When senior graphic design major Rachel Brouhard returned to her Spalding Cove apartment after a weekend trip, she was surprised to find mold on many of her shoes, her air vents and some of her furniture.
She decided to contact her dean and Plant Services and after a day or two, a crew was called to clean out her air ducts, shampoo her carpet and remove any visible growth from the apartment.
Many are not strangers to finding mold in housing at Southern Adventist University. A poll conducted by the Southern Accent on Instagram found that 70 percent of those polled experienced a problem with mold in student living spaces.
Director of Plant Services Eric Schoonard said the main reason for mold on campus is high levels of humidity experienced in the area.
What is the problem? Mold is a fungus that grows best in warm, humid and damp environments and reproduces by creating spores that are then spread through the air.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some molds can present potential health concerns, while most are common and plentiful in nature.
Although most mold causes no harm to most people, some, such as those with mold sensitivities, weakened immune symptoms or asthma may be more greatly affected, according to the CDC.
Campus officials said that most mold found on campus is harmless, although in certain quantities they can be an irritant.
“It [the mold on campus] looks gross, but it’s not deadly,” said Dwight Magers, Talge Hall head dean.What have students experienced? Students such as senior health science major Britni Barlow don’t notice mold right away. Barlow lives in Southern Village and didn’t realize that mold had been growing on her bed frame. Her mom ended up purchasing a small personal dehumidifier to help with the problem.
In the future, Barlow hopes to check for mold more often in less obvious places and tasks other students to do the same.
“Be observant of areas like in corners so that they can clean it early before it gets out of hand,” she said.
Sophomore education major Arielle Belgrave got sick during a particularly rainy and humid week of the school year and found mold on her air vent.
“I looked down and saw the vent was covered in blackness and was like what’s this?” Belgrave said. “My mom came in the room and cleaned the whole thing of mold, but it still comes back.”
Danny Yonkers, a sophomore nursing major, didn’t realize that he had mold growing next to his sink. He first saw roaches on his sink and after further investigation, realized that they were living in a dark and moist crevice where his sink had begun to pull away from the wall.
Even though Southern has a system in place for reporting mold, Yonkers said that despite reaching out to officials, the mold is still there. So he has tried to rectify the problem himself with little luck.
“I’ve looked it up and I’ve tried a few things but none of them have really worked, so I just say maybe I’m doing it wrong or Google is just not sending me the right answers,” Yonkers said. “I think they should do checks more regularly on rooms instead of just having students fill out [check out reports] at the end of the year because students aren’t professionals at seeing problems in our rooms.”What can be done for prevention? Because Southern is in a humid area, there are many steps taken by the school and that can be taken by students to reduce the chance of mold growth.
During the summer, the most humid time of the year, both Thatcher and Talge Halls run dehumidifiers to remove moisture from the air. Room doors are also propped open to allow for better airflow.
But during the school year, students play a more active role in maintaining personal environments.
“We do everything we can for preventions, but we need the cooperation of the residents,” Magers said.
For students, especially those in Talge that use shared community bathrooms, Magers said reporting malfunctions, such as broken fans that are supposed to move out stale air, is vital to prevention.
The student residence handbook recommends that students with personal bathrooms clean regularly. Student Resident Assistants should also perform biweekly shower checks to assess for any potential problems.
During the warmer months, Magers and Schoonard both recommended keeping the air conditioning above 74 degrees since the units tend to create more water and moisture at lower temperatures, increasing the likelihood of mold.
Another recommendation, one “they always look at you a little skeptical” about said Magers, includes turning on the heat when residents leave their living spaces at the first sign of growth on air vents as the heat helps to dry out the air, lowering the humidity.
Magers said the school invests in other methods such as Milban, a product used to prevent mold growth that he believes has worked better than other products in the past, even though it may come with a higher price tag.
“I’d rather pay a little more and have students satisfied,” he said.What is the protocol? Director of Plant Services Eric Schoonard said if there is only a very small accumulation of growth in a personal living space, students can safely remove the mold. According to the CDC, most mold that grows on hard surfaces can be easily removed with household cleaners, soap and water or a mild bleach solution.
For any larger quantities, Talge Dean Dwight Magers stresses the importance of reporting the problem as soon as possible.
“We rely on the residents,” Magers said.
If students are living in Thatcher, Thatcher South and Talge Halls, as well as in the Southern Village Apartments, they are to submit a repair request through the residence hall Abode system at residencelife.southern.edu.
For students living in Stateside, Spalding Cove and Winding Creek Apartments, they can use Plant Service’s TaskMaster to put in a work order.
In addition to the online requests, residents should first notify a dean, a member of the dorm housekeeping department or a contact person for their specific location.
“They’ll get it taken care off,” Magers said. “We don’t want it to be there.”
Even though most mold on campus is found to be harmless, Schoonard said the school does occasionally have licensed specialists to check on any growths of larger concern.
“We have an outside company come in and do testing, but only if there is a problem,” he said.