Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Students say mold in freshmen dorms have caused health issues

Some reports show no “elevated or abnormal air quality readings

Students say mold in freshmen dorms have caused health issues

Mold growth in the window of a Letts Hall resident in November. 

Multiple freshmen have made complaints about mold in several AU dorms this semester. But an email to freshmen residents sent by the Office of Housing & Residence Life said that air quality tests by an “industrial hygienist” on multiple floors of Letts Hall, a freshman dorm, did not show abnormal results.

“These tests showed no elevated or abnormal air quality readings (including mold) and all test results were within US Environmental Protection Agency standards for indoor air quality,” wrote Director of Residence Life Lisa Freeman and Director of Housing & Residence Life Christopher Silva in an Oct. 22 email sent to Letts Hall residents.

The same email said that in an “abundance of caution,” the University hired a firm to clean areas of Letts in which mold could grow.

However, student complaints and a report commissioned by the University found there was significant mold growth in parts of Letts Hall.

According to a summary of the report, which was conducted by Compliance Environmental International, Inc. and given to The Eagle by a Letts resident, visible suspect microbial growth (VSMG), most likely mold, was found in the north dorm rooms of the terrace level of Letts Hall as well as several other rooms.

The report stated that the source appears to be inadequate insulation of chilled water lines and high humidity during the summer months. Additionally, there were high levels of fine particulate matter found in many rooms.

University spokesperson Mark Story said because of a humid warm summer and an unexpected amount of rainfall early this semester, there has been an increased amount of mold growth. AU also brought in an indoor environmental air specialist to inspect the buildings. According to Story, the specialist’s report stated that “indoor air quality meets or exceeds EPA standards.”

Julia Whitman, a freshman who lives in Letts Hall, said she experienced a mold issue and was moved to a temporary room on the terrace level of the hall where she also found mold.

“It kind of smelt like rotting garbage,” she said.

Whitman said the remediation process took a full week to complete and was only completed after several calls from her mother. During her time on the terrace floor, she met many other students who experienced issues of mold in their dorms.

“I met a bunch of people who said they got really sick since they moved down there,” Whitman said. “I saw so much mold down there. It was in the bathroom and in their rooms.”

Ciara Wells, a freshman living in the same residence hall, said it took two weeks for her request to be processed by 2Fix, and her first request was eventually canceled. Wells said she had a sinus infection and ear infection as a result of sleeping in a lofted bed directly under the mold in her ceiling for several weeks.

However, according to Story, when a call comes in about mold, the University responds within 48 hours.

“The number one priority of the university is the health and safety of the people who are in our community,” Story said.

In a story by local D.C. news outlet WJLA, the news channel spoke with other AU students about their concerns of mold in their dorms. Several students described getting sick after living in spaces that were later found to have mold in them.

Recently, University of Maryland freshman Olivia Paregol died from adenovirus-associated illness, which is feared to be caused by mold exposure. The Office of Campus Life sent an email to AU students regarding the events, stating that preventative measures such as washing your hands often with soap and water, avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands and avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Whitman remains concerned that several students are living in rooms with mold and are not having their issues addressed fast enough by the University.

“We spend so much money to live here and this is the quality of life, that's not OK,” Whitman said.

aveitch@theeagleonline.com


Never miss a story.

Get our weekly newsletter in your inbox.