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Topics - JasonYost

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When we talk about indoor environmental quality, we aren't just talking about the air's quality; rather, we're discussing the overall environmental quality.  Here's a brief example of what I'm talking about: While air quality might look at those things that make up the climate of a building, environmental quality includes other stressors, like noise, light, ergonomic conditions, overcrowding and other factors. I open with this; because, I want to stress something greater than air quality in this article.  I want us to focus on indoor environmental quality, in order to gain a clearer understanding of the subject at hand: indoor environmental carcinogens.

A carcinogen is a substance capable of causing neoplasm, which literally means "new form".  This new form is given the name: cancer.  The mechanism by which a substance causes growth of abnormal cells (this new form) depends upon the substance, itself, and the age, sex and overall health of the person exposed.  This makes establishing a threshold dose nearly impossible for some substances; because, (1) for some carcinogens there is a chance cancer will develop no matter the dose (amount of the substance) one is exposed and (2) individual sensitivities (i.e., susceptibility) vary from person to person.  Concerning this later point: What might be acceptable level of exposure for one person may not be enough for another to experience the severe irritation of disease development.  These are an important points we'll come back to in a moment.  For now note that dose-response curves for risk assessment are unreliable factors in risk assessment in relation to carcinogenic substances.

What research has shown is that there are specific genes that are associated with some cancers, and there may be inherited factors that play a part in the disease, as well.  Among cancer researchers there are at least two general classes of carcinogens: genotoxic carcinogens and epigenetic carcinogens.  The former class include those substances that react with the DNA (which is the genetic material containing information for cellular function, metabolism and growth).  The later class does not interact with the genetic material; rather, it causes the disease through some other form of interaction (e.g., asbestos, which you can read more about here:'s-impact-on-one's-health/).  There are, however, some carcinogenic substances that do not fit into either of these categories.
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As noted above, the mechanism of cancer causation is important to risk assessors (i.e., inspectors), industrial hygienists and occupational safety and health professionals because of the clear implications that there may not be a threshold dose for many carcinogenic substances, especially for those in the genotoxic class.  It's important that inspectors understand this when performing a risk assessment; otherwise, improper determinations/conclusions can be made at terrible costs.

There are various ways carcinogenic substances are categorized by various governmental and industry organizations.  Here are a few:

1.)  The National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) uses the notation Ca to indicate that a substance is a potential occupational carcinogenic.  While NIOSH may establish Recommended Exposure Limits (RELs) for some of these substances, they do not all (for many of the reasons cited above).  The ones that they do not establish RELs, NIOSH recommends exposure be avoided.
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2.)  The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) addresses these substances through specific standards, some of which include Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs).  An example of this is 4-nitrobiphenyl, addressing manufacturing, processing and handling, found in 29 CFR 1910.1003.  No PEL (or action level) is given; however, there are many provisions included, such as but not limited to clean change rooms for workers.  The lack of a PEL means that any detectable level is unacceptable by OSHA's standard.

3.)  The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) uses a 5-category classification system for carcinogenic substances, in effect since 1992.  A1 indicates an agent that is a confirmed human carcinogen, evidenced by epidemiological studies or convincing clinical evidence in humans.  A2 is for suspected human carcinogens, as demonstrated in experimental animals at dose levels by routes of administration, sites, histological types or mechanisms that are considered relevant to worker exposure.  A3 are animal carcinogens, as demonstrated in experimental animals at relatively high doses, or by routes of administration, at sites, of histological types, or by mechanisms that are considered relevant to worker exposure.  A4 indicates the agent is not classifiable as a human carcinogen, based on inadequate data for humans and animals.  A5 designates substances that are not suspected as human carcinogens, based on (1) studies that have gone on long enough to allow for any latency period associated with cancer, (2) data that has been collected in a reliable and scientific manner, and (3) studies that have adequate statistical power, concluding exposure does not convey a significant risk of cancer. 

What are some examples of carcinogens that can be found indoors?

Asbestos, benzene, cadmium, chromium, hexavalent chromium, and vinyl chloride are just a few.  I won't get into each of these in this article, as each could be the subject of its own....

How do I know what to look for?

Most people don't, and can't.  They lack the training in industrial hygiene and toxicology to do so.  This is where you need to seek out a credible industrial hygienist and medical professional to help you (1) diagnose and treat your illness (medical professional) and (2) diagnose your building (industrial hygienist).  To learn more about industrial hygiene and industrial hygienists, read the following:  An industrial hygienist will guide you through the process and perform the necessary inspections in conjunction with your medical doctor's diagnosis and treatment.

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Don't take chances, gain empowering Solutions - today!

We are proud to announce that Terre Haute, Indiana, now, has a true self-defense school, geared toward empowering everyone to life with things like:
1.) Full or part time lessons
2.) Dedicated to real-life situations (rather than sports fighting)
3.) Individualized attention for individual empowerment
4.) Instructors who've used their fighting system (rather than just theorizing about one)
5.) Multiple systems of discipline
6.) Weapons and empty-hand training
And much more!  With classes nearly everyday of the week!
"Most of the people I meet have never been in a street fight, much less a life threatening situation.  This means they have the wrong idea of what fighting is, yet ... there is much taken for granted." Jason Yost, Wing Chun Sifu (teacher), explains.  "Self-defense is everyone's responsibility...  When someone attacks you there is no time to dial a number, or reach for something you don't already possess, or learn how to fight.  One has to be ready to do whatever they have to to survive.  And, either they can, or they can't...  You see: Ability is being able to do what you intend to do the moment you intend to do it.  There is no other definition, and no excuse."

