MARYVILLE, Mo. — Northwest Missouri State University officials said reports of mold in some dorms last year were addressed quickly and they are confident the problem will not recur this year.
During the fall 2021 semester, a handful of students at two residence halls — Franken and Hudson-Perrin — reported mold in their living spaces, officials confirmed to the Forum.
Northwest staff did not take student reports lightly. Matt Baker, vice president of student affairs, said the university ordered tests of air and surface samples taken from 15 to 20 rooms in the two residence halls, and almost all of the results came back to levels lower than what one would normally encounter outdoors. While two rooms returned with higher results than two outside control locations, both rooms were unoccupied.
“I think it’s a lot lower than people thought,” Baker said.
Not all molds are created equal.
The main concern of residents who complained seemed to be black mold.
Dan Haslag, assistant vice president of facility services, said none of the samples tested indicated the presence of black mold spores or other types of mold that are generally dangerous.
“The lab results indicated that the type of mold spores that were possibly higher were common to outdoor mold spores,” Haslag said.
Yet high concentrations of mold spores in the air can trigger negative allergic reactions in some people.
Some students feared that an increase in allergies could be due to the suspected mould. Baker mentioned how often people’s allergies are worse in Maryville than in other parts of the Midwest. Haslag pointed out that this could be because Northwest is home to the Missouri Arboretum. With over 160 different species, students may be exposed to a far greater diversity of plant allergens in the Northwest than they were at home.
“I’m not trying to minimize the fear, but there are so many environmental changes in people’s lives, and we’re socialized to worry about mold,” Baker said.
Haslag said that when common types of mold are found indoors, the solution is simple: clean up the mold. This is what the services of the establishment did, by removing the problem.
Baker said for the affected students – who were offered accommodation in other halls of residence – the presence of mold in their rooms was perhaps alarming, but the actual effects were not of concern.
“There are trigger words,” Baker said. “There are buzzwords out there, and sometimes people use them to get a result they want, even when it’s not the appropriate result.”
He said he understood the residents’ fear, however.
Baker said he had seen “no indication” of mold reports yet this fall, calling last year an “anomaly”.
“We’ve developed a really good protocol, I think, for whenever a report of some sort of indoor air quality issue comes up,” Haslag said.
Baker encourages students to continue to let Northwest know if there is a problem, and processes will be implemented to always try to do what is right for the student.
Katie Byrd is a journalism student at Northwest Missouri State University.