It is important to understand that it is almost impossible to eliminate mold growth and mold spores from indoor areas. Mold is found everywhere in our environment and we are constantly exposed to it in the air we breathe.
There are no established health-based standards for acceptable levels mold spores in indoor air. People have varying sensitivities regarding mold exposure and those with severe allergies, immunocompromised or have other underlying conditions can be more susceptible to adverse reactions.
Assessments and Testing
Requests for an assessment can be submitted through STABLE. Please select the "Indoor Air Quality" button.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), as part of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes that visual inspections in conjunction with musty odors are a more reliable method for correlating health risks in indoor environments. This visual inspection process is key. The evaluator will look for potential sources of biological agents, paying special attention to areas susceptible to moisture. Walk throughs also consist of an inspection of the HVAC system including vents within the room and the HVAC unit itself. SMU uses a 3rd party State-Licensed Mold Assessment Consultant for most investigations.
Because there are no established health-based standards for acceptable levels of biological agents in indoor air, it is not recommended to to perform routine air sampling for mold. People have varying sensitivities to mold exposure, therefore those test results – taken as a snapshot in time – do not represent actual exposure nor can they be interpreted with regards to health risks.
However, SMU will perform air sampling on a case-by-case basis if the initial investigation is inconclusive or if issues persist after the initial recommendations are completed.
Common initial recommendations include:
- cleaning room vents
- vacuuming carpets and cleaning area rugs
- a more intensive housekeeping regiment
During seasonal changes or other times when use of the HVAC system is reduced or turned off for an extended period, moist dust particles may dry out and collect in the duct, particularly in of some of the older buildings on campus. When the system is turned back on, it is not uncommon for air flow to cause those particles to flake, blow through the vents, and scatter flecks of dust across a room. If you notice these particles regularly, please let us know so that SMU can follow up and determine whether additional response is required.
Student Health maintains a WellFacts page with recommendations regarding dealing with allergens, which general mold spores can act as. North Texas is a hot bed for allergens of all types. Many students, especially those from out of state, experience new allergy-related symptoms for the first time when they move to SMU. As expected, when a student returns back home for extended breaks, these symptoms lessen or disappear entirely, but then reappear when a student returns to the DFW area.
Home Test Kits
SMU does not recommend the use of home test kits. Home test kits for mold only tell us what we already know, that there is mold in the air. EHS professionals, government entities, and even Consumer Report advises against using these kits for a variety of reasons.
1. Visual inspection is most important
2. Consistent collection methodology needed, including standardized outdoor sampling
3. Professional interpretation needed
4. Only accounts for viable spores
The US Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center has is a great resource for more information on home test kits.
There are many misconceptions about Stachybotrys chartarum (toxic or black mold). Hazards presented by molds that may produce toxins should be considered the same as other common molds which can grow in a building. Mold growth should be remediated, regardless of the type. For a definitive resource, please visit the CDC Fact Page on Stachybotrys.