At this time, regrettably, there are no government agencies specifically established to provide protection from environmental hazards for children in schools. Keep checking our Mold Law page to keep updated on the state and federal laws that apply.
The local and state health departments are likely to know little about the current research regarding the health effects of mold. We have found that health departments often emphasize what was thought to be true a generation ago (25 years) - that mold is only a nuisance and produces irritation and allergic effects. Health departments are often not trained to locate or identify molds, and may discourage testing. Occasionally, we have seen a local health department inspect and order the school district to vacate the moldy areas and correct the problems, as a public health emergency. This usually occurs when the public health departments are correctly informed about the dangers of mold and show concern for the health of the occupants. We would like to see this happen consistently.
We have seen the following be of help in some instances, for employees or unions, who must initiate the request for the inspections:
OSHA - occasionally helpful but generally untrained in locating mold and have no standards for safe levels, therefore they cannot issue citations. In some states (ie. CA), OSHA can issue citations for excess moisture or water damage that has not been repaired. OSHA can help employees obtain copies of testing data and reports, when denied these by school districts. If requested anonymously, the requestor is not provided with as many rights, and the inspection may simply be a letter to the district.
NIOSH - The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health - go to http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/homepage.html and Click on Health Hazard Evaluations. These may be requested by three or more employees or the union. For a real life NIOSH school report, see: NIOSH Liberty School District, Liberty, NY Report. This is an example of a NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a branch of both federal OSHA and CDC) inspection that was conducted recently in a school district and issued in Nov., 2005. It shows profoundly leaky and moldy schools that are a clear danger to the occupants. This Health Hazard Inspection was initiated by the teachers' union in Liberty, NY. NIOSH did not test for types of mold, which we disagree with - but it did document extensive, longterm leaks and mold in three schools - a dangerous situation.
This inspection was conducted AFTER the Liberty School District claimed it had remediated - but these so-called remediations were NOT done according to EPA guidelines and thus, obviously, didn't work. Now, it is up to the parents and staff to see to it that the school becomes a truly safe place - for the health of the community. All three of Liberty's schools are unhealthy, according to NIOSH. Testing for the type of mold would have been helpful for the physicians and community - to know what symptoms to look for in the occupants, and to understand why. Each mold has its own set of toxins with resulting specific health impacts and diseases. Never-the-less, this report will be hard to explain away, for the Liberty School Board and Administration. Thank you, Liberty Teachers Assn., for requesting this inspection!
Regrettably, once again, according to local sources, the Liberty School District has not followed through with extensive remediation, with leaks and flooding ongoing.