Letter to the Editor Re: Mold in Residential Halls

Re: Mold in Residential Halls

Dear Editor,

After reading the recent article on mold concerns in Rollins-owned residential buildings, I was left with the feeling that the whole picture wasn’t being presented accurately. Some factual data was glossed over in the article, leaving unnecessary questions in the reader’s mind.

Campus Safety is tasked with responding to indoor air quality issues on campus. This is housed in our office so that we act as a double check on other departments and ensure unbiased results and opinions are shared with senior administrators for further action. The threshold to initiate an indoor air quality test is extremely low. Our standard process is to perform air sampling of the room or office that there is a specific concern about, a common area inside of the same building, and a control sample taken from outside of the building. In all cases involving residential buildings, we provide the data we receive to Residential Life so they can follow up with the concerned student(s). If we receive results that are outside of what we expected, in either total number or type of spores found, we will engage a licensed environmental contractor to conduct further testing, and provide direction concerning remediation. This is a process that has been in place for a number of years, and has served the campus community well.

In 2017, we voluntarily conducted 47 tests, involving over 150 samples, focused specifically on our indoor air quality. With respect to residential buildings, we did not have a single sample that showed increased numbers of spores or those that were of a concerning type. However, issues that negatively impact indoor air quality that we have seen inside of buildings stem from windows being left open, thermostats being significantly lowered, and poor housekeeping. All of these can lead to high humidity, smells, and the formation of mildew. However, we have not found mold levels that would be anywhere near concerning levels.

There were several instances in the article where it was referenced that someone at the Wellness Center told students that the source of their symptoms was “environmental.” I cannot speak to what was said to individual students. However, when I reached out to the Wellness Center and asked them what information was provided to The Sandspur, they stated that environmental exposures, to include indoor and outdoor, were likely sources of molds and other allergens that can be treated symptomatically. This certainly does not mean there are specific issues within our residential buildings. To make such an assertion without investigating the building would be improper.

Finally, I would share that some of the more common environmental issues that can impact us seemed to be worse this year. Our flu season seemed to start a bit earlier and by all accounts was one of the more severe ones that we have had in recent memory. In Orlando, our allergy index, as it relates to pollen and spores in the ambient air, has been extremely high for some time. In fact, Orlando is currently listed as one of the worst cities for allergy sufferers, with our air quality being listed as medium-high or high for the past 30 days. Add this to the typical challenges of living in a communal environment, and it is certainly reasonable to have an increase of sniffles, runny noses, and cold-like symptoms for an extended period of time.

To re-emphasize, many departments work in a collaborative manner to ensure the physical wellbeing of our students. At this point, we have no test results showing us that there is a mold problem in our residential buildings. However, if we did identify an issue that would negatively impact the safety of our community, action would be taken, and we would communicate those actions to our campus community. We have in the past, and we will continue to do so moving forward.

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