Flashback Friday! – In Memoriam Larry Robertson – IAQA’s First President – Indoor Air Quality & Mold A Pioneer’s Perspective

Air Date: 8-4-2017|Episode 471

This week we go back in the archives to a few shows we did with an IAQ and Mold pioneer Larry Robertson. Larry joined us twice over the years and Radio Joe has gone back through those shows to put together a highlight real. LEARN MORE this week on IAQ Radio!

Full Description:

This week we go back in the archives to a few shows we did with an IAQ and Mold pioneer Larry Robertson. Larry joined us twice over the years and Radio Joe has gone back through those shows to put together a highlight real. LEARN MORE this week on IAQ Radio!

Larry Robertson, the Indoor Air Quality Association’s 1st President and founding Board Member. Mr. Robertson was a leader in IAQ research and services for over 3 decades. He is known for establishing Mycotech Biological, Inc. (MBI), one of the first environmental laboratories that specialized in the identification of fungi associated with HVAC systems. He also contributed in the initial development of the CIE and CMR certification programs and served on the Texas Mold Task Force relative to the development of mold regulations in the State of Texas. Larry published many papers in peer reviewed journals along with a mountain of other papers, articles and presentations. He was a prolific volunteer to industry associations and received numerous special recognition’s and awards.

Z-Man’s Blog :

Environmental Lab Pioneer

On two occasions prior to his unfortunate passing RadioJoe and I had the pleasure of interviewing Larry Robertson, a real pioneer with over 25 years of experience in IAQ research and services. Larry founded Mycotech Biological, Inc one of the first environmental labs that specialized in the identification of fungi. Larry was an IAQA founding board member and the organization’s first President. His company was based in Texas, epicenter of the “mold craze”. In helping to resolve litigation, Larry provided expert witness testimony in 250 mold cases a year.

Nuggets gleaned from the shows:

HVAC Cleaning and IEQ.  Larry holds firm opinions on HVAC systems cleaning disagreeing with a recent study concluding that no compelling scientific evidence exists about an association between air duct cleaning and improved IEQ. Larry opined that that HVAC systems cleaning when properly formed can have a positive effect on the indoor environmental quality. He commented that no compelling scientific evidence exists that vacuuming a bedroom improves IEQ either; pointing out that the HVAC system study was flawed because the researcher looked only at cleaning the duct system not the entire system. Larry stressed the importance of: 1) containment, 2) source removal cleaning techniques and 3) particulate capture equipment. Larry reminded listeners that the term bioaerosol was coined as the result of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Philadelphia.

Texas Mold Licensing.  Larry provided behind the scenes gained during his involvement with the writing and legislative passing of Texas Mold Licensing. According to Larry, it wasn’t pretty as lobbyists representing the insurance industry, home builders, etc. weighted into the process. The pendulum has swung and predicts it will be some time until it swings back. The Texas Mold Licensing Bill was the result of “a few bad apples spoiling the barrel.” The actions of a few unscrupulous consultants, remediators and inspectors who intentionally increased and escalated mold claims with ridiculous and unscientifically sound recommendations tainted the legislative process resulting in passage of a Texas Mold Licensing Law that doesn’t protect the citizens of the Lone Star State against the hazards of mold but rather protects citizens from being preyed upon by mold remediators, mold consultants and mold laboratories. While the laws doesn’t require cleaners, insurance repair & restoration firms and builders who commonly encounter mold are not required to be licensed it does require licensing for: mold remediation firms, consultants (IEPs) and mold labs. Texas was the first state to institute licensing for the mold industry. Texas didn’t recognize the contributions of the IAQA. Licensees are required to take a Texas Course, pass a beefy Texas Exam test with an 80% score (70% is required for other Texas licenses) and be subject to paying fines for violations such as: workers caught not wearing PPE or when a remedial start or stop date is missed.

  • Certification: College degrees don’t require continuing education while many certification programs do. Profoundly commenting that certification groups have two options in developing certification programs: don’t dilute and build a strong certification program such as CIH or offer many certifications ala IICRC and ACAC.
  • Get involved, it’s your industry!
  • Tip for remediators: be cautious about recommending measures that are too extreme!
  • Tip for consultants: because consultants wanted and needed faster analysis of mold samples, labs trended away from culturing to spore trap technology. Be aware that questions have emerged regarding the precision of the analytical process of spore trap analysis.
  • As a member of the IAQA ,we express our gratitude to the founders of the organization: Dean Ellis, Rick Watson, Nick Willocks and Chuck Walker an early board member. RadioJoe, Stone Cold and I were glad that we could honor Larry’s industry friend with an impromptu playing of taps.

Post Remediation Verification, we must find better way

There is and always has been a need for definitive guidelines on when a mold remediation project was performed satisfactorily and was considered complete. A common method of PRV involves comparison of outdoor air samples to indoor samples in the areas remediated, with the goal of the air indoors being found to be equal to or cleaner than the air outdoors. Under this scenario the clearance criteria fluctuates up and down on a daily basis. Larry offered examples demonstrating that the success or failure of a project can be dependent upon levels observed in the outdoor air.

Nuggets mined from today’s broadcast:

  • The need for PRV was driven by risk management and liability reduction concerns.
  • The specific comparison of samples of outdoor air to indoor air is a flawed method for Post Remediation Verification on mold remediation projects.
  • Some PRV recommendations are outrageous and unattainable.
  • Every remediation project done by professionals should undergo some type of PRV.
  • Lab pocket reference guide available on state-by-state basis show Stachybotrys is commonly found in outdoor samples.
  • Aspergillus versicolor common in indoor samples of non-water damaged buildings.
  • Important components of PRV: sensory evaluation/inspection, free from settled dust, cause of the event corrected, water activity of building materials returned to pre-loss levels.
  • Most remediation guidelines and standards provide remedial recommendations and do lack recommended specifics of PRV.
  • A standardized approach to PRV is needed. Accepted and uniform method of practice.
  • Spore trap cassettes have serious precision issues. Lab’s can provide a precision statement on each sample analyzed.
  • Citing the use of carbon dioxide as a surrogate for appropriate indoor ventilation, he recommends the use of a particle counter as a surrogate for mold spores within containments. Use of a particle counter to measure particles in the 1-5 micron range indoors and outdoors can provide a contractor with live real time information on which to base decisions.
  • There needs to be differentiation in PRV between routine and common projects and unusual and uncommon projects such as operating theatres and ICUs.
  • To prevent cross contamination, contractors needs to determine that the air within a containment will not have a negative effect on the project when containment is removed and equilibrium occurs.
  • Larry is “NOT a proponent of turning AFD’s Off before PRV sampling”.
  • Existing tools such as particle counters are becoming more affordable.
  • ATP sampling has a place; it is less discriminating on fungi and may miss dead fungi.
  • New tools. Portable water activity meters and a chitanase samplers which more accurately detects fungi are available.

Z-Man signing off