Mold is destroying military homes. Here’s how we solve it.
Special to Stars and Stripes May 12, 2022
Mold in privatized military housing remains a topic of media and congressional attention. The issue is significant but not unique to the military community. Mold plagues communities nationwide. From college dorms to single-family homes, mold impacts the health of individuals and displaces families.
A larger issue is becoming evident: If improper mold assessment and remediation continually affect our military, an institution that America places high confidence in, how can we expect policy action to protect the broader public?
Congress held two hearings on substandard privatized military housing in the past few months. On March 31, the House Appropriations subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies held an oversight hearing. The Senate permanent subcommittee on Investigations followed suit last month. Witness testimony in both hearings revealed improper mold assessment and remediation.
The Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights passed by Congress two years ago was the start of a solution, but it does not go far enough. Section nine (9) of the Tenant Bill of Rights states military families are entitled “to receive property management services provided by a landlord that meet or exceed industry standards and that are performed by professionally and appropriately trained, responsive, and courteous customer service and maintenance staff.”
Congress and the Department of Defense stopped short of naming specific standards in the Tenant Bill of Rights, even though industry standards exist. More importantly, federal law encourages the use of accredited standards. The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act calls on federal agencies to adopt voluntary consensus-based standards whenever practicable. OMB Circular A-119, established over two decades ago and revised in 2016, spells out the importance of promulgating industry standards.
The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification is the only organization to publish an accredited industry standard on mold remediation (ANSI/IICRC S520 Standard on Professional Mold Remediation). However, the IICRC has not experienced an uptick in demand for standards from most private military housing companies, nor is it seeing an increase in training within mold-related courses.
That’s troubling. But we can do better.
We know mold is one of the most reported problems in privatized military housing. We owe it to the individuals in uniform and their families to provide clean, healthy homes. It starts with getting accredited mold standards incorporated by reference (IBR) into federal regulations. The American National Standards Institute provides a dedicated portal showing organizations and standards incorporated by reference in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.
The blueprint for solving mold in military housing already exists. We need government officials, both elected and appointed, to act.
Michael Dakduk, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, is president and CEO of the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification. The IICRC recently launched Mold Uncovered, a campaign to incorporate accredited mold standards and certifications in law and regulation.