Mold-certify or not

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Mold-certify or not

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Scott Falvey

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Posted: Nov 7, 2005 9:59 PM       Post Subject:
I am fairly new to inspections and have already come across "mold" in showers and at tops of window sashes where condensation gathers.

Without being "mold certified" what is the best way to report this minimizing my liability.

Is it advisable to become "mold certified". How do you approach the client to charge for a mold inspection, and if they decline a mold inspection and you potentially find mold, how is it reported. Does a certification increase the liability?

Or, is it best to leave it to the professionals and recommend further investigation?

Thanks
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Caoimh?n P. Connell
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Posted: Nov 9, 2005 12:27 AM       Post Subject:

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Hello Scott ?

Just my take, Scott, and not trying to put a damper on things ? but after 18 years in the business, I have successfully defeated, without exception, every HI?s report on mould; (especially the ?Certified Mould Inspectors? ? they?re easiest.)

It?s your liability, and obviously, as an industrial hygienist, I'm very biased in my perspective, but I think you should leave medicine to doctors, teeth to dentists, and moulds and chemical exposures to industrial hygienists.

But those are just my thoughts, and many folks will disagree. Still... having shredded HI?s mould inspections, there are some home inspectors who would now also agree. Feel free to throw stones, I have exceptionally thick skin (my wife callously calls it ?stubborn?... what would she know, eh?)

Cheers,
Caoimh?n P. Connell
Forensic Industrial Hygienist

www.forensic-applications.com

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG
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Joseph Hagarty

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Posted: Nov 9, 2005 12:35 AM       Post Subject:
Scott:

Take the Training.

Education will always be beneficial to yourself and your Clients.

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Joseph Hagarty

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Fax : 610-399-9865

HouseMaster. Home inspections. Done right.

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Larry Kage

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Posted: Nov 9, 2005 4:44 AM       Post Subject:
Scott, I took a 10 hour course and it was very beneficial. Learning what to say or, maybe more importantly, what not to say was enlightening to say the least. I don't currently offer mold inspections because I don't feel I know enough yet and I am busy enough with home inspections.

Like Joe says, education is always beneficial.

--
"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him."
Galileo Galilei

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Scott Falvey

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Posted: Nov 9, 2005 8:40 AM       Post Subject:
Thanks for the input everyone.

If I take the course and become "certified" is there an ethical or moral obligation to my client to report my findings on mold differently than if I never attended the course? ie: more precise or less. In being "certified" will I be ethically or morally obilgated to actively "search" for mold?

Scott
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Larry Kage

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Posted: Nov 9, 2005 9:09 AM       Post Subject:
Scott, I would think it would depend on how you marketed yourself. Do /will you advertise as mold inspections? (cards, brochures, etc.)

I didn't pursue mold inspections specifically because a 10 hour "certification" did not an expert make me. That type of inspection methodology/protocols is much more in depth (continuing education, appropriate lab testing, what to report to the client, additional insurance, equipment, marketing, etc.) than my market would seem to support. The introductory education was great.

You're asking good questions and I'm sure there are many viewpoints out there.

--
"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him."
Galileo Galilei

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Arthur Pightling

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Posted: Nov 9, 2005 9:38 AM       Post Subject:
Hi,

At the risk of having someone who knows more and more about less and less "shred" your report, I think noting "suspected microbial growth" in your general HI report is appropriate. I view it in the same vein as reporting a mouse nest or wood debris in a crawl space. The situation merits report and referral to a specialist at the discretion and choice of the client.
Becoming a "certified mold inspector" and providing testing to determine if and what kind of mold may exist is a business decision including training, test equipment, liability/E&O insurance specific to mold inspection, and the projected return for such efforts.

All the best,
Art
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Caoimh?n P. Connell
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Posted: Nov 9, 2005 10:40 AM       Post Subject:

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Hello Mr. Pightling:

apightling wrote:
At the risk of having someone who knows more and more about less and less...


Well said. For years I?ve held that the more knowledge I gain, the more it serves me to realize just how truly ignorant I am. Which is partially why I stick just to my areas of expertise.

But that?s just me. Perhaps you paddle a different canoe, Brother.

Cheers,
Caoimh?n P. Connell
Forensic Industrial Hygienist
www.forensic-applications.com

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG
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Arthur Pightling

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Posted: Nov 9, 2005 12:53 PM       Post Subject:
Mr. Connell.,

Absolutely, though I must admit I sometimes find myself without a paddle on occasion.

I am in the process of moving to the Ft. Collins area so maybe we can meet and even work together some time.

All the best,
Art
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Caoimh?n P. Connell
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Posted: Nov 9, 2005 12:58 PM       Post Subject:

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Art-

I would enjoy that.

