Students at Johnson C. Smith University are having an extended winter break while the school is removing mold from residence halls after students reported the fungus was making them sick. The university expects the work to be completed by the end of next week.
Students started complaining in the fall about mold in residence halls. In November, Jazlyn Lambert posted on Facebook that she was having nosebleeds and headaches. Then, she was interviewed by local television station WCNC.
“My asthma started messing up and I couldn’t see," she told WCNC. "I was throwing up blood and actually having blood clots come out my nose at the same time.”
A few days later, President of JCSU Clarence Armbrister said dorms would be inspected and mold remediation completed during winter break.
Scott Armour is with the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification – an industry group that sets standards for mold remediation. He said finding the source of the water or moisture is the most important step.
“Just because it’s on the surface of a wall doesn’t mean that’s the only place where it is. Is it behind the wall? Is it hidden in the cavities what we call concealed spaces?” Armour said. “Because there’s always a reason why the water is there. And if you don’t track the water properly, you may be missing large areas that are concealed or hidden or out of view that also have mold.”
JCSU said crews are expected to be done with remediation and students can start moving back Jan. 18, a few days ahead of the start of classes. In the meantime, the school said it's finding alternate housing for students who need to be on campus and will cover expenses.
Other schools — like the University of Maryland and the University of Tennessee — have also been in the news for having mold in dorms this academic year. The fungus can cause respiratory issues like sneezing and coughing. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people that have allergies or asthma could have more intense reactions — which is why Armour emphasizes the importance of properly cleaning the mold and the material it was found on.
“The health effects of mold remain even when the mold is dead. It could be dead and dried for literally years,” said Armour. “And we still have the chemical compound that causes health effects.”
JCSU President Clarence Armbrister said in a statement the health of students is the university's biggest priority and he apologized for any inconvenience the delayed opening will cause.