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Mold In Schools:
Questions & Answers
          

          Q. I am currently working in a school building that houses a gym, 3 classrooms, and the fine arts program -- upon entry on this past Monday -- all desk, chair and book surfaces were covered in various colors and types of mold.  Our principal wanted us to wash down the areas with bleach water and wipe the books down -- or because some were too mold covered -- we could throw them away -- I am allergic to mold (as are some of the other teachers) so she said she would have our cleaning ladies do it -- it has not been done yet.  The teachers are very concerned about the mold problem (black mold) and about the students who are about to enter the classrooms.  It is also difficult for us to set up our classrooms -- I have trouble staying in the room for any length of time.  Do we have any recourse -- to have her get the mold checked?  The ceiling tiles that show visible mold will be replaced -- but our concern is how much mold is there -- in the overhead light fixtures, in the elevator, on musical instruments -- we can see it -- but is it safe to just live with it?  [Aug. 25, 2003]

          A.  Neither school employees or students should be present in that building until it has been professional mold inspected, mold tested, and mold remediated. It is a violation of the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration laws and regulations to have employees working in a mold-infested workplace. You should send a certified letter to your principal, school superintendent, and every school board member demanding that the school be inspected, tested, and remediated to a mold-safe condition before any employees and students are required to be in that moldy building. If the school administration refuses, you can do your own mold testing using our do it yourself mold test kits [ http://www.moldmart.net ] as well as bring the problem to the attention of your local health department and building inspector. Asking untrained employees to remove mold contamination without proper safety precautions like containment walls and high volume hepa industrial filters to remove airborne mold spores was a bad school decision. Learn what is required for safe and effective mold remediation. Bleach is not an effective mold killer. Learn why at bleach and mold.---Phillip Fry, mold consultant, Certified Mold Inspector.

         
Q. We teach in a Kindergarden-8 school building constructed in 2000.  Two summers ago, when the carpet was cleaned, a few mold spots occurred as the carpet dried.  Those areas were re-cleaned and we did not see mold again until they cleaned the carpets again this past summer.  Even when weather is hot, humid, or damp, we do not see a re-occurrence of the mold spots (our wing of our bldg. is not air conditioned).  The spots were small in size...in one room perhaps 1 spot approx. 5 inches across and in the other room 2 spots approx. 2 feet wide.  The school board is concerned that mold spores continue to reside in these small spots.  One of us currently has a child with mold allergies in the classroom, and that child has not had any problems with this allergy.  The school board has decided that carpet should be removed and replaced with tile.  We do not want tile in our kindergarten classrooms for educational purposes.  What is your opinion on this matter? Do you feel that these mold spores are still in the carpet? No testing has been completed.  Do you feel that by using do it yourself mold test kits from a large hardware, home improvement, or safety store that we could purchase would give us reliable results?  Of course, we are dealing with a school district that does not want to spend money on mold testing. They feel the money would be wasted if they find mold and have to rip the carpet out anyway. [Jan. 16, 2003]
         
A. Your school board is correct for at least three important reasons: (1) a tile floor cannot conceal mold growth, whereas carpeting and padding are tremendous mold hideouts; (2) a tile floor provides no organic food for mold to eat, whereas carpeting, padding, and organic dirt trapped in both provide organic food for the mold to eat, digest, and grow with; and (3) tile is easy to clean of both mold spores and organic dirt for mold spores to eat. Why spend money mold testing the carpeting when tile is a much better way to remove any present mold contamination as well as to prevent any future mold infestations? Compared to some areas else where in the world [especially many Asian households], US residents make two big mistakes: (1) wearing shoes into and inside their homes, thereby transporting mold spores, germs, viruses, and dirt into their homes; and (2) utilizing wall-to-wall carpeting and padding that provides great food for mold to eat and a great place for mold growth colonies to hide.


       
Q.
I am a student at a school district in which 3 teachers have recently died because of cancer, and one other who was just diagnosed. One of my teachers is now going in for a test on whether or not she has cancer, but I have reason to believe that my school has black toxic mold growing in it. In the classroom of the teacher who is being tested, there are visible wet marks in the corners and a musty smell all the time. She experiences every symptom that would point to Black Toxic Mold, and our school also has all the symptoms that would point there: musty smell, mold spots, bad plumbing, bad circulation, leaks. I am extremely worried about the health and safety of the students and teachers. Do you know who I should go to in order to have it checked out and removed? Please help. I am desperate. [Jan. 15, 2003]
          
A. You ought to provide the details about the visible wet marks, the constant musty smell, the bad plumbing and water leaks,  the cancer deaths and illnesses, as well as suggest the need for professional mold and environmental inspection and testing to all of the following parties: (1) certified letter to all officers of your school's parent teacher association or organization; (2) certified mail to each and every school board member; (3) certified mail to both the principal and school superintendent; (4) copies of said letters to all of your local newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations; (5) copies of the letters to your city, county, and state health department; and (6) copies to the closest office of the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration [OHSA] because workplace mold is a serious employer offense for which your school district can be investigated and heavily fined. Although the commonly-found mold aspergillus can cause cancer, you also need environmental inspection and testing as well as for mold because the environmental cancer threat could be a non-mold problem such as cancer causing radon. Certified Mold Inspectors can provide both mold testing and environmental testing.  
 