Cheers,
Caoimh?n
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Jay Moge
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Posted: Nov 9, 2005 10:42 PM       Post Subject:

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just my 2 cents.... usualy when i see that black stuff on a shower suround or window sill, i inform the client that it "appears" to be some sort of common spore, and it should be neutralized with a proper agent and cleaned. if it's just the common usual suspect, i see no problem with the home owner cleaning it themselves. it's around us ALL the time and unless it's sugnificant, i don't think it should be blown out of proportion. what say you Mr. Connell? i'm not calling you out, but mearly looking for your expertice. is mine a safe approach? icon_cool.gif icon_wink.gif
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Caoimh?n P. Connell
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Posted: Nov 10, 2005 9:36 AM       Post Subject:

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Good morning, Mr. Moge ?

In a nut shell, here is my take: 99.99% of all mould fears expressed by homeowners are foundationless; 99.99% of all samples collected in homes for mould never needed to be taken; 90% of all ?mould remediation? projects were never needed. (Admittedly, I have been associated with some serious infestations!)

I would estimate that of the phone calls I regularly receive by homeowners and commercial property managers looking for a ?mould consultant? I talk myself out of work in better than 90% of those calls by merely educating the prospective client, injecting hard facts and putting their fears into perspective. Once the prospective client learns that there is no such thing as ?toxic mould? and learns that there is no such thing as ?black mould? (as that term is used in the news media), and learns that the single study which let loose this whole mess was retracted YEARS ago by the CDC who published a complete retraction, and learns that all houses have mould, and learns that finding 50,000 CFUs per gram in a carpet is pretty normal, and that the swab sample collected by the HI or certified mould watzit with a result of 2 million spores per cm2 is completely meaningless?they lose their fear, gain understanding and they come to the conclusion that they have been seriously mislead and they don?t need me or an attorney or the health department or a doctor or remediator. If they still want ?real? testing, it doesn?t come cheap ?an Industrial Hygiene residential mould exposure assessment starts at $2,500.00 and that study WILL stand in court; a simple ?mould inspection? (usually no samples) starts at $750.00

During residential mould inspections, I have saved homeowners collectively hundreds of thousands of needless dollars spent on useless mould remediation, by merely explaining the simple facts. I have performed hundreds upon hundreds of ?mould? inspections. For those properties which did not have catastrophic water/sewer loss, only a tiny minority had a true mould was a problem. And usually, it didn?t take an Industrial Hygienist to figure out there was a problem (see the photos below ? Seriously, how much money does one have to spend on an expert to figure out these houses may have a water problem; the homeowners could have just asked their Moms ... but I wa$ plea$ed to provide my $ervice$).

[ Image: SG Apartment ]

[ Image: Mushrooms behind couch ]

By the way - in both of the residences above, there were NO health complaints from the occupants.

Just because someone has some mould colonies on the timbers in their crawlspace/rafters (that have been there for 70+ years), doesn?t mean there is suddenly a ?problem? because Channel 9 news ran a toxic mould story the previous evening and now the house needs to be evacuated ? indeed, it doesn?t even mean that the mould needs to be removed, killed, treated, sprayed, neutralized, or sampled. Just because someone finds some mould in their shower doesn?t mean there is a mould problem ?

If I had fewer scruples, I may very well have made the $5 million I was rumoured to have made off the mould issue. But then, that?s just cranky old me, as I sip my coffee and prepare to dive into another weird day I call "work" (I have two methlabs today, complete with mould); checking the straps on my body armour and making sure the seals on my respirator are sound.

Ain?t life grand!

Cheers!
Caoimh?n P. Connell
President, Cranky Old Chemist?s Society

www.forensic-applications.com

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG
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Scott Falvey

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Posted: Nov 10, 2005 8:02 PM       Post Subject:
Mister Connell,

I understand your point about leaving teeth to dentists etc. but what is your opinion about the whole mold class and HI's reporting their findings?

What is your opinion on how an inspector should report the finding that both lets the buyer/owner be aware of the problem without freaking them out and at the same time not increasing the liability of the HI by inaccurately reporting it or not at all.

You say that you have defeated every HI's findings, what could they have reported that would not have required any drastic measures and kept it out of any "arena"? Is it correct to recommend a method to cleaning it or leave it well alone?

In short, we all know, mold is everywhere. What is the best way to handle (report) it (in your opinion).

Scott
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Justo Mickey Rivera

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Posted: Nov 10, 2005 8:16 PM       Post Subject:
I've just read dribs and drabs but I thought that when you got mold certified all you've done was take samples according to some organizational standard and sent what you had to a lab, so that they could do the testing.

So then really all you are reporting on was the labs conclusion.