If you had to justify to those counting on you - those you love - the outcome of a serious confrontation today, could you?  Well, now you can by learning real self-defense at the Yost Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

Empower yourself to life™ and Never Again!™ / Never!™ be the victim of someone else's stupidity.

Over the course of my twenty-seven years in the indoor environmental inspection and remediation industry I have heard all kinds of sales-pitches for various products, meant to help mold remediators perform their duties “faster”, “safer” and “with less mess”.  And, I’ve tested behind many of their applications. . . .   One such product is chlorine dioxide (ClO₂).  Since its introduction in the mold remediation industry (used in response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster), I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to this product and the results of its application on mold remediation projects.

ClO₂ is not found naturally in the environment.  At room temperature it is a red-yellow gas that is highly unstable, decomposing into its elements at an explosive rate.  Because of this, it is never shipped “ready to use”; rather, it is produced near the point of its intended use.  That production is a two-step process (each of which is conducted under vacuum conditions):

1.)   Sodium hypochlorite is reacted with hydrochloric acid to generate chlorine; then,
2.)   The chlorine is reacted with a sodium chlorite solution, which results in the generation of chlorine dioxide.

The exception to this transportation rule is when the chlorine dioxide is frozen as a hydrate.  When chlorine dioxide is dissolved in water, an aqueous solution is produced known as chlorine dioxide hydrate.  (This frozen solid is orange-colored, appearing as a block of ice, with a faint odor of chlorine.)  When shippers offer the frozen hydrate for transportation, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires them to maintain the gas in the solid state using dry ice or other means, and requires identification of the gas on the accompanying shipping paper as follows:
NA9191, Chlorine dioxide, hydrate, frozen, 5.1, (6.1), PGII (Poison)

ClO₂ was used as a microbicide in many ways prior to Hurricane Katrina; for example, it was used to disinfect water in the dairy, beverage and other food industries.  And, at water-treatment plants it is used to kill bacteria.  Along that same line, ClO₂ has been used to kill anthrax in mail packages, like the Hart Senate Office Building, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  It was these uses that led insurance companies and remediation companies to believe that ClO₂ could successfully be used to remediate mold in contaminated buildings.  (It is interesting to note that it was found effective when the microorganism was present in low concentrations.)

Anthrax on a petri dish

In 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, ClO₂ was used in a number of houses all across the Gulf Coast; however, unlike its previous uses listed above, this application would prove unsuccessful.  All over Louisiana and Mississippi (where the product was mainly applied) people were returning home to find visible mold contamination in their homes and offices – despite its application.  Eventually this led the State of Louisiana to sue insurance and remediation companies on behalf of its citizens, and the State won their case.  So, what went wrong?  After all, if it is such a highly unstable, life-killing agent, why didn’t it work in remediating these buildings?

With any microbicide, like ClO₂, the most one can hope for is that it will kill the organisms present.  That means that even if it works (as a life-killing agent), the dead organisms will remain.  In the cases involved in the Hurricane Katrina applications, this meant many houses were left with visible contamination; and whether living or not, it was contamination that required further work to remediate the buildings of mold contamination. 

Mold found on drywall after treatment with ClO₂
Is dead mold still a threat to one’s health?

Yes.  Dead organisms can be an allergy or asthma trigger, or instigate other negative responses in those biologically sensitive.  Some organisms, capable of producing toxins, may continue to release toxins as their cell-structure breaks down (i.e., the organism decays).

Is this product still used today?

I have seen a few companies utilize it.  Yes.

Is the product dangerous for people?

Yes.  When chlorine dioxide hydrate warms up and thaws, it gives off a chlorine dioxide gas that is highly toxic if inhaled.  (The odor is similar to chlorine and nitric acid.)  The following are a few hazards associated with ClO₂:

1)   Highly irritating to skin and mucous membranes of respiratory tract.

2)   May explode on heating or on exposure to sunlight or on shock or if subjected to sparks.  The substance is a strong oxidant.  It reacts with combustible and reducing materials.  Reacts violently with organics, phosphorus, potassium hydroxide and sulfur.  This generates fire and explosion hazard.  Reacts with water.  This produces hydrochloric acid and chloric acid.

3)   Inhalation, ingestion or contact (skin, eyes) with vapors, dusts or substance may cause severe injury, burns or death.  It has been shown to cause DNA damage in laboratory tests.

ClO₂ is not classifiable as a human carcinogen because of inadequate data in humans and animals.  Under the draft Carcinogen Assessment Guidelines (USEPA, 1996), the human carcinogenicity of chlorine dioxide cannot be determined because no satisfactory human or animal studies assessing the chronic carcinogenic potential of chlorine dioxide have been located.

Don't take chances, gain empowering Solutions - today!

For more on ClO₂ visit this website:

In the past we've discussed how it is a conflict of interest for someone or some company to provide inspection and remediation/restoration services.  What I'd like to do in this article is expand on that conversation by sharing some of the federal and industry-based standards which have been used in court cases across the Midwestern United States (U.S.), defining such provisions of service as a conflict of interest.

First, the courts look to previously defined uses of conflict of interest.  Therein, the courts have defined the burden of proof in relation to proving conflict of interest is this: A person or company's actions may have been corrupted by a self-interest rather than proving the conflict existed; in other words, the person or company cannot provide the services without being effected by providing both - regardless of whether or not they were effected.  An example of this is a mold inspector who provides mold remediation services.  The outcome of his or her inspection of your property may effect his remediation practice.  Whether or not the inspection actual does is irrelevant to the courts.  The fact that it can means the court sees it as a conflict of interest.

