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Highlights

Recent research suggests that indoor mold poses a widespread and, for some people, serious health threat. Federal agencies engage in a number of activities to address this issue, including conducting or sponsoring research. For example, in 2004 the National Academies' Institute of Medicine issued a report requested by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) summarizing the scientific literature on mold, dampness, and human health. In addition, the Federal Interagency Committee on Indoor Air Quality supports the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) indoor air research program. With respect to the health effects of exposure to indoor mold, GAO was asked to report on (1) the conclusions of recent reviews of the scientific literature, (2) the extent to which federal research addresses data gaps, and (3) the guidance agencies are providing to the general public. GAO reviewed scientific literature on indoor mold's health effects, surveyed three agencies that conduct or sponsor indoor mold research, and analyzed guidance issued by five agencies.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Environmental Protection Agency The Administrator, EPA, should use the Federal Interagency Committee on Indoor Air Quality to help articulate and guide research priorities on indoor mold across relevant federal agencies, coordinate information sharing on ongoing and planned research activities among agencies, and provide information to the public on ongoing research activities to better ensure that federal research on the health effects of exposure to indoor mold is effectively addressing research needs and efficiently using scarce federal resources.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

The Federal Interagency Committee on Indoor Air Quality (CIAQ), which EPA co-chairs, established an interagency mold work group composed of representatives from several federal agencies. This group has discussed mold-related research issues at several meetings starting in October 2009, including updates on mold-related research by member agencies. In addition, the group helped to coordinate a mold-related research conference in September 2011 where two member agencies shared their research findings. Finally, activities of the group are incorporated into the CIAQ meetings as a regular agenda item. These CIAQ meetings are open to the public and meeting materials, such as minutes and presentations, are provided to the public on the CIAQ's Web site.
Environmental Protection Agency The Administrator, EPA, should use the Federal Interagency Committee on Indoor Air Quality to help relevant agencies review their existing guidance to the public on indoor mold--considering the audience and purpose of the guidance documents--to better ensure that it sufficiently alerts the public, especially vulnerable populations, about the potential adverse health effects of exposure to indoor mold and educates them on how to minimize exposure in homes. The reviews should take into account the best available information and ensure that the guidance does not conflict among agencies.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

The Federal Interagency Committee on Indoor Air Quality (CIAQ), which EPA co-chairs, established an interagency mold work group composed of representatives from several federal agencies. The group discussed mold-related guidance at some of its meetings starting in October 2009, including practical solutions for harmonizing federal mold messages across multiple federal agencies, as well as discussing the best available information on mold-related research. According to an EPA official, agencies have also used the group to share guidance documents and provide each other with comments to ensure these guidance documents represent the best available information and do not conflict among agencies.

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