Abnormally high rainfall and high humidity conditions across the Commonwealth have led to an increased incidence of water incursion and moisture build-up in buildings across the state, including some on campus. These conditions are ideal for the growth of molds, which commonly occur as a result of excess moisture. There is currently no health risk, however, student health and safety are top priorities for Penn State, which is why moisture issues need to be remediated before other conditions have a chance to develop. If a student notices an area of concern, the student should notify the Housing Operations Office.
What causes mold growth?
Mold is common to outdoor and indoor environments; however, the build-up of moisture due to humidity, condensation, or water incursion can lead to mold growth within buildings. Small amounts of intermittent mold growth can be cleaned by custodial and maintenance staff with no adverse safety or health concerns. Those with mold allergies may be more sensitive and develop allergic symptoms.
Will the mold cause illness?
Generally, molds have similar toxicities, and certain types are not more hazardous than others. According to the American College of Environmental and Occupational Medicine (ACOEM), mold toxicity is predominantly related to very high exposures, similar to conditions found in agricultural environments and not to conditions typically found in an indoor environment. If mold is growing indoors, it can cause irritating symptoms for some persons such as irritated eyes and mucous membranes, cough, headache, and general malaise. These symptoms subside when leaving the environment. Persons with mold allergy may react differently to mold than others, similar to other allergies. Certain molds may be associated with infection of persons with weakened immune systems, or those who may be on specialized drug or cancer treatments.
How can mold growth be controlled?
Water incursion events, when caught with 48-56 hours, can be effectively cleaned and mold hazards abated. Refer to the Penn State Water Incursion Guide for more information. Relative humidity levels within buildings when routinely higher that 70 percent can result in damp conditions with resulting mold growth, particularly at condensing surfaces (colder temperatures). If porous insulation, building materials, or other articles remain wet for long periods, mold growth can occur. In most cases, such articles must be removed and discarded. Clothing and textile articles may be laundered effectively if growth has not been prolonged or saturated by water.
The sources or types of water from water incursion also have an impact on the severity of mold and bacterial growth. Any surfaces affected by sewage must be discarded and surfaces cleaned and disinfected. Articles affected by other outdoor rain or surface water, or by domestic pipe water can typically be dried and cleaned/disinfected successfully, when controlled within 48-56 hours.
Contact Penn State Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) for questions or concerns about mold.