Secondly, the courts look at federal standards and guidelines, which outline certain necessities on every work-site.  One such necessity is the definition of specific hazards on a work-site by competent persons, defined by OSHA as industrial hygienists.  While the term industrial hygienist is not owned by any one organization or association, it is defined in relation to the science used by these professionals and their competency in that science: industrial hygiene.  To learn more about industrial hygiene and industrial hygienists, I point you to the following two resources:

1.)  OSHA website on industrial hygiene:

2.)  My article on industrial hygiene and industrial hygienists:

Thirdly, the courts will look at industry-based standards of care.  In this case we can find more specific discussions of conflict of interest in the way it is warned against, such as but not limited to the following examples:

1.) Independence.  It is preferable, it states in many industry standards, that the industrial hygienist be an unbiased resource.  This industrial hygienist should be independent of the remediator, and any remediator acting as their own industrial hygienist is to disclose that - in writing - to their customer before providing services.

2.) Confidentiality.  There are various confidentiality clauses that exist in every industry, and the industrial hygiene and remediation industries are no different.  Where an industrial hygienist is retained by someone other than the remediator, there may be a limit on what the industrial hygienist can share with parties other than their client (and vice versa).  This is especially true of legal cases.  Where the same person or company has performed both services these protections are violated and, especially in legal cases, prove impossible to use in favor of anyone involved.

3.)  Overlap.  The overlap of services are frowned upon by most industry standards as an ethical violation.  They go so far as to warn remediators to keep aware of situations where overlaps exist and encourage them to educate their clients by recommending or transferring responsibility to an industrial hygienist for proper assessments, inspections, testing, sampling and verification.

Don't take chances, gain empowering Solutions - today!

So, when looking to hire someone for your Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) or Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) or occupational safety and health needs, make sure to confirm they're providing you defensible, honest, reliable, need-specific work, void of conflict of interest practices (e.g., product sales and restoration, restoration and inspection, inspection and remediation, property sales and inspection, etc.).

An Indiana fire damage restoration technician writes:
Jason, does OSHA regulate the fire and smoke damage restoration work?

Although few  specific federal safety and health regulations related to fire and smoke damage restoration exist, there are regulations that are applicable to businesses that perform such work.  Employers (and their employees) are responsible for complying with these safety and health regulatory requirements.

The two broad categories of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) standards that apply to this type of work are called Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) parts 1910 (General Industry Standard) and 1926 (Construction Industry Standard).  Restoration companies are required to comply with both of these standards, and, as such, shall establish all required safety and health plans within them and their local, state and provincial governmental authorities' regulations.

Here are some examples of things include in these OSHA standards:
 - Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
 - Respiratory Protection
 - Emergency Action & Fire Protection Plans
 - Heat/Cold Disorders and Health Effects
 - Bloodborne Pathogens
 - Hazard Communication
 - Lockout/Tagout
 - Fall Protection
 - Scaffolds and Ladders
 - Noise Exposure
 - Asbestos, Lead and Other Regulated Materials
 - Warning Signage
 - Training of Workers
 - Multi-employer Doctrine
 - Engineering & Administrative Controls
 - Competent Person Clause

Additional to these two standards, OSHA, via its General Duty Clause, will enforce industry-based knowledge.  So, restoration companies want to keep up with the development of guidelines, standards and other documents as it pertains to the inspection, cleaning and restoration of such structures.

Don't take chances, gain empowering Solutions - today!

Mold Inspection & Removal / A Case Against Mold Sampling: 1
« on: April 10, 2018, 12:31:45 PM »
A family in Indianapolis, Indiana recently contacted me with a familiar problem:

For a couple of years I've sensed something wasn't right in our home.  I'd not felt well, and the more I began to pay attention to it the more I realized my symptoms were unique to my home. I've seen a doctor, who tested me for various things.  And, I've been found to have a mold-related illness.

While mold related illnesses are controversial to many, they are not to those patients, like this one, who are under the care of a credible medical doctor.  And, when they begin to suspect their home is making their illness worse (or causing their illness), they want specifications for remedy. . . .

We hired two different "mold inspectors".  Each came out and did something different. One took air samples, and said everything looked okay.  The other took surface samples (in the attic and on some furniture), and found Stachybotrys in the crawl space and Chaetomium on some furniture.  Neither provided us any real [mold remediation] protocol, but we didn't think anything of it at the time.  We called some mold remediators to get quotes, thinking they could.  But they don't agree on what needs to be done.

What would you do in this family's situation?

One of the biggest issues I have with the mold assessment/inspection and remediation industries is greed.  Unqualified persons or persons practicing a conflict of interest - despite knowing better - taking advantage of people (e.g., "mold is gold") out of their own self-interest: greed.  It makes the entire industry look bad.  And, for those of us doing the job right and putting customers first, it makes our job harder - because people don't trust our industries.

We just want to know what to do next, and make sure the house is safe for me to live in again.  I don't want to move, but I will if I have to. . . .   Our problem, now, is, though, we don't know who we can trust.  We've tried several times to get guidance.  Are we just going to get someone else out here to take our money and not give us specific directions on how to make this safe for me?

Before I get into the discussion of mold sampling (the title's topic) I just need to say: Shame on you, everyone who takes advantage of people like this!

