Richard J. Shaughnessy, PhD Bill Sothern, CIH – ABC News prime-time show “The Lookout” Protect Yourself During a Mold Inspection Segment

Air Date: 6-7-2013| Episode: 287

ABC News has a new show called “The Look Out” and on the first episode this weeks guests were their experts on mold investigation. Richard Shaughnessy, PhD and Bill Sothern, CIH were called in to evaluate the home used as part of the undercover investigation…

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ABC News has a new show called “The Look Out” and on the first episode this weeks guests were their experts on mold investigation. Richard Shaughnessy, PhD and Bill Sothern, CIH were called in to evaluate the home used as part of the undercover investigation. They evaluated the home to ensure there were no mold or moisture problems and ABC called in seven mold inspectors to get their opinions. What follows is an interesting program with varying opinions on the extent of any problem in the home.
Richard Shaughnessy, PhD has served as Program Director of Indoor Air Quality Research at the University of Tulsa since 1987.  He is a widely published researcher on IAQ issues and recognized expert in the area. Dr. Shaughnessy last joined us on Episode 110 of IAQ Radio. William M. Southern is a Certified Industrial Hygienist with a Master of Science degree from Hunter College in environmental and occupational health. He has been in industrial hygiene practice for the past seventeen years, with a concentration on indoor environmental issues. He is a recognized contributor to the NYC Department of Health Guidelines for the Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments and is the co-author of the NYC Housing Preservation and Development (NYC HPD) Protocols for Mold Inspections and Clean-ups. In 1993, he founded Microecologies® Inc. to provide environmental evaluations and clean-up solutions for occupants of residential and commercial buildings.
Z-Man’s Blog:

Where there’s a sting, expect discomfort

On Wednesday, May 29th ABC News unveiled a new news and entertainment TV series called “Lookout”. One of the show segments focused on residential mold inspection and was produced by veteran ABC TV journalist Ann Sorkowitz. Seven mold inspectors were invited to inspect the site of a prior water leak in an upscale home and make recommendations. The questions the inspectors were asked to answer is 1) does the home have a mold problem in the isolated area in question? 2) if so, what needs to be done about it?

The opinions widely varied, 4 inspectors opined that nothing needed done, another conducted costly sampling and one firm recommended costly invasive repair.

Industry notables Richard Shaughnessy, director of research for the Indoor Air Quality Program at The University of Tulsa, and Bill Sothern, owner of the environmental consulting firm Microecologies in New York City, were asked to conduct an advance pre-inspection of the home and provide the parameters of what a typical inspection would comprise of.

Nuggets mined from the episode:

• Experts agreed that the show producer Ann Sorkowitz does her homework.

• The technical setup was similar

• Acknowledging that judgment and interpretation of findings was required, the experts were curious and expected a range of findings and methodologies.

• Technical eavesdropping and recording setup was similar to Candid Camera.

• Indoor contaminates other than mold weren’t considered.

• The network’s film cutting was done fairly.

• Some of the inspectors conclusions fell outside the range of acceptability

• Expert team chose sensory (visual and olfactory) inspection over sampling unless an exposure risk is suspected. Experts agreed that sampling may be unnecessary to develop a mold remediation protocol. Predicating a remediation plan on sampling without an inspection that identifies moisture and fungal sources is not recommended.

• Experts opined that ABC should tell people where and how to find a professional (AIHA, IAQA) and recommended the new 2013 NIEHS Disaster Recovery – Mold Remediation Guidance booklet ( contains great advice to help consumers find a competent mold inspector and remediator.

• Update on Super Storm Sandy by Bill Sothern: A novel program, funded by Mayor Bloomberg’s Fund, Robin Hood and Red Cross has committed ($15.6 million) to assess and treat 2,000 homes damaged by the storm. Thus far, 50% of the work has been completed. The program is being administered the NGO LISC/NRNYC, and with Bill’s help was streamlined to reduce costs by entering the assessment data directly onto tablets in the field and developing a coding system that auto-writes the scopes of work.

• Experts agreed that disclosure and transparency is important and that it’s unethical for inspectors to solicit or accept under the table payoffs from contractors. Experts agreed that disclosure as to the company doing the inspection may also be in the business of remediation, should be made upfront. In addition, homeowners should be encouraged to get at least 3 bids on the remediation plan that may be developed by the inspector before deciding which firm to settled on for the work.

• Experts disagreed on whether a “conflict of interest” exists when an inspector would also perform remediation work on the same project. Bill pointed out that in his experience, on many projects the mold remediation contractor unavoidably becomes the mold inspector when previously hidden mold growth is revealed during the remediation work.

• Experts agreed that 3rd party oversight on remediation projects is preferred.

• An inspection is akin to peeling an onion, one layer at a time. Use least intrusive inspection and remediation methods first.

Experts advice to homeowners:

• Develop a level playing field and scope of repairs to be bid on.

• Obtain 3 bids

• Information will assist an educated buyer in selecting a qualified and ethical service provider.

Dieter’s comments:

• TV is ratings driven.

• We pay a lot of money for the privilege of watching commercials and infomercials.

• Wonders where did the teachers learn it?

Today’s music: “I’ll be watching you” by the Police

High profile combatant in the Texas Mold Wars and consumer advocate Melinda Ballard passed away this week.

Z-man signing off