[Article copied from the American Council for Accredited Certification]
WHAT IS A “CERTIFICATION” AND WHAT SEPARATES THEN FROM THE REST?
Certification attests to an individual’s capability to perform a defined
task or related series of tasks, commonly referred to as a body of
knowledge. Generally, most certifications are issued by not-for-profit
organizations. Obtaining a certification is a voluntary act; there is
no legal requirement that a certification be obtained to practice a
profession or deliver a service. However, some market conditions may
operate to require or give preference to those who have a particular
certification; a market requirement for certification is far more common
in the medical profession than it is in engineering.
Certification requires a sufficient period of experience acceptable
to the certifying body and successful completion of an examination.
Many also require a collegiate degree in a particular area of study.
Some certifications require professional licensure as a prerequisite.
Certifications are not constrained by political boundaries.
Certifications are issued for a specific period of time and must be
renewed periodically. All accredited certification programs require
evidence of continuing professional development and learning as a
condition for certification renewal.
In engineering, the word Diplomate used in a certification title, e.g.,
Diplomate Water Resources Engineer, is a protected term signifying
that the certified individual is also a licensed engineer. Certification
programs issuing such titles require all applicants to possess an
engineering license to qualify for consideration.
Some certification programs are accredited; others are not. Accredited
certification programs have been scrutinized by one or more of the
three nationally-recognized certification accreditation bodies to
ensure that the programs are operated consistent with recognized
Certification can be easily confused with certificates. Certificates are
often given to individuals for attendance or the successful completion
of a course of study. Such certificates do not measure competence to
perform a body of knowledge as do certifications.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LICENSES AND CERTIFICATIONS
Licenses and accredited certifications are granted using similar
credentialing practices, i.e., they rely upon a prescribed education
program, applicable experience of some duration and scope, and an
examination of the individual’s knowledge and judgment. Both ensure
that the credentialed individual is minimally competent in the scope of
the service regulated.
Licenses are required for a professional to offer services to the
public. Certifications are not required and do not grant authority to a
professional to offer services to the public.
A common perception is that licenses address minimum competency
and that certifications attest to a higher competency. This perception
is not correct. Generally, a license covers a broad body of knowledge
and a certification is limited to a specialty more constrained in scope.
For example, a person may be licensed as a professional engineer
and certified as a forensic engineer or a water resources engineer.
However, the body of knowledge for some certifications can be broad in
scope; typically, this occurs when the certification is the only available
credential for the area of practice.
Sometimes, licenses are employed in conjunction with certifications
as in the preceding example. In other instances, certifications operate
alone. The latter case is common in areas of practice where licenses are
Overall, licenses and accredited certifications are complementary
credentials. Together, they testify to the public about an individual’s
general and specific capabilities. Where licenses do not exist,
accredited certifications provide the public the only independent
testimony to an individual’s capabilities. However certifications do not
legally regulate an individual’s practice. Only licenses regulate practice
with the force of law.
(INFORMATION TAKEN FROM THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA))
Welcome to the Environmental Analytics’ Blog page! The first thing we would like to address is Mold. What is it? How does it grow? What are the general Health Effects?
Lesson 1 – What Molds Are
Molds are organisms that may be found indoors and outdoors. They are part of the natural environment and play an important role in the environment by breaking down and digesting organic material, such as dead leaves. Also called fungi or mildew, molds are neither plants nor animals; they are part of the kingdom Fungi.
Molds can multiply by producing microscopic spores (2 – 100 microns [µm] in diameter), similar to the seeds produced by plants. Many spores are so small they easily float through the air and can be carried for great distances by even the gentlest breezes. The number of mold spores suspended in indoor and outdoor air fluctuates from season to season, day to day, and even hour to hour.
Mold spores are ubiquitous; they are found both indoors and outdoors. Mold spores cannot be eliminated from indoor environments. Some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in settled dust; however, they will not grow if moisture is not present.
Mold is not usually a problem indoors — unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. As molds grow they digest whatever they are growing on. Unchecked mold growth can damage buildings and furnishings; molds can rot wood, damage drywall, and eventually cause structural damage to buildings. Mold can cause cosmetic damage, such as stains, to furnishings. The potential human health effects of mold are also a concern. It is important, therefore, to prevent mold from growing indoors.