This example is one of many I can give against the practice of sample-only inspections of indoor environments.  Mold sampling isn't the end-all of the inspection process.  It is a single tool in a tool-box of many used by credible inspectors, called industrial hygienists by OSHA, in determining the building's condition in relation to mold and its causal factors.  Used by themselves, they do not tell the sampler (can't really call them inspectors) things like:

 -  What's causing the mold to be there?
 -  How do the causal factors (for mold contamination) need to be addressed?
 -  Is demolition necessary in order to remedy the building condition?
 -  Will the building be able to be occupied during remediation?
 -  What kind of engineering controls and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are necessary?
 -  What laws/standards will have to be complied with in order to secure the building?
 -  What should the criteria be for Post-mold Remediation Verification Inspection (i.e., what should the end condition of the building be before re-occupancy)?

...... the list goes on and on.
Since mold spores are present at background levels in a normal fungal ecology, mold growth is virtually inevitable if moisture is not controlled.  To prevent this, moisture problems shall be identified, located and corrected or controlled as soon as possible....  Reconstruction normally does not begin until moisture is controlled, mold remediation is competed and materials are dried.

That quote, taken from the Institute of Inspection, Clean and Restoration Certification's (IICRC's) S520, Standard & Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation, is something often overlooked by "remediation" companies who only perform demolition and cleaning services.  It is, also, overlooked by inspectors who fail to perform adequate inspections and provide specifications for remediation (often called protocols by remediators).  If this (the above quote) is the standard of care for mold remediation, why aren't these so-called inspectors looking for the causal factors (i.e., moisture issues) in a building?  And, if this (the above quote) is the standard of care for mold remediation, why wouldn't you, the consumer of their services, expect the inspector to make every attempt to identify causal factors (for any real contamination present) and provide a corrective action plan (i.e., the protocol)?

Don't take chances, gain empowering Solutions - today!

Someone wrote to me a question concerning another article I wrote, called Why It's Important to Respond to Water-damage Promptly & Professionally.  (If you've not already read this article, I encourage you to do so by going here:'s-important-to-respond-to-a-water-damage-promptly-professionally.)  Instead of responding in that article, I thought the subject of his question required its own article, or attention. . . .

Jason, I read your original post. And, I have to ask: Are these things really hazardous, the gases and bacteria and pests? I live in Indiana, and we're around this stuff all the time.

They can be.  Yes.  There are many variables that go into determining real risk, and that's why a proper risk assessor should be involved on these claims where an industrial hygienist hasn't defined workplace hazards (and risks) already.  (This is an OSHA mandated standard for workplaces.)  Here are just a couple of examples:

1.) Chemically sensitized occupants.  There are many types of biological dispositions that make one sensitive to chemicals.  How often on claims do you know when such an occupant is present?  The reality is, there are persons who don't know they are sensitized, or may not be sensitized until after a given exposure (to an environmental condition), to let you know. . . .  When any adjustment to the indoor environmental quality takes place (related to chemicals), these persons will be the first to respond (negatively). 
2.)  Type and concentration of the agents in question, as well as location and potential exposure routes.  These, together, can determine initial-risks; however, during the work of water-damage restoration things change dramatically.  (The science of drying building materials is, itself, an aggravate of environments, capable of manipulating a source of contamination from one location to another.)  Besides the biological dispositions of occupants, these factors go into determining real hazard and risks associated with the building.

Of course these are just a couple of examples.  As I posted in my original article (linked above), there are other types of hazards (besides chemicals) in these types of environments.  The dynamics of risk assessment go beyond asking questions like:

-  Where did the water come from?
-  How long has it been here?
-  What kinds of building materials were infected?
-  Were there pre-existing (building) conditions related to mold or water incursions?

Sure.  These are important questions to ask (especially if you're trying to define insurance coverage), but they don't define hazards and risks associated with the workplace.  And, if those things aren't defined the generalizations practiced (by anyone working on these claims) may lead to unwanted building and/or biological conditions/responses (not to mention increase the cost of doing business, loss of competitive advantage (e.g., loss of consumer trust), compliance and ethics violation fines, etc.). 

Don't take chances, gain empowering Solutions - today!

Over the course of my twenty-seven years in this industry, I have been asked a great many questions about water or fire damage, mold or other types of insurance claims.  Recently, within the last few years, I've noticed a growing number of restoration companies who've been told by insurance adjusters things like: This or that engineering control (e.g., containment, negative air pressure establishment and monitoring, etc.) and Personal Protective Equipment, also known as PPE, (e.g., respirators, suits, gloves, etc.) are not covered under an insurance policy.  These adjusters go so far as demand the line items for such work are removed from the restoration company's bill. 

Now, it's not the purpose of this article to take sides on who owes what; rather, I intend to answer a specific question - Does OSHA regulate these types of claims? - and discuss the facts regarding that matter.  In order to supplement the material in this article with previously generated articles and Q & A, I recommend readers view the following:

These articles, along with this one, should go a long way in answering any questions you have.  If they do not, please reach out to me at  Now, to the question at hand:

Th short answer to this question is: Yes.  The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces industry-based standards (e.g., IICRC's, ACGIH's, and others' guidelines and standards) in its expectation of worker protections on water, fire and mold claims.  While some may argue that this only applies to water-damage technicians, fire-damage technicians, mold remediators, and the like, the truth of the matter is:  It applies to any worker on the work-site.  This includes but is not limited to the following:

 - Insurance Adjusters
 - Water, Fire, Mold Technicians
 - Temporary, Sub-contract & Other Forms of Labor
 - Adjoining Environments & Their Workers (not directly related to the claim)

But, Jason, isn't it true that OSHA hasn't written a standard specifically for these types of claims?  How can it do enforce this?

