As part of RISD’s response to mold and mildew performed by the Facilities Operations team, Environmental Health & Safety and Residence Life provides the following information about the potential for mold and mildew in the residence halls.
What is Mold?
Mold is a naturally occurring fungus that is generally considered an indoor air allergen similar to pollen, animal dander, dust, and dust mites. Mold produces tiny spores, which act similarly as seeds to plants, to spread the growth of the mold colony. “Molds are microorganisms that are found virtually everywhere, indoors and outdoors.” see https://www.cdc.gov/mold
Where is mold found?
“Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.” See https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-remediation-schools-and-commercial-buildings-guide
What does mold look like?
There are thousands of species of mold, most of which occur naturally outside and have some spores present within buildings. Mold is typically white, green, black, yellow, brown, or orange. The texture can vary between appearing like powder, cotton, velvet, or tar-like.
If mold is suspected on any indoor surface, it should be reported to Facilities Operations team, Environmental Health & Safety to be cleaned as soon as possible to prevent further growth.
How do I reduce the likelihood of mold or mildew growth in the residence halls?
Report any water problems (leaks behind a toilet or under sinks, dripping faucets, wet carpet, leak from a ceiling, etc.) immediately by submitting a Work Order through RISD Facilities Work Order.
Set the air conditioning thermostat between 68 to 72 degrees and run the fan on auto to reduce the amount of condensation on or around windows and to maintain proper airflow.
Keep room air vents (where applicable) in all areas open and unobstructed to maintain proper airflow.
Do not open windows during cooling or heating season.
Routinely clean bathroom areas (students living in suites), including the shower curtain liner, with bathroom cleaner to prevent the growth of soap scum which is an excellent food source for mold. Always follow the directions and read all precautions before using any cleaning product.
If a bath exhaust fan is provided in your living space (example – suites), be sure to turn the fan on when showering. After your shower, keep the shower door closed and the fan running for an extra 10 to 15 minutes to remove excess moisture from the air.
Do not hang towels (or any other wet items) to dry between your mattress and bed frame. This can cause mold to grow on the bottom of your mattress.
Good housekeeping practices (vacuum floors, wipe down counters, clean up spills quickly, wash out refrigerators, including wiping the doors, etc.) should be shared by all roommates to help reduce the number of food sources for mold growth.
What do I do if I suspect mold or mildew in my room?
To report mold or mildew growth in your room, please contact Facilities Operations immediately by submitting a Work Order through RISD Facilities Work Order.
How are typical mold and mildew concerns responded to at RISD?
Facilities Operations team and the Environmental Health & Safety staff will respond to all suspected mold and mildew calls. They will investigate and determine if there are any mechanical issues that need to be addressed and enter the necessary work orders to make repairs. Surface mold is typically cleaned with the appropriate fungicide during the initial investigation. If not during the initial investigation the area will be cleaned within 24 hours Sunday – Thursday, and within 48 hours Friday and Saturday. The resident and Residence Life will be notified once the cleaning is complete. If testing is recommended, then EHS Department will engage the services of a licensed industrial hygienist.
What routine preventative measures are taken in the residence halls to reduce the likelihood of mold or mildew growth?
Our Facility Staff provides routine maintenance of all buildings and carefully maintains the cooling and heating systems. This includes cleaning, maintaining, and repairing HVAC equipment. All residence halls are cleaned by our trained custodians before the beginning of every academic year and when a room becomes completely vacant.
Any time there are concerns about the level of moisture in a space (typically seasonal), the Facilities Operations team and the Environmental Health & Safety staff will investigate and offer solutions to mitigate.
The Residence Life staff complete Health and Safety inspections. In addition to ensuring that each room meets health and safety standards, any suspected area of mold or mildew growth observed is reported and remediated by Facilities Operations team and the Environmental Health & Safety staff.
I am feeling ill from suspected mold or mildew in my room and would like to change rooms. How do I request a relocation?
According to federal health and safety agencies, mold growth is commonly found in both indoor and outdoor environments. Some people are sensitive to mold and may experience short-term reactions in the presence of mold. Symptoms associated with mold exposure are not unique and cannot be readily distinguished from symptoms caused by other medical conditions, such as the common cold or seasonal environmental allergies. Since some individuals may have more intense reactions, those with medical conditions or who experience symptoms should consult with medical personnel regarding their risk to mold exposure.
To facilitate a move to another space on campus, we ask that you visit the Health Services or your doctor to assess your situation and the likelihood that the symptoms you are experiencing may be related to a mold or mildew allergy. If that is the case, please contact Residence Life at 401-454-6650 to learn more about options for temporary or permanent relocation to another on-campus residence hall location.
Should air samples routinely be taken for mold or mildew in my residence hall?
Mold is present in the indoor and outdoor air and on surfaces all around us each day. It requires moisture and a food source to colonize mold. The College does not routinely conduct air sampling for mold and instead follows federal agency guidance:
From the CDC: “Standards for judging what is an acceptable, tolerable, or normal quantity of mold have not been established” and “Generally it is not necessary to identify the species of mold growth in a residence, and CDC does not recommend routine sampling for molds. Current evidence indicates that allergies are the type of diseases most often associated with molds. Since the susceptibility of individuals varies greatly either because of the amount or type of mold, sampling and culturing are not reliable in determining your health risk… therefore, no matter what kind of mold is present, you should arrange for its removal.” ( https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm )
From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): “In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building’s compliance with federal mold standards.” ( https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-testing-or-sampling )
Are there state or federal regulations governing how mold and mildew is treated?
Mold and mildew remediation is not regulated by the EPA or CDC. According to the EPA, mold cannot be eliminated in the environment unless extreme measures are taken constantly, as would be the case in a “clean room” laboratory. The presence of visible mold on indoor building materials is generally agreed by professionals to be an unacceptable condition that should be remediated as quickly as possible. Please contact Facilities Operations immediately by submitting a Work Order through RISD Facilities Work Order anytime that mold or mildew is suspected.