Look what showed up early for class… Summer mold infestations on the rise around New Jersey
MONROE TOWNSHIP, N.J., — With much of New Jersey experiencing well-above-average rainfall during the summer, school facilities managers are opening school buildings to the pungent, musty smell of mold. With just days to go before staff and students arrive, efforts are underway around the state to safely remove the mold and clean the schools and their furnishings.
Tom Peter, a Certified Industrial Hygienist and Vice President of Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. (IRS) in Monroe, says there has been a significant increase in school mold reports this year. “We have experienced nearly four times as many calls from school districts around the state this month,” says Peter. “Northern New Jersey and parts of the coastal areas were particularly hard-hit with rain and humidity during July and August, and that creates a perfect breeding ground for mold spores.”
Why Do Schools Experience Summer Mold Growth?
According to Peter, “No one likes summer vacation more than mold.” Dormant school buildings are often left with little or no ventilation running, letting moist air feed mold spores without disruption. “Running air conditioning alone will not combat mold growth. In fact, cold surfaces attract the humidity that promotes mold and mildew. Ventilation and dehumidifiers are necessary to eliminate the water source,” explains Peter.
Closed up in an unventilated school music room, this keyboard cover is coated with mold spores.
On top of that, mold flourishes on unclean surfaces. “Cleaning tables and chairs usually focuses on top surfaces and visible areas. Little fingers reaching under chairs and desks all year leave behind grime that will promote mold growth,” says Peter.
Summer mold growth thrives under the edges of school desks and chairs.
Wood surfaces are a mold favorite. While many school furnishings are laminate-topped, the wood undersides absorb the moisture of humid air and, with that, mold growth. “Mold doesn’t damage wood, but it produces numerous spores – spores that can create health problems for staff and students with allergies or respiratory problems,” according to Peter.
If not properly removed, mold can cause health issues for students, faculty, and staff.
Another popular target? School libraries. Even thirstier than wood surfaces, books also absorb humidity and provide a perfect nest for mold spores. “Treating libraries can be particularly challenging, because there are many more surfaces than you would see in a closed classroom. A serious infestation means inspecting and potentially cleaning thousands of individual books and hundreds of feet of shelving,” says Peter.
Shelf after mold-covered shelf needed to be cleaned in this school library.
You can find “mold” in the dictionary… and on it.
School property managers can make the problem worse. One of the first things to happen when opening up a school is to turn on the air systems, which blast spores that have settled in air ducts throughout the building. “The moisture in venting systems will have attracted mold growth as well. If there is any sign of mold growth in the school, or a smell of mildew in the air, the HVAC systems should be inspected to see if they require decontamination,” says Peter.
Safely Removing Mold in Schools
Because of potential adverse effects of mold and mildew on the students and staff, it is incumbent on school administrators to take a careful approach to mold removal. IRS, a designated disaster recovery services provider for NJ’s Educational Services Commission, follows stringent industry guidelines for safe mold removal.
- Stop the spread of mold by increasing ventilation in enclosed areas with fans and vents and activate dehumidifiers.
- Look for sources of moisture other than humidity, such as leaks in pipes or basements, which may be compounding the problem.
- Properly clean and dry all affected areas and furnishings in accordance with best practices for the materials involved for mold removal.
- Inspect HVAC systems thoroughly, including air handling units, filters, ventilators, and ductwork.
- Ensure humidity levels are carefully monitored, because if the moisture returns, so can the mold.
Summer mold growth in schools is not uncommon, especially in humid climates. The complication in remediating it becomes time. “Unfortunately, mold problems are often not spotted until just before the school year starts,” says Peter. “While it won’t necessarily prevent an outbreak, scheduling a site inspection several weeks before will give the facility managers greater flexibility in treating any growth that has already occurred.”
About Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc.
Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. (IRS) is a premier provider of disaster recovery mitigation, environmental remediation, biohazard emergency response and HVAC inspection and cleaning in the New Jersey-Philadelphia-New York City area. IRS is certified by NADCA and have Certified Air Systems Cleaning Technicians and a Certified Ventilation System Inspector on staff.
IRS has been selected to provide disaster recovery services to members of the Educational Services Commission of NJ (ESCNJ), the largest co-op in the state service school districts, colleges, universities, housing authorities, and other county and state agencies throughout New Jersey.
New Jersey State approved Co-op # 65MCESCCPS
RFP # ESCNJ 17/18-34
Contract Dates: 11/16/17-11/15/20