To some degree, you are right.  There are no specific standards that say: Water-damage Restoration, or Fire-damage Restoration, or Mold Remediaiton. . . .  However, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) has enforced many industry standards without an OSHA-specific standard on the same subject (e.g., ergonomics).  They use the General Duty Clause (which can be read here: to enforce industry-based standards, and the Courts have sided with them.

That said: There are specific standards that apply to these types of claims, promulgated by OSHA (and others not questioned in this article).  You can read about some of those in the article links I put at the top of this article.  (I strongly encourage you to do so.)

Jason, if our policy excludes the engineering controls and PPE, do we [the insurance company] have to pay for them?

That is a legal question best answered by an occupational safety and health lawyer; however, I would recommend you read my article (linked above) discussing why insurance companies want/need to hire an industrial hygienist on claims.  It discusses occupational safety and health laws (as it relates to adjuster protections) and other important points that your company (and you, if an adjuster) want to understand prior to limiting the application of any professional on a claim.  (Your actions may have serious consequences if you do.)

Don't take chances, gain empowering Solutions - today!

There once was a young lady that I knew who used to come and go from my school.  She never committed herself to training; only asked questions.  She took for granted: "It'll never happen to me."  Because it hadn't. . . .  Until one day it did.  Six guys attacked her while she was with her friends walking to a homecoming football game, in Terre Haute, Indiana.  Although the police were called, by the time they arrived the damage was done.

Consider this:
The average time it takes for police to respond to a call (in the U.S.) is 9 - 22 minutes.
The average street fight is less than 10 seconds. 

This is no offense to our great men and women in law enforcement.  It is just an acknowledgement of the limitations on their ability to defend you, and the responsibility you have to defend yourself and those around you.  In order to do that you must be proactive; learn real self-defense.  (To learn more about real self-defense, read my article here:

Never Again!™ Never!™ be the victim of someone else's stupidity.  Empower yourself and those you're responsible for to life by learning real self-defense.

For years we've listened to concerned citizens of the United States debate gun laws and the use of rifles in crimes.  And, while it is important to have discussions on matters of social violence and come to localized (thereby effective) means of dealing with violent people (preferably before they become violent), we must all be diligent in preparing ourselves and those we're responsible for in the case we (or they) have to deal with the violent.  This starts with acknowledging the truth about violent crimes.

If you're to prepare to do your job at work or a test at school, would it make much sense to study something other than what you're being tested on?  Of course not!  You'd be spending your study time on something other than that you'll be tested!  Right?  Well, the same is true of self-defense training.  Many spend time doing things that don't mesh well with the culture of violence they are likely to experience if attacked outside a ring, octagon, or other sports-orientated arena.  This leaves them vulnerable to the realities of combat. . . .  Let's look at some statistics from the FBI:
1.)  Some 60% of crimes involve a weapon of some sort.  So, while it's nice for some martial arts instructors to tell you to "just run" if someone has a weapon, the reality is if you can't out run that person (and leave behind anyone who was with you when they attacked you) then you can't run from the attacker.  You have to know how to handle those situations.  (Not to mention: If you can run from these types of attackers, why take their martial arts at all?  Couldn't you just take track and field and run from any attacker?  What's the point...?)

2.)  While AR-15s are under attack, the reality is that more crimes are committed by knife-wielding attackers than these guns.  (And, more people carry a knife than a gun due to its use - in various styles - in workplaces, recreational activities, and self-defense.)  If you aren't learning to effectively use these weapons and learn how to defend against them, will your best be enough for your survival or the survival of those you're with (e.g., your kids, wife, mother, father, friends, etc.)?

3.)  Just to add to that last point:  Did you know that more murders are committed with hands, feet and fists than rifles?  Many of these incidents deal with multiple attackers, but not all.  You see: People don't fight fair on the street, and their friends don't like to see their friends lose.  (We used to call this "jumping in" and "having a friend's back" when I was young.)  This emphasizes the need to effectively, efficiently and honestly learn to use what you have to defend yourself - in every way possible - against the odds of fairness, rules and regulations.  (If the attacker cared about those things he/she wouldn't attack you.)

There's nothing worse than taking for granted the principles of self-defense and our condition in relation to those needs.  When we do, we open ourselves up to become victims.  One such assumption is that by banning weapons we make the streets safer.  But, when was the last time you saw a drug dealer care that the drugs they were dealing were illegal?  (By the way, the drug-related deaths exceed the gun homicides and motor vehicle deaths combined!)  My point is that the laws don't stop those willing to violate those laws.  (Heck - it's already illegal to kill people using a weapon outside of self-defense, so why are they doing it anyway?  They don't care about those laws.)

Here's another such assumption:  I know how to fight from drills and exercises and time in a ring or octagon, yet I have never fought on the street, nor have I fought someone outside my weight class....  Or, how about this one:  I've never trained to defend myself against multiple attackers or attacker(s) with weapons.  You see where I'm going here?

To make matters worse, there is one punch everyone knows, whether or not they have formal training:  The sucker punch.  If they're serious about doing you harm, they're going to be patient and look for the best opportunity (time, place and means) to harm you.  All you have to do is lose perspective, focus, give into ego and complacency.

