REINSW pushes for improved methods of testing mould
11 October 2018
The House of Representatives’ Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport has released their report on the inquiry into biotoxin-related illnesses in Australia.

REINSW made a submission to this inquiry in July 2018, outlining its response to claims mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) and the need for accreditation for mould testing and remediation industries.

Cashing in on fear

Prior to making its submission, REINSW received expert advice suggesting there is limited evidence that biotoxin-related illnesses are directly the result of water-damaged buildings.

The research indicated most mould is not dangerous and generally appears as a consequence of aspect, weather, lifestyle and water leaks.

While REINSW does not possess the expertise to comment on CIRS, it recognises the need to consider acceptable methods of testing for toxic mould. 

“It has been brought to our attention that there is a general unwarranted fear surrounding the identification and presence of mould with little medical or scientific evidence to support the fear,” says REINSW CEO, Tim McKibbin. 

In determining whether the presence of mould is the cause of illness, REINSW submitted that the industry be regulated to ensure methods of testing are approved and verified. It also suggested that proper guidelines be established so the industry is better informed and educated on whether the presence of mould is at a toxic level, and therefore potentially likely to cause illness. 

“The fact there is no accreditation requirements for people offering mould testing services is concerning,” continues McKibbin. “This has undoubtedly paved the way for the creation of an industry of inexperienced mould inspectors who capitalise on fear.”

Impacting tenancies

REINSW reported in the submission a significant number of tenants across NSW have attempted to terminate their fixed-term tenancy agreements based on claims of the presence of mould.

McKibbin says the lack of information and resources on mould leaves property professionals in the dark.

“When presented with mould-related issues, agents are often left with no choice but to search the internet for assistance,” McKibbin continues. “With no information they are unsure how to proceed once mould has been detected in a property and may engage so-called experts who have unsatisfactory levels of experience and expertise to assess the dangers.

“This lack of information ultimately leads to fear and anxiety, which is felt by the tenants, landlords and property professionals.”

McKibbin says inexperienced mould inspectors using unsubstantiated and unverified methods may provide reports that cause a tenant to terminate their tenancy based upon health concerns that may not be cause by mould.

“This untimely exit can cost landlords thousands of dollars in lost income, testing, remediation and renovations,” he says. “Tenants, similarly, incur costs associated with finding and relocating to a new property.

“What we need is a credible report authored by a respected scientist in the field. From the findings we can then develop effective standards and accreditation. Until then, claims that the presence of mould will threaten human health will persist.”

REINSW recommendations considered in report

Given the potential impact on tenants, landlords and property professionals, REINSW strongly recommended the Committee define acceptable standards, qualifications and training for mould testing and remediation industries.

“We proposed those who do not meet these requirements should not be able to provide advice in relation to mould, its identification, removal and management,” says McKibbin. 

“It’s good to see this, and our other recommendations, have been included in the inquiry report, along with improved research into the potential health effects of mould and causes of CIRS syndrome.

“We believe education and regulation must be extended to all key stakeholders in the industry – it is not only for property professionals to bear. 

“Education plays a vital role in medical diagnosis of biotoxin-related illnesses, the outcome of NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal decisions and practices of businesses within the industry.”

The findings of the report, tabled in Parliament in mid-October 2018, will now be considered by Health Minister Greg Hunt.
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