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.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Environmental Protection Agency||1. 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.|
|Environmental Protection Agency||2. 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.|