforts have included two different mold bills. The various industry lobbies were in full tilt and heavily influenced both bills. The first bill in 2004 did not come to a vote before the legislative body. This year, the second attempt at a mold bill passed both the Florida House and Senate only to be vetoed by Governor Bush in June. The Governor felt the bill was too vague in some areas and would have an adverse effect by placing an unreasonable burden for reputable firms currently providing services to Floridians.

"The various industries that have a vested interest in the assessment and remediation of mold and/or indoor toxins are having a hard time finding common ground," said Alan Wozniak, President/CEO of Pure Air Control Services, Inc. "In the indoor environmental quaility (IEQ) industry's current state, professional experts have difficulty defining what IEQ is, what "mold" is, whether it's toxic, pathogenic or ubiquitous, what the health risks for occupancy exposure levels are, what is normal for bioaerosols, investigation and remediation protocols, procedures, clearance criteria, qualifications of personnel who provide these services, … and the list goes on."

Last week's meeting in Tallahassee focused on mold assessment. The Governor's special counsel, Kyle Mitchell and DBPR's CLIB Executive Director Tim Vaccarro moderated the meeting. The attendees were comprised of individuals from construction, contractor, environmental, legal, education, and special interest groups. Associations represented at the workshop included: American Industrial Hygiene Association, Indoor Air Quality Association, American Society for Safety, Environmental Solutions Association, among others. The more vocal inputs were provided by the diagnostic sciences and construction industries that are both pressing for "control" over mold issues.

Diagnostic sciences professionals are requesting more stringent qualifications for assessors and suggesting independent third-party testing for clearance of remediation projects. Their interests include broadening the issue beyond mold to other microbiological contaminants, which will recur if not addressed properly.

Construction industry pundits requested they be allowed to address mold issues within the scope of their trade. They contend the current problem has been exacerbated by unlicensed contractors and not by reputable, licensed contractors. It was suggested that qualifications of persons addressing mold issues should credit experience, and that special training should be prescribed to assist the trade professionals. They were opposed to the expansion of the issue beyond mold and believe that expansion beyond the current scope of mold as described in the most recent legislative bill would provoke another gubernatorial veto.

Most who attended the stakeholders meeting did agree that licensed contractors should address mold issues, and that persons managing mold projects should receive more education and training.

More meetings are scheduled in the coming weeks and a new legislative bill is slated to be introduced during the legislature's next session. The task before the Florida legislature, DBPR, Governor, and industry stakeholders is great. Nationally, federal and state legislative bodies and agencies are closely watching the developments in Florida.

About Pure Air Control Services:

Pure Air Control Services is interdisciplinary indoor environmental consulting firm providing IEQ consulting services to city, county, state and federal governments, school boards and the private sectors. They have an in-house American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) accredited environmental diagnostics laboratory providing environmental microbiology/microscopy services as well as building/HVAC system remediation services. Pure Air Control Services family of IEQ services includes: Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab™) http://www.EDLab.org; Building Health Check http://www.BuildingHealthCheck.com; Building Remediation Sciences http://www.pureaircontrols.com/buildrem.html. Contact can be made at info@pureaircontrols.com; http://www.pureaircontrols.com; Phone 1-800-422-7873 ext 802.

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