Schools & Colleges Contend With Costly Mold

  • By Air Care Wizard
  • Posted June 28, 2017

In 2016, we received a phone call from a worried mother regarding the living conditions of her daughter's dorm room. What we found during our initial inspection was unsurprising; the A/C unit in the room wasn't effectively removing humidity from the space and the problem was contributing to mold growth in the room. To make matters worse, the room was vacant during the summer without any sort of ventilation or humidity control.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story yesterday, June 27th 2017, detailing similar issues at a number of schools and colleges across the country. The article opens with a story about young Sapphira Holmes, a 4-year old girl who was rushed to the emergency room with respiratory problems.

                "Jennifer Matos rushed her 4-year-old daughter, Sapphira Holmes, to the emergency room last September after noticing the girl’s chest heaving as she breathed.

Sapphira, three weeks into prekindergarten at Oak Springs Elementary in Austin, Texas, was given oxygen and put on a breathing machine. Ms. Matos said a doctor mentioned that the asthma symptoms could be caused by mold exposure.

According to an Austin Independent School District report, a classroom inspection requested by Ms. Matos found high levels of Aspergillusor Penicillium mold—common triggers for allergy-like responses. The district, where buildings average 40 years old, has discovered mold at five schools and a parking garage since 2015, according to maintenance director Louis Zachary.

The problems in Austin are among dozens of documented cases in which K-12 schools and colleges nationwide have detected mold in the past year. Fixing the problem costs anywhere from a few hundred dollars for replacement air-conditioner parts or new carpeting, to hundreds of thousands of dollars for more comprehensive cleaning and repairs."

This unfortunate case illuminates the risks of mold exposure over time, especially for children. Mold exposure can cause a number of symptoms, including: respiratory issues, itchy eyes, sinus congestion, and headaches to name a few. The mycotoxins produced by some molds have even been associated with immunosuppression and cancer. Children and the elderly tend to be at a higher risk for these problems.

We are exposed to mold every day in the outdoor environment and we know that just about every home in our pocket of Florida has some mold; it's inevitable. The real issues begin when there is an acute moisture issue that remains unchecked, causing mold growth. In our schools, many of which are buildings from the 50's and 60's, we find that deteriorating conditions lead to moisture intrusion and subsequent mold growth. Children who are exposed to this mold on a daily basis are at a higher risk for developing symptoms of mold exposure. Parents should be aware of the conditions in their child's classroom. A child who stays sick or develops mold-related symptoms upon returning to school could be a sign of mold exposure.  

Preventative maintenance and timely repairs of issues causing moisture intrusion are crucial in preventing mold growth and subsequent health issues. The cost of fixing a moisture problem can grow exponentially once it causes a mold problem large enough to necessitate remediation. In another excerpt from the article in The Wall Street Journal, Dr. James Craner explains why timely and effective action is needed:

                "Nevada-based Dr. James Craner, who evaluates patients who have been exposed to mold and other environmental or occupational hazards, said opting for cheap, quick fixes or ignoring the potential danger of water intrusion problems comes at a long-term cost.

Appropriately detecting and removing mold, he said, is "a construction and economic issue with significant public-health implications.”

The EPA has stated that we spend up to 93% of our time indoors. This is why it's so important to be award of the conditions in our homes, schools, and businesses. Proper early identification and treatment of mold and moisture problems can prevent related health issues and an ever-increasing cost of repair as the problem gets worse.

If someone is concerned about a mold or moisture problem in their home, school, or business, they would do well to hire a licensed professional to assess the problem. It's important to verify that they are licensed by the state to perform mold assessments and that they'll follow IICRC guidelines when recommending a scope of work for remediation. Hiring a licensed remediation team is just as important. A licensed remediation team following IICRC S520 guidelines will be able to adequately contain the contaminated area so that the cleanup process does not contaminate other areas of the property or make the problem worse. In fact, the state of Florida requires that any mold issues over 10 square feet need to be handled by a licensed remediator.

For more information about mold assessment, click Here

The Wall Street Journal article can be accessed Here

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