Lesson 2 – What Mold Needs to Grow
To grow indoors, mold needs moisture and food. Moisture is the most important factor influencing mold growth indoors. Controlling indoor moisture helps limit mold growth.
Moisture control is the key to mold control.
Mold does not need a lot of water to grow. A little condensation, in a bathroom or around a window sill, for example, can be enough. Common sites for indoor mold growth include bathroom tile and grout, basement walls, and areas around windows, near leaky water fountains, and around sinks. Common sources of water or moisture include roof leaks, condensation due to high humidity or cold spots in a building, slow leaks in plumbing fixtures, humidification systems, sprinkler systems, and floods.*
Besides moisture, mold needs nutrients, or food, to grow. Mold can grow on virtually any organic substance. Most buildings are full of organic materials that mold can use as food, including paper, cloth, wood, plant material, and even soil. In most cases, temperature is not an issue; some molds grow in warm areas, while others prefer cool locations such as bread stored in a refrigerator. Often, more than one type of mold can be found growing in the same area, although conditions such as moisture, light, and temperature may favor one species of mold over another.
Buildings that have been heavily damaged by flood waters should be assessed for structural integrity and remediated by experienced professionals. Please note that the guidelines covered in this course were developed for damage caused by clean water (not flood water, sewage, or other contaminated water). See the EPA Resource List, which includes the EPA Fact Sheet: Flood Cleanup – Avoiding Indoor Air Quality Problems (PDF) (2 pp., 36 K, about PDF), for more information.
Lesson 3 – Health Effects That May Be Caused by Inhaling Mold or Mold Spores
Inhalation exposure to mold indoors can cause health effects in some people. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances or chemicals (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Mold does not have to be alive to cause an allergic reaction. Dead or alive, mold can cause allergic reactions in some people.
Allergic Reactions, Asthma Attacks, Irritant Effects
Allergic reactions to mold are common and can be immediate or delayed. Repeated or single exposure to mold, mold spores, or mold fragments may cause non-sensitive individuals to become sensitive to mold, and repeated exposure has the potential to increase sensitivity. Allergic responses include hay fever-like symptoms such as headache, sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Molds can cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, molds can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of individuals whether or not they are allergic to mold.
Other Health Effects
Breathing in mold may also cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an uncommon disease that resembles bacterial pneumonia. In addition, mold exposure may result in opportunistic infections in persons whose immune systems are weakened or suppressed.
When mold grows indoors, the occupants of a building may begin to report odors and a variety of symptoms including headaches, difficulty breathing, skin irritation, allergic reactions, and aggravated asthma symptoms. These and other symptoms may be associated with exposure to mold. But all of these symptoms may be caused by other exposures or conditions unrelated to mold growth. Therefore, it is important not to assume that, whenever any of these symptoms occurs, mold is the cause.
For more detailed information on mold and its health effects, consult a health professional. You may also wish to consult your state or local health department. (Also see the Resource List for additional information.)
Although mold is frequently found in damp buildings, it is not the only potential contaminant — biological contaminants other than mold, and non-biological contaminants are often present and may also cause health effects. Damp buildings may attract rodents and other pests. Damp or wet building components and furnishings may release chemicals indoors.
Potential contaminants in damp or wet buildings include bacteria, dust mites, cockroaches and other pests, as well as chemicals emitted by damp building materials and furnishings. For more information on damp buildings and health effects, see the 2004 Institute of Medicine Report, Damp Indoor Spaces and Health, published by The National Academies Press in Washington, DC – See Resource List.
Lesson 4 – Mycotoxins and Health Effects
As molds grow, some (but not all) of them may produce potentially toxic byproducts called mycotoxins under some conditions. Some of these molds are commonly found in moisture-damaged buildings. More than 200 mycotoxins from common molds have been identified, and many more remain to be identified. The amount and types of mycotoxins produced by a particular mold depends on many environmental and genetic factors. No one can tell whether a mold is producing mycotoxins just by looking at it. Some mycotoxins are known to affect people, but for many mycotoxins little health information is available. Research on mycotoxins is ongoing. Exposure to mycotoxins can occur from inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact. It is prudent to avoid unnecessary inhalation exposure to mold.
For more information on mycotoxins, see the 2004 Institute of Medicine Report, Damp Indoor Spaces and Health, published by The National Academies Press in Washington, DC.