Several schools in Pennsylvania have recently closed because of mold. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), mold exposure can create certain health problems, including eye, skin, nose, and throat irritation, allergic reactions, and asthma attacks. They note that it’s not enough simply to kill the mold, as even dead mold can cause allergic reactions in some people—the mold has to be completely removed.
Southern Huntingdon County, Dubois Area High School, Central Dauphin School District, East Pennsboro School District, and more have all reported mold over the past several weeks. Many believe that the high humidity levels experienced in the area may be to blame.
School After School Closes Because of Mold Concerns
In September 2018, the Southern Huntingdon County School District found mold spores in both the high school and middle school, and closed both for cleaning. That same week, the Dubois Area School District found mold in several classrooms, and also closed the schools for cleaning. Both schools blamed the high heat and humidity, along with the unprecedented rainfall.
In August, Central Daughin School District closed their East High School for two days after finding mold spots on carpeting in some classrooms. The East Pennsboro School District also sent a message to parents noting that they’d found signs of mold in two classrooms and that maintenance and custodial staff were working to clean it up. Additional testing found mold in four other classrooms.
Plum schools were also affected. The schools had to delay the start of the school year because of mold concerns at the junior high and high school. Pleasant Valley School District did the same, as did the Northwestern Lehigh Middle School, and the Resica Elementary School.
Mold Health Effects Dangerous for Students?
For some kids, mold may present even more serious health problems than irritation and allergic reactions. CNN reported on the story of a Winsted, Connecticut third-grade student who experienced repeated illnesses one year, including a persistent wet cough, respiratory infections, painful headaches, and even pneumonia. He missed a total of 53 days of school, but then once summer came, he suddenly got healthy. When he went back to school, the infections returned. That’s when his parents got released there may be a problem at school.
Tests at the student’s school showed elevated levels of mold in the gym, the cafeteria, and other areas, and the district conducted a complete cleaning. The boy’s parents put him into another school, where according to them, he acts like a different child.
In a 2013 study, researchers collected air samples from 12 inner-city schools. They found that mold was present in 100 percent of the classrooms, though levels varied. The scientists concluded that school is a source of mold exposure. As to whether that mold could cause more serious health effects, such as those that affected the student mentioned above, remains uncertain, though some studies have indicated that it may. At the very least, mold can cause respiratory irritation and may be particularly troublesome for those individuals who are allergic to it.
EPA Offers Guidance for Schools
The EPA provides guidelines for schools concerning mold and recommends that first and foremost, each school should watch out for moisture problems, like roof leaks, landscaping or gutters that have direct water into or under the building, and unvented combustion appliances. Mold can also hide inside walls, around pipes, on the backside of wallpaper and drywall, behind furniture, on the top side of ceiling tiles, underneath carpet and carpet pads, underneath floorboards and tiles, and in attics and crawlspaces.
The EPA adds that schools should:
- Reduce indoor humidity;
- Regularly inspect the building for signs of mold and moisture;
- Respond promptly to moisture and/or mold signs;
- Prevent moisture condensation; and
- Regularly clean floor and carpeting.
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