Summer School Health: Preventing Mold in Your School
School’s out for the summer! While it might seem as though summer is the perfect time to give your school’s HVAC system a rest, a little bit of air conditioning and some preventative maintenance can go a long way in keeping your unoccupied school healthy.
As schools sit idle, mold growth can become an issue and impact the overall learning experience for students, teachers, and administrators, particularly those with a sensitivity to allergens, when they return in the fall. Mold can cause adverse health effects such as throat irritation, nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, coughing, and wheezing, and in some cases, skin irritation. These health issues lead to missed attendance by both students and faculty, impacting the quality of education. The key to controlling mold growth is to identify and address moisture issues immediately.
Where Does Mold Grow?
Mold is a result of excess moisture in an environment and requires oxygen and a source of food to grow. Mold thrives in warm, dark, and humid spaces and grows most commonly on porous surfaces in a school, including:
- Wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation
- On roof materials above ceilings
- Around windows
- Walls, ceiling tiles, and other visible surfaces
- Hidden surfaces such as the back side of drywall
- Books and periodicals.
How to Reduce Mold Growth in Schools
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, moisture problems in schools can be caused by a variety of issues, including roof and plumbing leaks, condensation related to improper operation of HVAC systems, and excess humidity. Moisture problems can also be attributed to delayed maintenance or insufficient maintenance due to budget constraints. The cost of mold growth issues, however, can often surpass the cost of regular preventative maintenance, so it’s important to not ignore the signs of mold.
The team at Reynolds Restoration Services offers the following suggestions to help reduce mold growth, not only in the summer, but year-round:
- Perform air quality testing at least once per quarter to establish baseline measurements.
- Reduce indoor humidity to 30-50 percent by ventilating bathrooms, dryers, and other sources to the outside of the building.
- Cover cold water pipes with insulation to prevent condensation.
- Remove carpeting and ceiling tiles that show evidence of mold growth.
- Avoid using carpeting near sources of moisture such as water fountains, locker rooms, and food service prep areas.
- Since mold growth can occur on surfaces that have been exposed to moisture within 48 hours, promptly clean and dry accumulated water throughout the school.
- Establish a formalized method to inspect and notify maintenance staff of issues.
- Educate occupants of the building (teachers and administrators) on how to identify mold growth to discover issues early.
Mold remediation requires several steps and specialized equipment to remove mold spores. While it may be tempting to try to remove mold without a specialist, improper techniques could potentially make the situation worse by stirring up spores, causing them to spread.
If your school district is experiencing mold and moisture issues, contact Reynolds Restoration Services to help you identify a remediation plan to cultivate a healthy learning environment for your students, faculty, and staff.