Mold is ubiquitous, naturally occurring, and nearly always present in the outdoor air and, hence, the indoor air. Mold is brought into the indoor environment on plants, people, materials, ventilation systems, etc. It is not commonly introduced into the indoor environment from manufactured products. Elimination of exposure to mold cannot be accomplished by removal or substitution, which makes it different from other indoor contaminants such as asbestos. Also, it would be impractical to pursue absolute removal of all potential mold reservoirs, water sources, and growth media from the indoor environment. Additionally, there is no obvious benefit to building occupants. In those aspects, mold is more like radon than asbestos, though mold has often been called "the next asbestos".
So why is mold now a worker health issue? Litigation and the insurance industry in the United States are influential drivers. Given the current environment, it is apparent that workers will continue to be called upon to assess indoor environments for mold. And when excessive mold growth is found, be called upon to remediate the situation. Such workers have the potential to be exposed to high levels of mold on a regular and frequent basis. It is the America Society of Safety Engineer's (ASSE) position that standardized measures to protect such workers need to be established and implemented.
It is from this position that ASSE initiated the standard development project, Guidelines for Mold and Fungi Control and Remediation for Worker Protection in Indoor Work Environments, which operates under ANSI's procedures for developing a standard using the canvass method. Known as Z690, this project is focused developing the measures needed to protect the health of workers who are engaged in assessing and/or remediating mold. Specifically, the purpose of Z690 "is to establish minimum requirements and recommended procedures to be implemented by employers to minimize employee exposure to mold and fungi in non-industrial and industrial work environments."
The Z690 standard project is not intended to provide specific guidance on how to assess or remediate mold, but to identify the most common tasks associated with mold assessment and remediation and then provide guidance on the measures to protect the health of workers performing those tasks. This paper presents an overview of the progress to date regarding the development of Z690 and the body of knowledge that is being used by the project team to develop the standard.
The final standard language of Z690 is not expected to include a recommended occupational exposure limit for mold. However, the project documentation is expected to include information regarding published, peer-reviewed literature that describes the health effects of mold that formed the framework for the recommendations regarding worker protection. While this body of knowledge is comprised of numerous reference documents, of particular note are several very recent publications that address the current state of thinking.