Never Again!™ Never!™ be the victim of someone else's stupidity.  Empower yourself and those you're responsible for to life by learning real self-defense.

For those of you who've been in the indoor environmental / industrial hygiene industry as long as I have been, you've been around long enough to have witnessed the "Mold is Gold!" craze from restoration, remediation, medical, legal and other companies, and you've probably heard a million different theories or claims as to what causes what in relation to mold-related diseases or symptoms.  For those of you who have not...  I offer the following brief (which we'll tie back into the subject/title of this article in a moment):

In the mid-to-late 90s there were floods that impacted portions of Ohio and California.  Long story short: Some infants died, and it was assumed a mold caused the deaths of these infants.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (commonly called CDC) botched two investigations into these matters, which left everyone without a clear understanding of cause and effect (for the infants' deaths).  Consequently, opportunistic persons/organizations coined a term - "Mold is Gold!" - to drive enthusiasm for their training programs, their products, their services, etc. 

And, like then, today many people, legitimately concerned over mold in their building and/or mold-related symptoms they are experiencing, are faced with the overbearing question: Who do I believe?  With that in mind (and a few of my customers from over the years), I thought we'd discuss, briefly, the origins and truth concerning a term used to describe a medical condition in some people:  Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS).  Now, I realize that this is a very personal subject to cover for many people, so I ask readers to be respectful of the subject and when posting do so logically and with respect for the truth.

In 1997 a family physician claimed to have linked an illness to a toxin produced by a fish-killing dinoflangellate known as Pfiesteria piscicida.  This doctor claimed that Pfiesteria piscicida kills fish via releasing a toxin into the water to paralyze its prey.  This hypothesis has been questioned, however, as no toxin could be isolated and no toxicity was observed in some experiments.  (Toxicity appears to depend on the strains and assays used, as this is the common denominator between research performed on this hypothesis.  Common strains and assays lead to one result; while, others lead to another.)  Since his development of this hypothesis, this same doctor has extrapolated that the same kind of illness may be linked to other biologically derived toxins including those from molds, like Stachybotrys, Aspergillus, Penicillium, Chaetomium and others. 

Over the years this doctor has developed his own medical procedures for diagnosing this disease even though the toxins involved have yet to be established by scientific consensus.  What does this mean for CIRS?  Well, it's a hypothesis that has not yet, via the scientific method, been proven. 

In fact, over the years this doctor has been the subject of lawsuits, even brought before courts to testify about his theories and methods of diagnosis and building assessment procedures.  In these lawsuits the doctor's diagnostic procedures were analyzed with cases stating such things as:

- his opinions are general and specific causation based on novel and unaccepted theories and methodologies;

- he did not perform his five-step protocol on . . ., and indeed could not possibly have done so, as he first met them long after they left the suspected mold environment [This is a case where he claimed the cause was a specific environment];

- he was unable to base his causation opinion on . . . response to treatment, for . . . chose not to take the medication that he had prescribed for them; and,

- temporal association between exposure and illness, without more, is generally insufficient to establish causation.

This doctor ended up losing his license to practice medicine, but that hasn't stopped him from influencing the medical practices, as he has moved on to train those in medicine and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) testing interested in learning about his methodologies. 

What You Need To Know:

If you are confronted by someone wanting to take air tests via some doctor's protocol, make sure the person testing your building is, him or her -self, qualified to do such work by someone other than the doctor they are citing.  There are many federal, state and industry standards of care that this doctor's protocol ignore - even violate at times - in favor of his theories on air sampling interpretations.  If you aren't dealing with an inspector with expertise in these things they may miss important things required to assure (1) a clear understanding of the building's condition is made, (2) a clear plan of action (for mold remediation) is developed, and (3) verification of work is sufficient to assure safe re-occupancy/use of the building when the mold remediators are gone. 

If you're dealing with a doctor who either tests for CIRS or sends tests to another doctor for CIRS, find out where they received their training in this matter and before getting too involved in medications, like Cholestyramine, get a second opinion.  While mold may be a legitimate cause of ill-health, you want to make sure that the disease is clearly defined.

Finally, share your medical information with your industrial hygienist (i.e., mold inspector) and make sure they use that information to provide you specification (not generalizations).  In order to assure accuracy, have your doctor work with your industrial hygienist, so the industrial hygienist has accurate biological data on you or those you're concerned about.  (This helps the industrial hygienist justify certain procedures in his/her protocol for mold remediation.)

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A mold remediation supervisor and I were speaking on a project he was working on recently, when the gentleman stated he couldn't have installed warning signs "because we were exiting the exterior door".  Now, this may be difficult for some of you to understand, but I hear similar things quite often.  For example:  One mold remediation supervisor told me that the client requested no warning signs be installed, or else.... (they wouldn't be hired).  All of this has led me to write this article; one in which I find most necessary for anyone (e.g., contractor, insurance adjuster, building owner, etc.) materially interested in a mold remediation project.

While it may be nice to have any project performed without warning signs or the yellow-tape you see in the image above, the reality is that these signs are not optional.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as various industry-based standards of care (e.g., the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, or IICRC) mandate them.  Here are just a few of OSHA's standards for reference:

1.)  29 CFR 1910.37[q] for egress means and exits
2.)  29 CFR 1910.145[c][2], [d][4] for caution signs
3.)  29 CFR 1910 and 1926 has a wide range of specific hazards requirements
4.)  29 CFR 1910.145[c][1], [d][2], [f][5] for dangers on the worksite

Of course it is beyond the scope of this article to cover them all, so it is absolutely necessary that remediators receive training in occupational safety and health to comply with the laws, protect themselves and the other contractors on the work-site, as well as protect the building's environment and its occupants.  One things I will point out is that any warning signs identifying hazards should include the remediation company's 24-hour contact name (project manager) and phone number, the company's name, and the company's address.

