Mold Causes and Impact
What causes indoor mold growth?
High levels of outdoor humidity can create a challenge in some of our older buildings, whose HVAC systems were not designed to remove the excess moisture in the air. This is a common issue faced by many colleges and universities in the Northeast, particularly during late summer and early fall, when humidity is relatively high.
Is mold dangerous?
Bucknell has not found evidence of dangerous mold. All air samples taken near visible indoor mold tested in fall 2021 by a certified industrial hygienist retained by the University showed results that were typical for the air and soil of central Pennsylvania. Several rooms and areas had airborne mold spore counts that are higher than the level typically found outdoors in this area at that time of year. Analysis showed that this mold is aspergillus/penicillium and cladosporium, which are common to our region and are regularly present in our air and soil. It is not stachybotrys, which is a toxic black mold. Bucknell has found no evidence of black mold in any campus buildings.
Can mold make students ill?
Bucknell is mindful that exposure to mold may trigger allergic reactions or respiratory symptoms in some students. Students who believe they have identified mold in their room should submit a work order to arrange for inspection. If they are experiencing respiratory symptoms, they should contact Student Health at 570-577-1401 for medical evaluation.
How should suspected mold in University residential spaces be reported?
Any student who believes they see mold growth in their on-campus residence should submit a work order for inspection and cleaning. Do not attempt to take apart heating or cooling units.
How should suspected mold in academic or public University spaces be reported?
Employees who believe they see mold growth in these areas should submit a work order for inspection and cleaning.
How can students reduce humidity in their rooms?
The most important thing students can do is keep humidity as low as possible. Additionally, please follow any specific instructions that may have been provided for your particular residence hall, as heating and cooling systems vary by campus location.
- Keep your fan unit on low speed, with the temperature setting in the middle.
- Make sure there is adequate spacing around the fan coil unit.
- Do not open the windows when the fan coil unit is operating.
- Place damp towels, damp clothing, and wet shower caddies and shoes in well-ventilated areas, not in closets.
- Wipe up spills promptly.
- Do not place backpacks or other items on air conditioning units.
- If you have an air purifier in your room, please keep it running 24 hours a day.
- If you have a dehumidifier, please keep it running at all times. Empty the reservoir as necessary in a bathroom sink when you see the “full” signal.
Mold Mitigation and Remediation
Who handles mold removal?
Bucknell Environmental Health & Safety, Facilities and Housing staff work together to respond to reports of mold, with student health and safety as the highest priority. If necessary, the University contracts with certified industrial hygienists, as well as technicians trained in mold inspection and removal.
What steps does Bucknell take to remove mold and discourage future growth, once visibly identified and confirmed?
- Facilities has implemented procedures to have all residential room fan coils and mini-split HVAC units inspected and cleaned on a periodic basis by either Facilities staff or contracted professionals.
- Affected wood furniture has been sterilized, and an encapsulant product has been applied to affected surfaces to prevent recurrence of mold growth in affected buildings. Any cracks with evidence of mold in these buildings were also caulked and painted.
- Humidity levels are remotely monitored 24/7 in most residential buildings. Older buildings without remote technology are physically checked every day.
- Custodians and/or contracted service technicians inspect and wipe down surfaces in student rooms where mold growth is reported, using anti-microbial disinfectant.
- Large-scale air scrubbers and dehumidifiers may be deployed in hallways and common areas of affected buildings, and HEPA vacuums may be used on carpets.
- Individual air purifiers and/or dehumidifiers are available to students upon request by placing a work order.
- Permanent dehumidifiers were installed in all living areas of the Mods during summer 2022.
- Students receive reminders on correct operation of HVAC units, and resident assistants are trained in mold prevention.
Any student who believes they see mold growth should submit a work order for priority inspection and cleaning.
Where can I get additional information?
Questions may be directed to Bucknell Environmental Health & Safety at email@example.com.