Living in South Florida, there are a few things we should all expect from our environment. The combination of sun, rain and humidity can result in factors that can range from minor discomforts to serious health problems. We should all be aware of how our environment affects us so that we can better adapt to a sometimes hostile climate.
One particular problem is affecting the residents of our campus community: mold. It is caused by humidity and builds in such places as air conditioning ducts and behind walls. Although harmless in small quantities, if unchecked, large build-ups can be extremely hazardous to one’s health. Mold spores can cause nasal and sinus congestion, dry cough, wheezing, sore throat, shortness of breath, burning eyes, skin irritation, central nervous system problems and other respiratory problems. Most of these symptoms can be easily mistaken for a cold and mold may never be identified as the culprit. If left untreated, permanent physical damage can result.
How do you know if your dorm room or apartment has mold? It’s not that difficult: if you can see or smell mold, you have a moisture and mold problem. Mold growths are often seen in the form of discoloration.
It’s a problem that has construction companies around the country scrambling to solve the issue when building new homes. Millions of dollars have already been claimed by people who have been affected, since, the argument is, it is the way buildings are constructed that make a house more inviting to mold. In fact, Erin Brockovich, whose fight against the electric giant PG&E led to a movie, has taken on this new battle against irresponsible construction work after her own house had been affected by a hazardous amount of mold.
Some UM students who are well versed in this problem have discovered mold in their own dorms and have been experiencing most of the symptoms attributed to mold. However, it took numerous complaints on their part for it to be removed from their air conditioning ducts.
This lack of response from the university should not be blamed on laziness or disrespect, however. It is more likely that those in charge of maintenance are not aware of the serious health risks involved with the build-up of mold. It is important that measures be taken so that more serious health problems involved with these organisms do not arise.
Jean-Paul Renaud is a senior majoring in Journalism and Political Science.