Well I guess this mold cert. course in Florida is not worth it, because I don't have 50 bazillion-gazillion hours of ed. under my belt, so I should not attend ???

eusa_think.gif eusa_think.gif eusa_think.gif
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Jay Moge
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Posted: Nov 10, 2005 11:22 PM       Post Subject:

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Mr. Connell.
First let me say thank you for your (somewhat long, but informative) reply. sounds to me like we are on the same page about not blowing things out of proportion and knowing some basic facts. i clean "mold" off my shower grout and caulk all the time. i see it were shower heads cracked and sprayed the ceiling, a little bleech/water, 30/70 took real good care of it and i also recomend this to my clients not so much to "neutralize" or kill it, but to mearly make it go away. yeah it will return, and so will i with my magic mix. oh well such is life. those pic were nice. the first one reminds me of that t.v. show "dirty jobs". they went with a septic backup cleaning crew to a house that previosly had about 4 feet of row sewage in the basement. what a mess. aiwebs_006.gif icon_cool.gif icon_wink.gif
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Scott Falvey

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Posted: Nov 11, 2005 10:19 AM       Post Subject:
To all who are reading,

I know education is usually the best thing when we are trying to provide the best services possible to our clients.

I am trying to figure out if this mold class is really a good thing or not. By taking it, does it increase our liability because we are more "educated" (certified) about it or does it reduce our liability. If we are sued by a client about a mold issue, it will inevitably come out that we are "certified", wether we advertise it or not, and that we should have known better.

Is it best to know what not to say, or not to know at all? Interesting topic.

Scott
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Roy Cooke

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Posted: Nov 11, 2005 10:44 AM       Post Subject:
sfalvey wrote:
To all who are reading,

I know education is usually the best thing when we are trying to provide the best services possible to our clients.

I am trying to figure out if this mold class is really a good thing or not. By taking it, does it increase our liability because we are more "educated" (certified) about it or does it reduce our liability. If we are sued by a client about a mold issue, it will inevitably come out that we are "certified", wether we advertise it or not, and that we should have known better.

Is it best to know what not to say, or not to know at all? Interesting topic.

Scott


I felt the same way a few years ago and I took WETT Training .
This is for wood stoves and I could see just another concern about being sued .
I took the course and when it came time to write I did not write .
Has it cost me any business I do not think so but I do sleep better knowing I have the training but not the liability.
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Caoimh?n P. Connell
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Posted: Nov 11, 2005 12:37 PM       Post Subject:

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Hello All -

First of all, let me thank all of you for your input and responses- since I have participated in your discussion group, I have learned a tremendous amount as a result of your perspective and experiences.

Also, I am not picking on any one person, or any one profession; I am trying to exclusively address concepts.

Scott-
ANYONE, including home inspectors, industrial hygienists, doctors and possibly even a sitting judge from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals can perform proper mould assessments. (OK, maybe there are some things that you cannot teach the 9th Circuit?, but apart from that, anyone can do it).

My bone of contention is NOT with HIs, my bone of contention is with anyone including Certified Industrial Hygienists, who use myth and silliness, and perform sampling and data analysis in a vacuum without the benefit of a good foundation of understanding of the underlying concepts.

In the last year, I have been an expert witness against two Certified Industrial Hygienists (one of whom has a PhD), in IAQ related litigation that included mould. In each case, the CIHs lost, and I prevailed ? and I was as direct and critical of my own peers their work as I am of HIs and indeed, my own work (of which, I am particularly critical).

So you ask:
?? but what is your opinion about the whole mold class and HI's reporting their findings??

Answer: Simple ? No matter who you are, or what your profession even if you are a MD, or a CIH, or a PE - if you cannot sit down and draw up data quality objectives for the sampling you are about to perform; if you do not have a sampling and analysis QA/QC programme in place, if you cannot explain to a client the difference between bias, precision and accuracy and provide to them the upper confidence limit for any one single sample you have collected, and you do not know the difference (at least in concept) between an amerospore and a basidiospore, and can?t explain why there is a non-linear relationship between spore concentrations and reported CFUs resulting in a negative bias, then you should not be taking any samples (IMHO). And if you do ? and it goes to court, YOU will be put on the stand, and you WILL face someone like me, and the attorney WILL ask you to explain these concepts. If you cannot answer them, you will not just be embarrassed, you will be discredited and possibly face your civil liability issues.

So you ask:
What is your opinion on how an inspector should report the finding that both lets the buyer/owner be aware of the problem without freaking them out and at the same time not increasing the liability of the HI by inaccurately reporting it or not at all.

Answer:
How would you handle the potential exposure issue if you found out that the house you were inspecting was built on a radium/uranium dump? Would you take a radon sample and call it good? Would you run out and take a quick 3-day class on radiation toxicology? Why then would you treat microbiology and industrial hygiene exposure issues any differently?

You ask:
You say that you have defeated every HI's findings, what could they have reported that would not have required any drastic measures and kept it out of any "arena"?

