John Lapotaire – IAQA President – The State of the IEQ & Mold Industry; Are Standards & Associations Doing Enough?

Air Date: 3-30-2018|Episode 499

This week on IAQradio+, we welcome current IAQA President John Lapotaire. John is winding down his time as IAQA President and joins us to talk about the state of the industry and to discuss some under utilized standards. The industry continues to battle unscrupulous mold scammers and magic potion providers. What can be done? Are regulations the answer? What are industry associations doing to help? One way associations try to help is through the development of standards. Two under utilized standards we will be discussing are the ASTM standards on the assessment of fungal growth and the ASTM standard on the evaluation of indoor air quality concerns.


John, together with his wife Lydia, has owned and operated Orlando, Florida based Indoor Air Quality Solutions since 2001. John is a Building Envelope & Indoor Environment Consultant specializing in building product failure investigations, forensic water intrusion investigations, and building envelope failure investigations for commercial and residential structures. John and Lydia also provide indoor environmental assessments and mold & odor investigations. John is the current President of the Indoor Air Quality Association, a Florida Licensed Mold Assessor and ACAC Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant. John has served as an expert witness in over 100 court cases involving indoor air quality, mold, building envelope failure, building product failure and spray polyurethane foam insulation.
 Z-Man’s Blog:
“Unknown and underutilized industry standards & IAQA update”
This week on IAQradio+, we welcomed current IAQA President John Lapotaire to talk about the state of the industry and to discuss some under-utilized standards.
John, together with his wife Lydia, have owned and operated Orlando, Florida based Indoor Air Quality Solutions since 2001. John is a Building Envelope & Indoor Environment Consultant specializing in building product failure investigations, forensic water intrusion investigations, and building envelope failure investigations for commercial and residential structures. John and Lydia also provide indoor environmental assessments and mold & odor investigations. John is, a Florida Licensed Mold Assessor and ACAC Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant. John has served as an expert witness in over 100 court cases involving indoor air quality, mold, building envelope failure, building product failure and spray polyurethane foam insulation.
Nuggets mined from today’s episode:
Financial concerns with the prior management company led to IAQA to seek alternatives. A steering committee was formed to explore available options. After evaluating multiple proposals, a decision was made to partnership with ASHRAE. The partnership is now 4 years old. IAQA has a good support staff in place.

While IAQA’s association outreach preceded his term(s) as IAQA President; accomplishments with Allied Industries are the highlight of his term. John is driven by the need to bring Allied Industries together to create MOUs on Industry Standards and Practice. The group has attained an agreement on what constitutes mold remediation and considers standards from 3 different organizations to be equal. This agreement among groups provides uniformity that can be used globally. Information from other documents such as NYC Guidelines and EPA Tools for Schools will be referenced. The list of Allied Industries is growing. The group meets face-to-face with a Formal Agenda at the annual IAQA convention where Action Items are determined. There is some cross pollination of committee members among the groups.

The Allied Group is Interested in working with any likeminded group that is willing to agree upon a uniform Body of Knowledge. Minimum standard of work for mold assessment and mold remediation.
Some of the areas in which IICRC has interest in developing standards precede the Allied Industry group.
IAQA wrote a letter to the U.S. Senate supporting EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Program. LEARN MORE
IAQA supports ASHRAE’s Position on IAQ. LEARN MORE

IAQA has partnered with ehs International, Inc. (ehsInc) and Aramsco-Interlink (Aramsco). The goal of this partnership between three leaders of their respective industries is to provide client companies and future members with the best in indoor air quality safety standards while also lowering costs. In both the short-term and the long-term, such a productive alliance will be a win-win for all involved.