Some examples of warnings signs include:

Do NOT Enter:  Mold Remediation in Progress!

Caution:  Slip, Trip & Fall Hazards

Caution:  Hard Hat Required Area

No Unauthorized Entry

And, along the lines of that last one, the remediators should install a sign in and out sheet for anyone entering and exiting the abatement area or work-zones.

Are there varying laws for the type of space one is working in?

Yes.  There could be.  For example: confined spaces require signage with the date the signs were posted as well as the expected date they will be removed or reassigned.

Can the customer or insurance adjuster sign a Limitation on Standard Compliance Form waiving us of the signage requirements?

No.  These signs are mandated by OSHA for worker protections.  No one has no right to waive you of any of these compliance laws.

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I had a guy out here, at my house, who was a mold inspector.  Suppose to know his stuff.  He said he'd checked everything for allergens, but I kept having symptoms; stuff you'd expect from exposure to things I'm allergic to.  So, I hired . . . .  who did an inspection for allergens, and their industrial hygienist said they found issues with allergens.  Why is it the first guy missed these issues if he's a certified mold inspector?

While mold can be an allergy-trigger (i.e., allergen) there is more to the category "allergens" than mold.  What this means is the person that is doing the inspection has to be competent in a different kind of building (environment/air quality) inspection process(es) than just mold.  So, if you're looking to have some sort of indoor allergen inspection performed, look to professionals with specific education in industrial hygiene for your type of building's environment (and your allergen sensitivities).  Don't settle for someone over-reaching, like a mold inspector with no real education otherwise.
What are some examples of allergens?

Examples include but are not necessarily limited to:
 ~  Components of household dust
 ~  Mold spores and fragments
 ~  Pollen
 ~  Dog, cat and other pet dander
 ~  Cockroaches and other insects and rodents
 ~  Dust mites
 ~  Fabric and other fibrous particulate

How do I know what's causing my symptoms?

The first, best step to take is to define your sensitivities to potential allergen-types by seeing your doctor.  Once that is understood it narrows down the industrial hygienist's inspection processes, allowing them to focus on your specific needs instead of a generalized, broad category of agents.  Then, find someone competent enough to define whether or not your building has an issue with those agents and what might have led to that building condition.  In that way the inspector can generate a corrective action plan.

Never assume what is causing your symptoms or that the cause is isolated to your building, either.  There may be something else going on that only a doctor can help you with.

Don't take chances, gain empowering Solutions - today!

Jason, I work for State Farm, and I have to say that I read a lot of what you write, and don't really understand it all.  We don't get a lot of training in what you discuss, but our Insureds are constantly asking us about it.  My problem is if I can't justify a cost to my supervisor I can lose my job. Is this normal of most insurance adjusters?

Unfortunately, yes.  In fact, there are regional supervisors - for many different insurance companies - that I've spoken to who are having the same issues you are.  Many of these regional supervisors only receive 8 hours of water-damage restoration training, and are expected to make safe, defensible decisions on insurance claims.  (Key words: safe and defensible.)  This is an unrealistic expectation.  If it were that easy, there wouldn't be entire college training degrees in restoration, industrial hygiene, and other related areas of claims management.

To make these matters worse, many of these region managers are expected to take their training and condense it into a three or four hour training program for the adjusters they supervise.  These adjusters are the in-the-field, emergency respondents, making the immediate decisions of coverage and more.

As I point out in an earlier article (which can be read here: there are real consequences to willful ignorance in the field of duty.  And, given the volume of training available in the industry, there really is no excuse for this.

What does that mean for us Insureds?

What it means for Insureds and contractors is that there are additional stressors placed on everyone via the ignorance applied to the claims handling process.  Here are a few examples:

1.)  Disagreements on the processes of handling the claim:  While it is true that there may be more than one way to handle a claim successfully, not every process (or product) is correct.  And, if the proper professional is not consulted on how to handle the specifics of a claim (not generalize about a claim and leave as-is) the claim will not be processed correctly, and legal and biological liabilities are likely to arise.  Adjusters' jobs are to process information and relate it to the contract (i.e., the insurance policy) they have with their policyholder; they are not the know-all of all water, fire, mold or other damage claims.  When they (or the contractor) acts outside their expertise and professional, ethical standing on the claim, the claim may become debated between materially interested parties, holding up progress on the claim and creating other liabilities for all materially interested....

2.)  Disagreements on the use of engineering controls or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Believe it or not, I have seen insurance adjusters argue against compliance with OSHA standards of care (mostly due to their ignorance).  They argue that the process of establishing and maintaining engineering controls is "unnecessary" and demand they "won't pay for it".  To make matters worse, they argue against the use (or at least the fee associated with the use of) PPE.  This is not the adjuster's job, to dictate safety and health needs on claims.  I've written about this in another article, which you can read here:  This creates many issues/liabilities on claims, legal and biological in nature, for all materially interested parties (maybe even outside parties).

