The Collegian
Friday, August 07, 2020

Students struggle with various effects of mold found in residences

<p>Dematiaceous fungal spore elements were found in the shower of senior Bailey Cristian's University Forest Apartment.</p>

Dematiaceous fungal spore elements were found in the shower of senior Bailey Cristian's University Forest Apartment.

University of Richmond students continue to struggle with the various effects of mold found in residence halls and apartments in recent years. 

The Collegian tested mold found in a University Forest Apartment using an indoor air-quality mold testing kit. The samples taken were sent to an independent testing service, which reported back that the sample indicated high levels of dematiaceous fungal spore elements. 

A part of the lab report from Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory which details the proportions and levels of fungal elements found in a University Forest Apartment.

Inhaling these fungi can cause sinus infections, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information website. Dematiaceous mold is not toxic on its own, but is considered pathogenic and allergenic. 

According to the Mold Busters website, toxic molds produce toxic chemicals that are meant to harm other organisms, whereas pathogenic molds can cause infections or diseases. Allergenic molds are harmful only to people with certain allergies or asthma, except when in very large quantities. 

Paul Lozo, the facilities director of environmental operations, said that during the fall 2018 semester, University Facilities received 57 work orders in residence halls and 56 work orders in UFA and Gateway Village for mold. Calls occurred at the same frequency as last year, Lozo said.

University Facilities staff found mold when responding to some of these calls, but not all of them, Lozo said. He did not provide exact numbers for how many times University Facilities staff found mold this year or in previous years. 

When University Facilities gets a work order for mold, Lozo and Mike Miller, the director of environmental health and safety, go to the residence to conduct a visual inspection, Lozo said. They then determine an appropriate solution, he said. 

Senior Bailey Cristian lives in the UFA that The Collegian tested. Facilities personnel previously cleaned mold out of her shower, but it regrew, she said. 

“It’s a little worrisome in the shower, which is supposed to be a clean place,” Cristian said.

Junior Eric Bossert suffered double pneumonia while living in Marsh Hall during the 2016-17 school year. Bossert lost 30 pounds in the hospital and missed two weeks of school because of his illness, he said. He fell behind after being unable to go to class, which, paired with stress, caused his grades to suffer, he said. 

Many other students living in Marsh that year had a chronic cough, which became known as the “Marsh Lung,” Bossert said.

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Bossert found out that he had a severe mold allergy, which caused a persistent cough in the presence of even small amounts of mold, he said.

Junior Jackson Puckey has faced mold issues every year he has been at UR, he said. During fall 2016, Puckey's first year, he was moved out of his room in Marsh so that other students could move into it while their rooms were being treated for mold, he said. 

A housing department official emailed Puckey on a Monday night telling him to move into a new room by Wednesday, he said. Students are moved out of residences based on the nature of the response rather than the severity of the issue, Lozo said. 

In Puckey's case, the students were moved into his room because the carpet in their rooms had to be removed, Lozo said. 

Puckey also had mold growing on the ceiling of his room in Lakeview Hall the next year, he said. Facilities personnel came to the room and replaced a large piece of the ceiling, he said. 

Then in fall 2018, Puckey dealt with mold in his UFA. The temperature near the ceiling of the second floor of his apartment had been up to 10 degrees hotter than the floor, Puckey said. The temperature differential, coupled with the high humidity in Richmond, led to condensation on the walls and doors, he said. 

Puckey and his apartment-mates wiped down the moisture at least once a week to avoid mold growth, he said.

First-years Grace Ahn and Jenifer Yi live in Wood Hall and have mold growing in their room. 

Ahn said guests would often comment on the moldy smell. Both students had a cough for weeks during the fall semester, Yi said. Ahn said her cough disappeared when she went home for fall break, but returned when she came back to campus. 

Yi and Ahn want a permanent solution to their mold, they said.

“Whenever I call Facilities, I feel like it’s a burden to them,” Yi said. Ahn said University Facilities staff had told her the mold was not a health concern.

University Facilities staff has tested mold in the past and never found toxic mold, so they no longer test mold in residences, Lozo said. 

Lozo said students should not hesitate to contact facilities if they even suspect mold in their rooms. 

“That’s what we’re here for," Lozo said. "We don’t want something to go unnoticed, unchecked, or somebody to think that they don’t have a healthy living environment because of this."

First-years Lainie Agosta and Clarissa Gillis moved out of their room on the third floor of Robins Hall because of mold during October 2018.

“Literally every corner was covered in mold,” Agosta said. She used a professional cleaning service to remove the mold from her belongings.  

Patrick Benner, director of residence life and undergraduate student housing, and Lozo said housing and facilities staff were implementing infrastructure changes to mitigate the effects of mold on campus.

Tips to help reduce mold growth in residences. Image courtesy of Cynthia Price.

It is now university policy to use mildew-resistant sheetrock in all new installations, and the exhaust fans in UFA shower rooms may be replaced with a much stronger version this summer, Lozo said.

Lora Robins Court will undergo previously scheduled renovations this summer that will lessen the effects of mold, Benner said. Carpet removal will be included in this renovation, Benner said. 

Contact news writer Cal Pringle at 

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