It seems over the last few years that we are hearing more and more about mold making people sick. Following an investigative report from the CBS affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth Texas, they uncovered reports of mold in 47 different dormitories in colleges throughout Texas since 2018.
College student Sarah Melton, 18, became very ill while living in her dorm at the University of Oklahoma. She stated she experienced allergy-like symptoms, memory loss, and even a personality change. She said that she is still experiencing side effects from living in her moldy dorm, nine months later. Sarah took it upon herself to start a Facebook group for college students called Break the “Mold”.
Also in Oklahoma, and more recent, it was reported that the University of Central Oklahoma Edmond campus also has a mold issue in their dormitories. This issue is causing the displacement of approximately three hundred students during the same week that they were expecting to move in.
In the fall of 2018, the University of Maryland had a mold at Elkton Hall, which required approximately five hundred students to be relocated to hotels. A couple of months later, university officials deemed the issue to be successfully re-mediated.
Also in the fall of 2018, Indiana University had a significant mold issue. Student Julia Gibson moved into her dormitory. She almost immediately began feeling ill, developing a throat infection, and having her asthma flare up badly. Following an investigation, the University ended up having to temporarily re-home 100 students after finding a more widespread mold issue in residence halls. They determined that there was widespread Aspergillus growth in the buildings. You might have heard of Aspergillus before, it is very common in North America and sadly it was found to be responsible for the illness and death of several children at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
All of these problems beg a couple of important questions: what is causing this and what can be done to prevent it? We recommend reading our article about what causes mold to grow for some more in-depth information, but here are some of the cliffnotes:
Mold requires several things to grow. It needs a food source such as drywall, wood, dust settled on surfaces like HVAC ducts or some other cellulosic material. The spores need to settle on one of these surfaces as well. These first two things are present everywhere: there are always walls and wood in structures and there are always mold spores in the air no matter where you go. Once the food source and the spores are present, that is not enough for the mold to grow. Those spores, despite having a food source and a place to grow, still need moisture to grow.
It is very important to control moisture in the structures you live and work. I understand that you cannot necessarily control moisture in your dormitory, but you can take steps to control it in your home. The same principles for controlling moisture in your home also applies to educational facilities. The University of Maryland in response to their mold issue have implemented moisture control projects to address the mold growth and help prevent it.
Some things to look for when moving into a dorm are: visible mold, a musty or damp smell, and areas where water or moisture appear to have collected, such as water stains on the ceiling or walls. These are signs and conditions that may point to the existence of a potential mold problem. Mold can cause a wide range of health issues such as headaches, nosebleeds, allergies, breathing difficulties, and chronic flu-like symptoms. Mold-related health issues can negatively affect the productivity of a student, and are often overlooked as a cause of illness in general.