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
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
"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
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