Radio Joe: I have heard complaints about combining IAQA conference with AHR, vendors getting lost in the shuffle, member disappointment over the number of IAQ related vendors and declining attendance at the past conference.
John Lapotaire: IAQA has consistently sold out all available booth space and increased the number of booths each year. The last event encompassed 30 booths. Some members prefer being part of something much, much larger, while others prefer smaller more intimate exhibit experience. The exhibitors may have seen fewer familiar faces they saw many, many more faces. Attendance at the most recent event was close to the prior year. Members in extreme hurricane damage areas such as: Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida were too busy to attend. While hurricanes are no longer in the news, homeowners remain displaced from prior year’s Hurricane Mathew.
Radio Joe: Isn’t a fire standard being developed by RIA and IAQA, why does IICRC need to develop a fire standard?
John Lapotaire: Supposedly this project was in the works before the Allied Industries Group was formed. RIA and IAQA will file a grievance with ANSI over a duplicate standard. Some people are serving on both committees.
Radio Joe: What are associations doing to help consumers from mold scammers, “silver bullet” machines and “foo-foo juice” that always work and fixes everything”?

Hopefully associations will be doing much. A consistent message is being delivered by Allied Partners, CDC, EPA, state and local health departments. Together, publish statements differentiating between what’s acceptable industry practice and what’s “magic potions”.

Florida Mold Laws
Florida missed the bell. They had a great opportunity and John supported it. The devil is in the details. The State’s big mistakes were trying to create its own standards rather than referencing the prevailing industry standards and not defining “acceptable certification & standards”. This allowed “pump jockeys” to take air samples for mold and misrepresent them as “IAQ samples” or an “IAQ tests”. Assessors would take a sample or two air samples, provide the lab results to the client referring to lab results a “mold assessment” and charging excessive fees. This is very lucrative, so “pump jockeys” are fighting hard to keep their gravy train going. Lack of specificity in the law allows anyone to create their own associations, proctored exams and anoint designations and certifications. “Pump jockeys” resist standards and fight against accountability.Some assessors are paying finders fees for referrals.
New York mold law is also a mess, the State made the same mistake of not referencing prevailing industry standards and created their own program.
Opined that New Hampshire has a model program, thanks to the outstanding work of Guy Sylvester. http://www.nhbr.com/October-16-2015/NHs-new-mold-bill-What-you-need-to-know/
Z-Man: As a Florida Mold Assessor what if any abuse of Assignment of Benefits have you encountered?
John Lapotaire: AOBs are the third rail, somet5imes necessary and sometimes not. In FL they are used as a tool that permits an assessor to collect a few air samples find “black mold or stachybotrys” , establish a need for mold remediation, have an AOB signed and have an endless line of attorneys willing to litigate. They have an address and an AOB, they aren’t working for the client; they are taking advantage of the situation to extort money from the homeowners insurance company. These guts are making big money doing very little. They have been taught how to run an air pump sampler and get paid for it. They aren’t determining the extent of damage, they are like Judas selling out the property owner to enrich themselves.
In FL this is so out of hand that if it falls from the sky or leaks through the ceiling, its considered category 3 water. Any stain on a ceiling is worth $5K. Scamming property owners by “saving them from hazardous Category 3” water.
ASTM Slides:
ASTM D7338-14 Standard for Assessment of Fungal Growth in Buildings
1.2  This guide is specific to fungal growth, which is only one potential problem in a building environment. It may be part of, but is not intended to take the place of, a comprehensive indoor air quality investigation.
1.3 This guide describes minimum steps and procedures for collecting background information on a building in question, procedures for evaluating the potential for moisture infiltration or collection, procedures for inspection for suspect fungal growth, and procedures beyond the scope of a basic survey that may be useful for specific problems.
“The ASTM D-7338 states in Section 7.5.3 Identification of Current Water Damage and Suspect Fungal Growth
All surfaces within the inspection boundary should be systematically evaluated for indicators of moisture damage and fungal growth.
Exposed surfaces (including building materials, furnishings, and contents) should be examined for past and ongoing damage including:
     (1)  suspect fungal growth,
     (2)  standing water
     (3)  water stains,
     (4)  dampness to touch, and
     (5)  blistering, warping, de-lamination, or other deterioration.
The ASTM D-7338 states in Section 7.5.4 Identification of Potentials for Fungal Growth
The inspection should identify moisture sources and moisture pathways, including:
     (1)  sites where condensation may occur,
     (2)  equipment or activities which may release water,
     (3)  pathways for water movement and
     (4)  areas where leakage is likely.
            –  Staining patterns are often useful in identifying moisture sources.
The ASTM D-7338 states in Section 7.5.5 Presence of Odors
Detection of musty odors should always be noted.
     (1)  Sources of such odors should be located.
     (2)  If the source is not apparent, intrusive investigation may be required.
The ASTM D-7338 states in Section 7.5.6 Classification of Inspection Observations
Classify each distinct area or area of interest within the inspection boundary as one of the following categories:
     (1)  no apparent fungal growth and no apparent water damage;
     (2)  water damage having no visually suspect or confirmed fungal growth,
     (3)  visually suspect or confirmed fungal growth having no apparent water damage, &
     (4)  water damage having visually suspect or confirmed fungal growth.
The ASTM D-7338 states in Section 7.5.8 HVAC Inspection, if applicable per the scope of work.

