Mold an Ongoing Concern in Campus Residence Halls

edited.Minta_MacKenzieBrady (2)By Lori Wysong

News Editor

As the new school year begins, staying healthy can be a challenge. Transitioning into a new living space can be difficult, especially when your dorm is facing problems with mold.

Over the summer, Kent, Caroline, Queen Anne’s, Harford, East Hall, and Minta Martin experienced issues with mold, according to the Washington College Director of the Physical Plant, Valerie RiChard.

Ursula Herz, director of residential life, believes that mold is a “common problem.”

“From my experience working at other colleges in the northeast, any location that has humid summers experiences the same challenge with mold,” she said.

“Similar to other allergens, most molds grow naturally outdoors and can be readily brought into buildings by way of open windows and doors, ventilation and air conditioning systems, clothing, or shoes,” RiChard said.   

RiChard said that the most common types of mold found in the residence halls were Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Cladosporium.  According to the Mayo Clinic, these may cause allergies or illnesses, especially in people with asthma or weakened immune systems.

“Once indoors, if given moisture and a source of food, molds grow quite quickly. Drywall, carpeting, fabric upholstery, wood, and soapy residue on shower walls can all serve as excellent nutrient sources for the growth of molds,” RiChard said.   

Herz and RiChard said that WC is employing North Shore Restoration, a mold remediation service, in order to tackle the problem. Sussex Environmental, a health consultant that performs mold inspections, will also be conducting air sampling on campus.

RiChard attributes many of the causes of mold to improper ventilation and temperature regulation, especially in areas which receive a lot of moisture, such as older dorms.

“Shared bathrooms also mean increased humidity that can lead to the growth of mold,” she said.

These factors put many of the residence halls typically occupied by underclassmen at special risk for developing mold.   

To prevent the formation of mold, RiChard recommends keeping living areas as clean and dry as possible. She asks students to notify Buildings and Grounds if they see mold, or any signs of leaks or moisture that might lead to mold forming.

“Report any water problems immediately by submitting a maintenance request,” she said.

Herz said that students should also contact the area coordinator for their residence hall in order to help follow up on mold problems.

“The new Area Coordinators are Kailey Feuerstein and Nakia Johnson. Kailey is in the Caroline office and is in charge of Minta, Reid, Caroline, QA, Hills, and Kent. Nakia’s office is in Sass and she is in charge of all other halls,” Herz said.

Those experiencing severe allergies associated with mold, such as congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, or difficulty breathing should contact their doctor, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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