by Arlene Puentes,
October Home Inspections
All the photos on this page were taken four months after a mold remediation project was declared finished by the company performing the remediation. Click on a photo to see a larger image.
In addition to what you see in the photos above the mold remediation company missed
What happened? Obviously the mold remediation company performed poorly and incompletely.
- the extensive visible mold covering the basement stairs and handrails
- the mold in the living room ceiling, under a bathroom leak
- a moldy table in the basement
- visible mold on the garage wallboard
But also, the mold remediation company was permitted to declare when the mold in the home had reached an acceptable level.
The buyer of this remediation project agreed to this and the document used to come to this agreement is described below. This is a true story. The photos and description above and the document described below are from the same project.
Is it a Mold Cleanup Proposal, Contract, or a Sales Brochure?
However, one should probably conclude that when signed, the remediation company and the customer have come to a contractual agreement about its contents. That is because the first page of this document contains the following words:
agrees to purchase
set forth their understanding
the parties agree as follows
This document's first page also makes generous use of authoritative and decorous sounding words like recitals, hereto, hereby, herein, whereas, and the receipt and sufficiency of which from which the readers of this document are probably meant to conclude that this document is legal, written by (or plagiarized from) a lawyer, and to be respected.
For an interesting discussion on legal language see Peter Tiersma's website and in particular this page: http://www.languageandlaw.org/NATURE.HTM
What does the Mold Remediation Company Agree to Do?
The mold remediation company makes several promises of actions and procedures throughout the document. Some of the promises are unclear and a couple are indefinable.
For a discussion of an unclear protocol promise made in this document
For a discussion of an indefinable clean up promise made in this document
Also, the areas of the home to be cleaned are not clear. There are references to an infected area and a containment area but those areas are not clearly defined.
Basically, though, this document declares that the mold remediation company agrees to:
provide the labor, material; product and equipment necessary to complete the mold clean up.
The Acceptable Level Clause Allows the Mold Remediation Company to Break its Promises
In this document the mold remediation company agreed that they would:
A simple visual inspection shows that they clearly didn't do what they said they would do. (See the photographs on this page.)
But, according to the Acceptable Level Clause, that doesn't matter. The Acceptable Level Clause allowed the mold remediation company to declared the remediation to be acceptable.
- remove all compromised materials from the premises
- remove all infected sheetrock and insulation from the basement closet
- remove the visible mold with our anti microbial cleaner with a rag, wire brush and/or sander
They did not achieve their definition of acceptability by keeping their promises.
They achieved their definition of acceptability based on a questionable method of sampling what they incorrectly describe as one species of mold.
Reference note 1 highlights where the Acceptable Level Clause says that
Indoor air vs. outdoor air is the basis for determining if you have an indoor air quality issue due to mold.
This is the most trusted way to interpret test results industry wide.
No it isn't and no it isn't.
There are several authoritative sources and many good arguments against exclusively trusting this method of testing air quality levels.
See, for example, this one of many mold testing webpages by InspectAPedia.com's Daniel Friedman which cites authoritative references for further study on this matter.
See also, the October 2008 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene for an article titled Professional Judgment and the Interpretation of Viable Mold Air Sampling Data
Indeed, the Acceptable Level Clause itself discusses one of the many problems with this type of mold sampling in its large second paragraph.
Furthermore, the mold remediation company did not base their Scope of Services on any written site inspection, site condition assessment or site specific procedural instructions. So, if the mold remediation company feels that Indoor air vs. outdoor air is the basis for determining if you have an indoor air quality issue due to mold, , then by their own definition they were negligent because they didn't perform this test before the remediation to see if remediation was necessary.
Reference note 2 highlights three points made in the Acceptable Level Clause
What's wrong with this?
- the [mold remediation company] has developed a basis number for interpreting test results
- they've based this number only on Aspergillus/Penicillium
- Aspergillus/Penicillium are the most common species of mold that requires remediation
- The mold remediation company is using a basis number for acceptable indoor air quality levels that
they developed themselves without bothering with the scientific rigors of publishing their findings, submitting their declarations to peer review, and citing their data, evidence and reference.
Indeed, after reminding us in the first paragraph of this page that The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), The Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA), The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH), as well as other occupational health related associations, have not established
permissible exposure limits, recommended exposure limits, or other limit values for
aeroallergens, the customer is being asked to agree to
a value developed by the mold remediation company.
- They're saying that if the home is free of large amounts of Aspergillus/Penicillium without regard to other harmful molds that may be present in the home then the air quality in the home is acceptable.
- They don't tell the customer (or they don't know) that Aspergillus and Penicillium are not species of mold but rather two different two families (genera) of molds
each containing over a hundred species. Aspergillus and Penicillium are often described together because they are difficult to differentiate under a microscope. This is important because whenever you see the designation Aspergillus/Penicillium you know that not only has the genus of the mold not been identified but also that the species of mold has not been identified. According to Daniel Friedman, a mold consultant and forensic microscopist who writes at InspectAPedia.com -
"Pen/Asp" spore count of 1000 spores/M3 of air might be compared with an indoor "Pen/Asp" spore count of 500 spores/M3 of air. But often the outdoor "Penicillium/Aspergillus" spores are not the same species as the indoor species, making such count comparisons completely meaningless.
The paragraphs above explain how [Mold Remediation Company] acceptable levels
are reached and by signing this proposal you agree to these acceptable levels.
And that is how the poorly done mold remediation project described on this page was declared acceptable.
An analysis of more than two thirds of the incomprehensible, unsupportable and conflicting things that were in this contract were discarded for the sake of brevity and clarity.
If you'd like to read whole contract click here.
This project and this document highlights what I said in the first paragraph: The same company that's performing a mold remediation must not be allowed to describe the project or declare when it's done. See
InspectAPedia.com's discussion on conflicts of interest
All text and photos © Arlene Puentes
Do not copy
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