Federal Prison Officials Refuse to Test Mold

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Hundreds of correctional officers are working in federal prisons with mold growing in areas constantly populated by both officers and inmates. Prison leaders have allowed the mold to fester for years in some cases, refusing to test it, under Bureau of Prisons policy, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Top union officials for correctional officers said prison leaders have balked at exterminating mold, refusing to hire contractors who can adequately eliminate it. A 2015 BOP memo says, “Currently there is no OSHA standard for unacceptable levels of mold in the workplace. According to OSHA, it is generally not necessary to identify the specific genus and species of mold. Since an individual’s susceptibility (i.e. potentially allergic staff or inmates) can vary greatly, mold sampling may not be reliable in determining health risks.”

The memo from Chief of Occupational and Employee Health Sylvie Cohen has been understood by wardens to mean potentially harmful mold that employees breathe in every day at work should not be tested. Union leaders report multiple health issues of current and former prison employees who have to breathe in the mold without protective gear. They said prison leaders have been reluctant to admit there are mold problems or do the type of intensive and costly work that not only gets rid of the mold but also means it stays gone. Cory Levy, a founder of We Inspect, a mold inspection service, and a member of the Indoor Air Quality Association, said the Bureau of Prisons’ policy not to test mold “makes no sense” and that an employer not testing mold is “abnormal.”

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