Although the recent media focus seems to be the invasion of bedbugs, not so long ago mold was the focus. Some readers became fearful that any mold seen would surely result in a life threatening illness. Although most have little to no reaction to household molds, some people who suffer from allergies may be more sensitive. However, those more sensitive may also be suffering from other allergens in the air since Greenville has been identified as one of the top ten allergy capitals in the United States. As with any medical concern, always seek the advice of our Student Health Services or your family doctor; however, extensive testing is often required to identify the exact source of an allergic reaction. The goal of Housing and Residence Life is to provide suggestions to reduce the number of allergens within individual living environments to reduce the risk of allergic reactions. The information below is intended to provide some general information regarding mold growth, provide some housekeeping tips to prevent an increase of allergens within individual living spaces and provide an action plan should preventative measures fail.
What is mold?
Having existed for millions of years, molds are everywhere. Most molds grow naturally outdoors, like other allergens, and can be easily brought into buildings through open windows and doors, ventilation and air conditioning systems, clothing, or shoes. Once indoors, if provided moisture and a food source, molds grow very easily. Drywall, carpeting, fabric upholstery, wood, soapy residue on shower walls can all serve as good nutrient sources for mold growth. Molds come in a variety of colors including white, sometimes seen on a damp carpet, pink, often found on shower walls not cleaned regularly, and black seen around windowsills as a result of condensation. Given a source of moisture, mold can grow just about anywhere. Moisture control, air circulation and good housekeeping practices are necessary to control mold growth.
How to prevent mold
- Report any water problems ( leaks behind a toilet or under sinks, dripping faucets, wet carpet, leak from a ceiling, moisture under tiles, drips heard behind the air intake cover, etc.) immediately. Please submit requests at http://www.furman.edu/housing/workorder.htm.
- Set the air conditioning thermostat above 70 degrees and the fan on auto to reduce the amount of condensation on or around windows and to maintain proper airflow.
- Keep ceiling vents in all areas open to maintain proper airflow.
- Do not open windows when air conditioning is in use.
- Routinely clean bathroom areas, to include the shower curtain liner, with bathroom cleaner to prevent the growth of soap scum which is an excellent food source for mold. Always follow the directions and read all precautions before using any cleaning product.
- If a bath exhaust fan is provided in your living space, be sure to turn the fan on when showering. After your shower, keep the shower door closed and the fan running for an extra 10 to 15 minutes to remove excess moisture from the air.
- Good housekeeping practices (vacuum floors, wipe down counters, clean up spills quickly, wash out refrigerators to include wiping the doors, etc) should be shared by all roommates to help reduce the amount of food sources for mold growth.
What you should do if you see mold in your apartment or residence hall room?
- If you see a little pink around the bottom of your shower curtain, a little black on your windowsill or other possible mold growth, don’t panic.
- Check the area to see if there is a leak or a maintenance issue causing the excess moisture and if so, submit a maintenance request on line immediately.
- If the problem is a result of condensation or a less than favorable housekeeping schedule, clean the area with hot soapy water as soon as you see the first signs of mold to prevent further growth.
- Keep in mind that cleaning just once will not result in your never having to clean that same area again. Regular cleaning is necessary to prevent mold.
What will be done by Housing and Residence Life?
If you have followed the guidelines above and continue to have mold growth in an unusual area not typically prone to excessive moisture, submit a maintenance request on line and our staff will come to inspect the area.
- Housing staff will collaborate with Facilities Services to determine the cause of the persistent moisture issue and take measures to correct the problem as quickly as possible.
- Upon resolving the cause for the excessive moisture, measures will be taken to thoroughly clean and dry the area affected. This work may be completed by housing staff and/or an outside contractor specializing in water cleanup and restoration.
- If necessary, dehumidifiers, fans and/or air purifiers will be placed in the living space and will need to remain operational until they are removed to enhance the drying process to preclude future mold growth.
- Staff will return to check regularly on the progress until the situation has been resolved and may instruct residents in ways to assist in that process.
Tips for allergy sufferers during the Sneezin’ Season
As noted earlier, Greenville is rated as one of the top ten allergy capitals in the United States, which may be attributed to our strategic location downwind of the Smokey Mountains. This combined with our beautifully landscaped campus full of trees, bushes and other pollen producing plants can create havoc for those typically sensitive and even for some that may have never suffered from allergies in the past. If you experience sensitivity, as with all health concerns, please seek the assistance of our Furman Student Health Services and/or your physician. Below are also some suggestions to help cope during the high pollen seasons in this area.
- If medication has been prescribed to reduce your sensitivity, follow the instructions of your doctor and/or medical personnel.
- Track the pollen count at www.pollen.com and on the days that the count is “high” try to stay indoors as much as possible.
- Keep windows and doors closed to reduce the number of allergens entering your apartment or residence hall room.
- Vacuum and dust regularly to reduce the number of allergens that may have hitchhiked into your space on you or your roommate’s shoes or clothes. If you find you are extremely sensitive, you may want to invest in a HEPA Filter vacuum to capture as many allergens as possible.
- Avoid tossing your book bag or the clothes worn outside on your bed to prevent spreading allergens to your sleeping area.
- Consider showering and washing your hair before going to bed to also avoid introducing allergens to your bed linens.
- If all efforts above fail and you remain highly sensitive to allergens, you may consider investing in an air purifier for your area to remove as many allergens as possible from the air.
- If purchasing an air purifier, beware of ozone generators and their claims of being safe and effective in controlling indoor air pollution in occupied spaces. People vary widely in their susceptibility to ozone. Healthy people, as well as those with respiratory difficulty, can experience breathing problems when exposed to ozone.