Detail

Airborne Mold Spores Detected, Removed From Residence Halls

Byline: by April Davila and Lauren Kershner

Posted: February 24, 2013

An information session for residents was held on Mon, Feb. 4 regarding the efforts to test for and eliminate possible airborne mold spores infiltrating the air in campus residence halls. Mold spores that linger in the air long enough can pose serious health concerns.

The week after December 2012 Winter break closing, mold-like spores were found in a first floor dorm room of Disert Hall occupied by Robin Kane ‘15. Director of Residence Life Sherri Sadowski, Katie Kough the Director of the Women with Children Program, and Chuck Naso, the Environmental Health and Safety compliance manager, took Kane’s complaints seriously.

A local Chambersburg maintenance management service, Baxter Group Inc., tests the campus yearly for hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead-based paint. This yearly test is part of the college’s Environmental Health, Safety and Chemical Hygiene Program. The reports are kept on file as part of the school’s safety records. Baxter was already in the building conducting this yearly test while Sadowski and Kough checked out Kane’s complaint. Upon request, Baxter followed up on the condition of the bathroom. “They responded really quickly,” says Kane. “I’m glad they caught it and fixed what was wrong. They let me know what was happening.”

Testing Reveals Presence of Mold in Several Rooms

Based on Baxter’s recommendation, testing was conducted in that room as well as the first floor of Disert. Problematic air samples were found in four of the first-floor rooms in Disert. Based on these findings, Baxter recommended a campus-wide mold assessment and sampling program.

In Riddle Hall, three student rooms and two student bathrooms showed problematic air samples. Riddle and Disert were the only residence halls that had rooms which did not pass inspection. Naso assures the community that every single residential room on campus underwent a visual inspection. “To help protect the safety of the students, all rooms and areas were assessed for mold conditions and sampled as required,” says Naso.

If the visual inspection revealed the presence of mold, an air-sampling was taken to determine the amount of airborne mold spores. Any rooms that were found to be over the limit of total allowable number of airborne mold spores were cleaned. The rooms that were found to be problematic were remediated and are now “cleared” by Baxter.

Steps Taken to Avoid Re-Appearance of Mold

The mold in Disert was caused by excessive moisture in the bathroom ventilation fans and the dryer and building exhaust systems. Naso notes that the entire Disert ventilation system was High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) cleaned. The college plans to implement a system to replace exhaust fans to help eliminate moisture in Riddle. These will have motion sensors that will remain on for 20 minutes after being triggered. This will start with the rooms and areas that were problematic, and then move to the rest of the Riddle rooms.

Naso also says, “If students want to know an analysis for the results from this assessment they are available in my office, if there is any interest in the results of your residence. The findings from the assessment and sampling results determined if a remediation program was required…and the plan was implemented, if needed.”

Baxter found the campus cleaner than any other college residence halls they have cleaned in the past five years, Naso affirmed.

Sadowski cautions, “Please don’t use bleach-based products as it tends to release more mold spores into the air as it evaporates. Baxter suggested that all you need to use [to clean] is dish soap and water and a rag. If we keep our places clean, we don’t need to worry.”

“I lived in Disert last year,” says Gina Weigold ‘16. “I probably should [be worried] but I’m not in my room enough.”

The college has implemented follow-up checks in the spaces that were remediated to ensure that there are no further issues. The staff is also being trained in HEPA cleaning measures as part of a future preventative zone maintenance program.

If you feel there is a moisture problem, you are encouraged to report it immediately to both Sadowski (sherri.sadowski@wilson.edu) and Naso (cnaso@wilson.edu). Make sure the issue is solved and if it reoccurs, report it again.

Last Updated: February 24, 2013

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