- THE MAGAZINE
"Things have changed," said Dr. Mani Skaria, a mycologist and plant pathologist at the Texas A&M-Kingsville Citrus Center in Weslaco.
"Two years ago, there was no control. Contractors who didn't understand the biology of mold were actually making the problems worse, causing a lot of damage and increasing the health risks to the public. But the new rules have weeded them out."
Skaria worked with Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas A&M University System to disseminate proper mold remediation techniques until the Texas Legislature acted.
In 2003, state lawmakers passed House Bill 329, resulting in the Texas Mold Assessment and Remediation Rules, which regulate mold assessment consultants and technicians and mold remediation contractors.
Before they can test for mold or perform mold cleanup in a residence or building in Texas, contractors must meet qualifications, have required training, pass a state exam, abide by rules of ethics, and be covered by insurance.
Bobby Garcia, owner of Bio-Tech Solutions, Inc. of Edinburg, said the regulations, which went into effect this year, have made a very positive difference.
"We used to have lots of what I call carpetbaggers, or fly-by-nighters, who did hatchet jobs on people's homes and businesses because they had no basic training. They were undertrained and overpriced. They were actually doing more harm than good."
Garcia said since the new rules went into effect, the number of mold remediation contractors in the Rio Grande Valley has dropped from 50 or 60 to just a handful of licensed businesses.
"The new state rules are like the Bible of mold assessment and removal," Garcia said. "The rules call for a required protocol that is now almost identical to the process of asbestos removal. It's very strict."
The new protocol and conflict of interest rules call for a system of checks and balances whereby consultants and contractors sign certification documents attesting to the fact that mold was properly and completely removed.
Garcia said Bio-Tech Solutions has two biologists on staff to assist in their projects, which also include lead and asbestos abatement and water and fire damage restoration.
Valente Alaniz, owner of Ace Mold Remediation and Ace Builders of McAllen, said the new state rules have made the mold assessment and removal business more professional.
"Having to get licensed and having to carry one million dollars in liability insurance eliminated many unprofessional people," he said. "Here in the Valley, I'd say we're down to five or six mold remediators and less than a dozen people who do assessment. But things were so out of control, the state really had no choice but to intervene."
Alaniz said his mold assessment business has gradually decreased while his construction business has increased dramatically.
"We've incorporated a lot of what we learned in our mold work into how we construct our homes and light commercial buildings, so I'm glad we got into the business," he said.
Skaria maintains it is important for homeowners and others to be on the lookout for mold and to eliminate it early to keep it from spreading.
"Remove it when it's a small problem because mold grows and it gets spread passively by people, insects and mites," he said. "When it grows it can produce toxins that can cause serious health problems, especially for the elderly, those sensitive to molds and those with compromised immune systems."