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August 6, 2002 - GSU Battles Toxic Mold Problem

The Georgia Southern University Eagles' locker room wasn't the only musty and damp place on campus this summer.Four types of mold - including the toxic mold stachybotrys - were found growing in several campus buildings following reports of allergy-like illness."We live in a hot, humid climate and sometimes things like this happen," said university spokesman Michael Sullivan. "Mold is something we deal with all the time, as everyone else in this part of the country does."

In late spring, the university received a series of complaints about illness caused by exposure to mold in Health Services, Communication Arts, Williams Center and Anderson Hall, according to a May 30 memo from University Environmental Health and Safety Manager Gene Anderson."The visual inspection of the structures identified not only fungi growth but insect fragments, dust/dirt, and flea infestation." Anderson wrote. "The visual inspection revealed that GSU does have work spaces that were both unsanitary and unhealthy."

Cladosporium, penicillium and.phpergillus are common indoor molds.Stachybotrys is less common, but is not rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is called toxic mold because it produces toxins and has caused hemorrhaging in rare cases involving people who were taking immune suppression drugs or were exposed to the mold through a puncture wound or in massive amounts.It is not necessary to determine if molds are toxic, according to the CDC. They should all be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.Experts recommend that the moisture source be stopped, moldy carpet, drywall, insulation and wood be removed and replaced and salvageable items be washed in a water and bleach solution.

Although some people complained of allergy-like symptoms, no one became seriously ill. Two people did request that they be moved out of the affected buildings. For mold-sensitive people, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, or wheezing. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions, including infections. But not all people react to molds in the same way. And there is no way to determine exactly how serious of a health risk Georgia Southern's mold was.

According to the CDC, standards for judging what is an acceptable, tolerable or normal quantity of mold have not been established."Most (mold reactions) are manifested as allergic reactions but this is where it becomes murky because everyone reacts differently," Brown said. "There's no way to say what kind of how much can make a person sick."

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