3.)  Rejection of proper professional team-members for processing the claim:  In order to avoid the above mentioned issues and those not listed in this article, it is important that the team, utilized in processing the needs of each insurance claim, are brought together and effectively utilized.  If they are not, there will be a lacking element in the claims handling that could cause harm to one or more materially interested party (as you've seen above).  This means a credible insurance adjuster, authentic industrial hygienist (again, see this link on their use on claims:, trained and ready restoration and remediation professional(s), and, in some cases, engineers, lawyers and doctors should be engaged in the claims handling process.  Whomever denies the necessary team members on claims absorbs the liability of their absence, as do those unqualified persons (or those practicing a conflict of interest) acting in their place; while, all materially interested parties pay for their absence in the above mentioned issues/liabilities.

Don't take chances, gain empowering Solutions - today!

Jason, I had a home inspector come into my house and say they think they see asbestos on some plumbing and duct-work.  I don't know if it is or not, but can it be as bad as this guy is making out?  He claims it can cause all kinds of disease.

This Terre Haute, Indiana man is not alone when it comes to cutting through the propaganda to the truth concerning indoor environmental stressors, like asbestos.  Many today are bombarded with advertisements and other messages from contractors and lawyers and other groups concerning this and other environmental components.  So, as we did with mold ('s-health/) let's talk about The Truth About Asbestos & It's Impact on One's Health.

Do you see any asbestos in this picture?

The term asbestos is derived from the Greek word meaning unquenchable or indestructible, and refers to naturally occurring fibrous mineral silicates which have different chemical compositions.  It has, for centuries, been used in lamp wicking, plaster, sod homes, burial clothes, suits of armor, tablecloths, insulation materials, fittings, patching compounds, adhesives, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, shingles, and many other components, including but not limited to hair driers, electrical wiring, cigarette filters, cement filler, taping compounds, widow putty, and gaskets.  Characteristics of asbestos include:

 ~  The ability to form fibers;
 ~  Resistance to flame/fire;
 ~  Resistance to cold/heat;
 ~  Resistance to chemicals;
 ~  Extreme tensile strength;
 ~  Resistance to water; and,
 ~  Resistance to friction.

In other words, it's durable.

There are two main categories of asbestos: Serpentines and Amphiboles.  Serpentines are just like they sound: serpent or snake-like, soft, "s" shaped.  Of the serpentine category, Chrysotile (white asbestos) has been the form most commonly used and is relatively inert biologically.


Amphiboles are more nasty looking: short, needle-like and brittle looking, and are, generally, more water-resistant than Serpentines.  Of the Amphiboles, Crocidolite (blue asbestos) is especially hazardous as it may cause mesothelioma and bronchial carcinoma.

It has been estimated that deaths due to asbestos are around 10,000 in the United States (US) alone from 1983 - 2013 (and nearly 3,000 in the United Kingdom, or UK).  Exposure comes from working in factories where the minerals are used, to demolition of buildings, to automotive mechanical work.  And, the primary exposure route is inhalation.

Exposure to asbestos via inhalation can lead to the following conditions:
 ~  Asbestosis or interstitial fibrosis of the lung;
 ~  Benign pleural disease;
 ~  Bronchial carcinoma; and,
 ~  Malignant mesothelioma.

Image: Minnesota Department of Health

Disease from exposure develops over a variable period of time; meaning, different people will respond at different times with disease.  This is important to consider, as those being exposure will not immediately experience disease or Building Related Symptom (BRS, also known as Sick Building Syndrome or SBS). 

Although asbestos is chemically inactive, the fibers are cytotoxic (i.e., toxic to living cells) and will haemolyze red blood cells. The length of the fiber is an important factor in toxicology.  Longer fibers (10 - 20 μg) will cause fibrosis but shorter ones do not.  This is due to the inability of macrophages to phagocytose the long fibers fully (and so the macrophage cell membrane is damaged and enzymes leak out).  These enzymes and other cellular constituents are thought to be involved in the development of fibrosis.  While the body can, normally, remove hazardous particles, long asbestos fibers are not adequately removed (by macrophages); in fact, there's some research that shows the asbestos fibers cause a change in the cell surface of the macrophage after ingestion.

Let's take a closer look at one of the most well recognized forms of asbestos disease: Mesothelioma.

CT scan showing a left sided mesothelioma with an enlarged mediastinal lymph node.
Image: Wikipedia

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, affecting the chest lining and singularly associated with asbestos exposure (esp. but not exclusively, Crocidolite).

Is prolonged exposure necessary to develop this disease?

No.  Not to high levels.  Furthermore, it is not necessary that one is occupationally exposed to develop this disease.

Does it take a long time to develop the disease and feel its effects?

The latent period is usually long, approximately thirty years after exposure, but once diagnosed the disease is usually fatal within months.

Can this spread to my lungs?

It may eventually spread to the lung and eventually encase it.

Won't the fibers dissolve in the body over time?  And, how much is necessary to cause disease?

Unlike other carcinogens, asbestos does not metabolize, but remain present in tissue permanently.  That said, they may migrate from the airways to the pleural cavity.  Consequently, even high doses for short periods of time may be sufficient to eventually cause disease.

Are respirators sufficient in protecting people from exposure when asbestos containing materials are being handled, like during construction?

No.  Without engineering controls secondary exposure (i.e., other environments and those within them) may become exposed.  The manipulation of the work environment is mandatory (by law) for compliance, safety and health.  This is why only trained professionals should be utilized in assessing these environments and remediating them.

Don't take chances, gain empowering Solutions - today!

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