J. DAVID MILLER, PhD, FAIHA, is distinguished research professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
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Mold and Industrial Hygiene: A 30-Year Journey
In 2020 and 2021, AIHA released multiple publications dealing with mold: the second edition of Recognition, Evaluation and Control of Indoor Mold, also known as the Green Book; two new “Facts About Mold” documents for both the public (PDF) and professionals (PDF); and videos instructing a lay audience on how to approach mold problems. These publications support AIHA’s three decades of leadership on mold and dampness problems in non-industrial workplaces and homes. EARLY GUIDANCE In the 1980s and early 1990s, research was conducted in Europe, Canada, and the U.S. on mold and dampness, and the resulting health outcomes, caused by lowering ventilation rates in buildings to save energy. This research prompted discussions within AIHA’s Biosafety and Environmental Microbiology (BEM) and Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) committees on how sampling might properly be conducted in buildings, which was highly requested by 1991. By the early 1990s, mold had become the top complaint of occupants in non-industrial workplaces. An incident involving New York City municipal workers who were exposed without PPE to moldy, water-damaged paper and cardboard changed the debate. Unsurprisingly, the dominant mold was Stachybotrys. This event led to the creation of the New York City guidelines, which advocated that material mold damage in a building was harmful to health; that mold should be removed under safe conditions, which depended on the amount or area of visible mold and water damage; and that mold removal should be followed by a thorough particulate cleaning before building back. While no one today would disagree with these principles, at the time they spurred furious debate.
Responding to the needs of AIHA members, the BEM committee prepared a comprehensive manual on sampling fungi and fungal products, environmental bacteria, endotoxins, and allergens. Published in 1996, AIHA’s Field Guide for the Determination of Biological Contaminants in Environmental Samples clearly laid out the strengths and weaknesses of bioaerosol sampling in the built environment and how the available techniques might be appropriately used. The second edition appeared in 2005 and is still current. The publication of a comprehensive manual for addressing mold damage in buildings in 2008—the first edition of the Green Book—transformed the landscape of mold remediation and sold more than 20,000 copies.
By the early 1990s, mold had become the top complaint of occupants in non-industrial workplaces.
NEW MATERIAL A year after its release in early 2020, the second edition of the Green Book is also a bestseller. It is fair to say that the world has caught up to the principles developed in both the Field Guide and Green Book. Public health authorities, ASHRAE, and various medical groups are broadly aligned with the goals of industrial hygiene, specifically the recognition, management, and control of mold hazards. This agreement has allowed the second edition of the Green Book to incorporate material from these allied communities. About 80 percent of the material in the second edition is either new or substantially different from that of the first edition.
The two “Facts About Mold” documents were first developed in 2002. The updated version of the document targeted toward the public is consistent with the new Green Book. The document’s material was summarized in three videos available on YouTube, intended to help those addressing mold in their buildings by explaining the basic facts and how AIHA can help. The second document, oriented to IEQ professionals, HVAC engineers, and physicians, explains the role AIHA professionals can play in addressing mold concerns and the needs of clinicians.
Later this year, an updated guideline on effectively remediating mold-damaged spaces will be released, promoting AIHA’s continued leadership on mold-related issues. For more information on AIHA’s work regarding mold, visit AIHA’s Mold Resource Center.