           Q.
I am a Texas teacher and I have just learned that my school has black mold. We have not been told any
details on what kind it is. There is a team of people currently cleaning the exterior walls to the building. We have been told that they will be finished in time for school to start. I am pregnant and in my first trimester, so my question is am I safe and is my baby safe to be in the building? What kind of questions do I need to be asking my administrators? [July 16, 2002]
          
A. Insist that you NOW be given a copy of all mold inspection and mold testing results so far, and of the remediation protocol plan. You will also need to see the clearance tests of YOUR particular classroom at the conclusion of the mold remediation job and before you resume working in the school. Ask a qualified mold professional such as your local Certified Mold Inspector to review the inspection and testing report, the remediation protocol plan, and the clearance testing prior to your return to work. Make sure that the remediation protocol plan and the clearance testing deal adequately with both the mold infestation in the building materials as well as hvac [heating, ventilating, and air conditioning] equipment and duct work. As you know, serious mold contamination can cause birth defects and miscarriages. You should also consider hiring your own separate mold inspection and mold testing of your classroom before resuming work. Have you tested your home for mold infestation? Most U.S. homes have a serious mold problem unknown to the homeowners. Learn how to do your own mold inspection and mold testing.

            Q.
I am an educator for first and second grade children in a public school.  A year ago we had a water break in the school and I had water about 2inches deep on my classroom floor.  For the past eight years I have had a window leak.  This window is double pane and stationary (no opening possible)  I have called the school district many times and they would come and caulk the window (????) and then the next rain here would be the leak again.  I was finally able to get the duct work cleaned as I had six asthmatic children last year and I am asthmatic also and diagnosed with a disease called Sarcoidsis of the lungs.  The duct cleaners found the duct work had collapsed in several places and so our air was totally stagnant! The mold count was high when the air quality people came out to test the air before they came to clean the duct work. They came again after the duct work was cleaned and said it was in range.    Even though I have a new group of children, I continued to have students with strep throat and constant colds this winter and spring.  I've been on prednisone so I have kept the asthma under control fairly well. To complicate this whole thing, I stored my second grade textbooks in a storage room at the opposite end of the building, this year as I was teaching first grade.  When I went into the storage room to get the second grade books the room smelled of MOLD big time.  I questioned the principal and she said that they had a roof leak and that they'd aired out the room and don't worry.  I questioned moving those books as I certainly didn't want a flare up with my asthma at the end of school.  I was told you're over-reacting!!!!   My question to you....Although I couldn't see mold, I smell it in the books.  They are now back in my classroom and I am concerned that I have contaminated my room and am worried for the children next fall.    Thank you for your help.  Any input you can give me would be appreciated.   This is such a touchy subject with school districts!!!
          
A. Your first step should be to mold test on your own [or hire one of our Certified Mold Inspectors] the air inside your classroom, in the hallway, inside the hvac duct to your classroom, the books [direct sample testing], and an outdoor control test 5 ft. away from any roofline outside your classroom as a point of comparison to help evaluate indoor mold test laboratory results. You can afford to pay for your own testing. If the test results happen to show a serious mold infestation problem, you can send the mold test results by certified mail to your school principal, school superintendent, each member of the school board, the attorney for the school board or school system, your local health department, and all local newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations. When you come up with scientific verification of the mold contamination you are being forced to work in, you will get the attention of the local news media who will of course get the attention of the people living in your community when your neighbors and community residents read about the do-nothing attitude of your school system to a serious health threat to you as an employee and to your young students [who are more easily harmed by mold than are health adults].

St. Lucie schools halt reopening to fight mold
By Lindsay Jones, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer, PalmBeachPost.com 
Friday, September 17, 2004

Mold and mildew growing inside roofs, walls and carpets continue to plague the St. Lucie County School District, as staff members and private companies work to get schools ready to reopen after Hurricane Frances.

Classes will not resume until Monday at the earliest, not until school officials are convinced all buildings are clear of mold and safe for both students and teachers to return.

Superintendent Michael Lannon and his staff will decide today if the schools will be ready to hold classes Monday. "Without a doubt we are making sure all the facilities are safe," said Marty Sanders, executive director of facilities.

The district has hired environmental hygienists Melbourne-based Evans Environmental and Geosciences to study the mold growths and professional cleaning crews to get rid of them.

That process entails taking samples from roofs and testing moisture levels inside the buildings that sustained water damage. Carpeting has been removed from any room that had broken windows or ceiling leaks, and the cleaning crews are treating the mold growths with microbiotic cleansers.

"We're taking this very seriously," board member John Carvelli said. "We're taking a systematic, step-by-step process. I think the result will be that we will avoid any long-term problems."

Mold is considered an allergen and affects each person differently, with reactions ranging from minor nasal and sinus congestion to more severe problems such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

"When you have 35,000 students in a school district, we know that while it may not be a problem for most students, it is a problem for some," Sanders said. "We want to make sure we're creating the best environment we can for students."

St. Lucie officials contend the district was the hardest hit of any in the state from Frances, with every school affected in some way by the storm. Several schools sustained major damage, with the worst damage at Fort Pierce Central High, where the roof peeled off an entire academic building, and Fort Pierce Westwood High, where the gymnasium floor will have to be replaced after that building too lost its roof.

Sanders said Thursday that 20 portable classrooms would be placed on Central's campus by mid-October for the teachers who have been displaced. Several classrooms in other buildings on campus will be converted into science labs to replace those that were ruined.

School officials met with a construction company Thursday to begin plans to demolish Central's C wing and rebuild it elsewhere on campus. The entire school, which opened in 1970, was slated to be torn down and rebuilt within the next five years, though officials said that Frances has accelerated that process.

"We're looking at a long-term solution," Sanders said. "This is a fortunate opportunity to get a jump-start on our master plan."

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For mold inspection, mold remediation, and mold prevention for your real estate property anywhere in the world, please contact mold consultants Phillip Fry and Divine Montero by email phil@moldinspector.com or by phone
480-217-7173 USA
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