The oppressive humidity and heat this summer have wreaked havoc with indoor air quality, let along some torrential downpours. And worse, mold has proliferated in dozens of schools in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. There are reports that schools in the tri-state area have delayed openings and closed buildings until the mold can be removed.
As a parent, this is disturbing news. There are few things more important than the safety of our children in schools or daycare programs. We’ve created this guide to inform you what you need to know about mold, and alert you to the symptoms and signs of mold in schools or any other buildings.
Where is mold in schools found?
Classrooms, hallways, offices, and building corridors often harbor mold spores and dust mites, as do ventilation systems. If your child has allergies, especially to mold, you should find out how often the school cleans its building vents, and if it uses high-efficiency air filters to remove mold, pollen, and other particles from the air. This may help to alleviate some of a child’s mold allergy symptoms. Libraries, art rooms, and gym locker rooms are also very common areas for mold to grow because they harbor moisture.
Mold and children
All mold, toxic or not, is a health hazard. While toxic mold is the most harmful to a child’s health, all mold and mildew can cause health issues—especially for those who suffer from allergies. The younger a child is, the less developed his or her lungs and other organs are; this puts the child at special risk, whether at school or home. Although children are particularly vulnerable to mold contaminants, there is no law requiring schools to protect students (or staff) from mold contamination.
Is it a cold or a mold allergy?
How do you know if your child has a cold, the flu, seasonal allergies, or a mold allergy? It’s not always easy to determine, as many of the symptoms are the same. Signs of a mold allergy and symptoms of mold exposure include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy eyes, nose and throat
- Cough and postnasal drip
- Watery eyes
If you child is fine in the morning, but returns from school with any of these symptoms, there is a good chance that there’s an irritant at the school, especially if the symptoms subside when the children are at home.
Are there any other symptoms?
Toxic mold exposure can also cause:
- Difficulty concentrating
- A tingling or numbing sensation on skin
- Headaches and sensitivity to light
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Poor memory or difficulty finding words
- Multiple chemical sensitivity, which causes varying symptoms due to low-level exposures to commonly used chemicals
Mold and asthma
If your child is allergic to mold and also has asthma, his or her asthma symptoms may be triggered by exposure to mold spores and can sometimes be severe. In addition to the usual symptoms, your child may experience acute coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. To reduce asthma attacks caused by mold, ask your school to test for mold and air quality to see if the school’s indoor environment is the cause. Also, speak with your doctor about managing your child’s condition.
What else can you do?
Ask other parents or the PTA if they have noticed any signs of mold at the school or symptoms in their children. Ask if they are aware of any unusual or musty odors in the school. If the answers are in the affirmative, and if your child is experiencing health issues, request that mold testing be done. If mold is discovered, there are remediation protocols that should be followed. Those include post-remediation clearance testing to ensure the remediation was done properly and there is no longer a health hazard.
If you have questions about mold in schools, please feel free to call us at (800) 392-6468. We’ll be happy to answer your questions.