Answer:
The HIs and CIHs that I have defeated in court, have made the same mistakes ? they performed their work in the absence of a foundational and working knowledge of sampling theory, PARCC parameters of data analysis, aerobiology, microbiology, and toxicology. In each case, the consultant stepped out of their real area of expertise and presumed they possessed sufficeint knowledge to perform the work.

You ask:
Is it correct to recommend a method to cleaning it or leave it well alone?

Answer:
Depends on the totality of the circumstances; each case should be considered on its own merit (IMHO).

You ask:
In short, we all know, mold is everywhere. What is the best way to handle (report) it (in your opinion).

Answer:
Correctly. Using sound science, credible experience and training, and tenable methodologies (usually meaning ?state-of-the-art? and/or ?standard industry practices held to the highest standard of care.?)


Justo:

I've just read dribs and drabs but I thought that when you got mold certified all you've done was take samples according to some organizational standard and sent what you had to a lab, so that they could do the testing.

Reply:
There are no such standards. I am currently writing the slit impaction (Air-O-Cell) sampling methodology for the ASTM International Standard. I have completed the first draft which has been submitted to the appropriate committee for critical evaluation and review by the entire sub-sub-committee.

Question:
I don't have 50 bazillion-gazillion hours of ed. under my belt, so I should not attend ???

Answer:
I really don?t have any information about any specific course or certification, and I have not addressed any particular course here. But ask yourself this: Which is more beneficial and/or confers greater liability: Misleading and improper education, or no education? Then ask who is conducting/teaching the class.

These are just my thoughts. As I say, this is a great forum where we can exchange these ideas in a friendly and constructive manner. Imagine how passionate you and your colleagues would be come if a bunch of (well meaning) Industrial Hygienists or microbiologists, in complete ignorance of building codes, construction techniques, wiring codes, etc., decided that since we are doing mould inspections in houses anyway, we might as well start calling our work ?home inspections? ? even though we are entirely incompetent to so do? Would we start getting sued? And would HIs be the professional rebuttal witnesses eating us alive in court?

Food for thought. That?s all. Clarity before agreement.

Thanks again for all of your wonderful criticisms and thanks for teaching me.

Cheers,
Caoimh?n P. Connell
Forensic Industrial Hygienist

www.forensic-applications.com

<SMALL> (The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG </SMALL>
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Paul Hinsperger

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Posted: Nov 11, 2005 6:18 PM       Post Subject:
Caoimh?n P. Connell wrote:
In the last year, I have been an expert witness against two Certified Industrial Hygienists (one of whom has a PhD), in IAQ related litigation that included mould. In each case, the CIHs lost, and I prevailed


You may have been absolutely correct in what you said over your peers but does the judge have the expertise to understand the technical aspects? Of course not. He get a quick lesson from you and the others testifying. I'm willing to bet that your success rate in court is largely dependant on your ability to present your information in a manner which is understood by the judge.

I'm saying that you were not correct. Merely that at a technical level the judge really has no way of know who is BS'ing and who is not.

--
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Paul Hinsperger
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Caoimh?n P. Connell
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Posted: Nov 12, 2005 7:23 AM       Post Subject:

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Good morning, Paul ?

You point is well taken, and on the mark, to be sure. The Daubert ruling was supposed bring that to an end, or at least control ?junk science? entering the court room. In Daubert, the Supreme Court held that when expert testimony, based on "scientific knowledge" is offered at trial, the judge, upon proper motion by a litigant who challenges the admissibility of the testimony, should act as a gatekeeper and determine if the evidence can be trusted to be scientifically valid. But this, then, presumes the judge can make that call ? and it becomes circular reasoning, and the judge can easily (and often does) permit junk science to be presented along side legitimate evidence, over the objection of opposing counsel.

But perhaps that too is pride: What many judges don?t do is avail themselves of Federal Rule of Evidence 706- Court Appointed Experts ? wherein the court may appoint any expert witnesses of its own selection as a friend of the court. That independent expert can become the advisor to the judge concerning the validity of the science being proffered. But judges don?t aks for such assistance. Why?

Frankly, I would accept a full time position by a large enough court to do nothing but critically review the science of evidentiary information- my knowledge of the specific field of study, the probative value of the evidence and material substance to the case, notwithstanding. It can be done.

But then, nobody made me king, eh?

Good point Paul. As a colleague of mine is wont to say: "If you have facts on your side, pound the facts; if you have an opponent who is a scoundrel, pound the opponent; and if you have neither, pound the table."

Cheers,
Caoimh?n P. Connell
Forensic Industrial Hygienist

www.forensic-applications.com

(The opinions expressed here are exclusively my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect my professional opinion, opinion of my employer, agency, peers, or professional affiliates. The above post is for information only and does not reflect professional advice and is not intended to supercede the professional advice of others.)

AMDG
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