The interiors of HVAC equipment in contact with ventilation air should be inspected for indicators of excessive moisture or suspect fungal growth.

Such areas may include intake and return plenums, filters, coils, condensate pans, fans, housing insulation, and supply ducts immediately downstream from the coils.
The ASTM D-7338 states in Section 7.6.1 Site Map-A site/floor plan should be prepared showing each inspection classification, as determined in 7.5.6.
The plan should be sufficiently detailed to allow each area of interest to the assessment to be unambiguously located.
The ASTM D-7338 states in Section 7.6.2 Documentation of Suspect Fungal Growth-Wherever suspect or confirmed fungal growth is identified during the inspection, documentation should include:
     (1)  extent (for example, approximate square footage of suspect growth),
     (2)  severity (for example, relative darkness or continuity of stain), growth pattern (for
example, light versus heavy growth and spotty versus continuous growth), and
     (3)  clues to apparent cause (for example, exterior wall, condensation near a HVAC vent,
associated with water staining).
The ASTM D-7338 states in Section 7.6.3 Documentation of Moisture Damage-
In addition to documenting the location of moisture damage, as above, further documentation should include:
     (1)  apparent sources of leaks and other moisture sources, and
     (2)  apparent timing and duration (for example, whether the moisture has been resolved,
active (currently wet) or the moisture source is likely to reoccur
The ASTM D-7338 states in Section 7.6.4 Visual Documentation- Photographs or videotapes are often helpful in documenting building conditions. Captions should note location, timing, and context.
The ASTM D-7338 states in Section 7.6.5 Additional Detail- Start and stop time, temperature, humidity, occupancy, condition, and housekeeping of the property.”
Commentary by John Lapotaire:
  • Importance of the client interview.
  • 6.4 Always include the cause & origin and explain how it is related to the problem so that client knows how to correct the problem. [building envelope, construction, RH, occupant, drainage, plumbing]
  • If you don’t feel qualified either add work product of someone who is to your report or go back to school.
  • 7.6 Inspection/documentation [as per 7.5.6] Always use a site map or floor plan to indicate where the problem(s) exist. Unambiguously define the extent of damage.
  • 7.6.2. Document suspect fungal contamination and list clues to the cause.
  • 8.6 Intrusive inspection for fungal growth.
  • Opines: Don’t be afraid to go in.
  • Many mold inspection reports have pages of exclusions, such as “inaccessible”… some of these guys won’t find the problem unless they trip on it.”
  • 8.7 The purpose of air and surface sampling is to test a hypothesis.
  • Opines: We would be better off if they banned air sampling for mold. Air sampling for mold is unscientific and unsupportive.
John’s Final Comments:
  1. It’s a free country the consumer will never know the difference in certifications.
  2. Join a reputable association.
  3. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  4. Allied Association are trying to work from the top down, educating the insurance industry on the parameters of prevailing industry standards and practice.
Blog References:

Z-man signing off

Trivia Question:
Astronomer, mathematician, philosopher and physicist Galileo Galilei died on January 8, 1642. Name the cosmologist and physicist who was born on the same day 300 years later?
Trivia Answer:
Stephen Hawking
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