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Dr. Debby Hanmer Reports on Mold in Old Main (November 2012)

The article below is taken directly from:

"Mold a growing concern for Old Main"

The Pine Needle
article By Ashley Cole, News Editor
November 29, 2012

Mold that was discovered on cabinets and books in Old Main has been Photograph of Dr. Debby Hanmer
found to be non-toxic.

White mold was first discovered before the start of the semester on camera bags in a storage room on the first floor of Old Main.

According to mass communications assistant professor Terence Dollard, several camera bags had to be washed and one had to be thrown away because of the mold.

Photo above: Dr. Debby Hanmer, assistant professor in the biology department, studies a culture of mold taken from Old Main.
Photo by Ashley Cole.

In October, students discovered more white mold on cabinets and old yearbooks in the mass communications office and The Pine Needle office.

Dr. Debby Hanmer, assistant professor in the biology department, took cultures of the mold found on the cabinets and books. While she could not identify it, she concluded that the mold was not toxic or deadly.

"These are very typical kinds of fungi," Dr. Hanmer said. "The only toxic one that I know make people physically ill are not here." Although these fungi may be typical, Dr. Hanmer points out that it should not be growing on cabinets and books.

"[Old Main] is clearly too wet because those fungi shouldn't be growing there," Dr. Hanmer said. "What that means is it's a heating and ventilation problem."

She added that running dehumidifiers in the building would help with the humidity. However, she also said that cleaning the vents and duct work would be the best solution.

Problems regarding mold and the air quality of Old Main were addressed to Steve Martin, assistant vice chancellor for facilities management, in January by a staff member.

According to emails sent between Martin and the staff member, several employees in Old Main had experienced headaches, cough, itchy eyes and sinus problems, among other symptoms, which they believed were caused by poor air quality in the building.

The staff member requested that the air quality in the building be tested to see if it was causing their symptoms.

Three days after receiving the complaint, Facilities Operations set up Indoor Air Quality.

The Indoor Environmental Quality report came back negative. It revealed no elevated levels of particle allergens, chemical pollutants or carbon monoxide.

"We did discover that we had some humidity issues that we had to correct and some temperature issues which we corrected also," Martin said.

Martin added that Old Main is one of the buildings that Facilities Management is doing its Energy Performance Contract on. "We are removing and replacing a lot of the air handling units, which are what drive the temperature and humidity in a building," Martin said.

"We've re-caulked the envelope, which is anywhere air can infiltrate, and we hope we've fine-tuned the HVAC system. So we're expecting to see a lot less issues with temperature and humidity," he said.

This is not the first time the university has had a problem with mold.

Dial Building was closed on Oct. 17, 2003, due to various types of mold and to be cleaned.

According to an article in a 2003 issue of The Pine Needle, the spores were 15 identifiable types, including the potentially toxic stachybotrys chartarum spore, also known as "black mold."

Again in 2006, the nontoxic Aspergillus/Penicillium and Cladosporium spores were found in Dial and Pine Hall.

Both buildings were cleaned.

Martin emphasized that mold is naturally occurring, so it is not uncommon for people to find it.

But if mold is found or there are concerns about a building, Facilities Management will do what it can to address it.

"The safety of students, faculty and staff is our biggest focus," Martin said. "So we try to be transparent and put everything on the table and see what we have."

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Updated: Wednesday, January 16, 2013

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