FAQs About Mold

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), University Facilities Management (UFM), and University Housing complied the following FAQs, campus support resources, and an archive list of university communications.

The information and resources are intended to help students and their families make informed decisions about their wellness and living environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it Normal to Find Mold and Mildew in University Buildings?

Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any organic substance, if moisture and oxygen are present.

There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.

Molds reproduce by making spores that usually cannot be seen without magnification. Mold spores waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive.

Molds gradually destroy the things they grow on. Many types of molds exist. All molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds can produce allergens that can trigger allergic reactions or even asthma attacks in people allergic to mold. Others are known to produce potent toxins and/or irritants. Potential health concerns are an important reason to prevent mold growth and to remediate/clean up any existing indoor mold growth. Since mold requires water to grow, it is important to prevent moisture problems in buildings. Moisture problems can have many causes, including uncontrolled humidity.

Some moisture problems in buildings have been linked to changes in building construction practices during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. Some of these changes have resulted in buildings that are tightly sealed, but may lack adequate ventilation, potentially leading to moisture buildup. Building materials, such as drywall, may not allow moisture to escape easily. Moisture problems may include roof leaks, landscaping or gutters that direct water into or under the building, and unvented combustion appliances. (https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2014-08/documents/moldremediation.pdf)

How Do I Reduce the Likelihood of Mold?
  • Report any water problems (leaks behind a toilet or under sinks, dripping faucets, wet carpet, leak from a ceiling, etc.) immediately by submitting a work order at https://www.kent.edu/ufm/ready-work-request.
  • Set the air conditioning thermostat between 68 to 72 degrees and run the fan on auto to reduce the amount of condensation on or around windows and to maintain proper airflow.
  • Keep room air vents (where applicable) in all areas open and unobstructed to maintain proper airflow.
  • Open window if room feels stuffy.
  • Routinely clean bathroom areas (students living in suites), including the shower curtain liner, with bathroom cleaner to prevent the growth of soap scum which is an excellent food source for mold. Always follow the directions and read all precautions before using any cleaning product.
  • If a bath exhaust fan is provided in your living space (example – suites), be sure to turn the fan on when showering. After your shower, keep the shower door closed and the fan running for an extra 10 to 15 minutes to remove excess moisture from the air.
  • Do not hang towels (or any other wet items) to dry between your mattress and bed frame. This can cause mold to grow on the bottom of your mattress.
  • Good housekeeping practices (vacuum floors, wipe down counters, clean up spills quickly, wash out refrigerators, including wiping the doors, etc.) should be shared by all roommates to help reduce the number of food sources for mold growth.
What is “Black Mold”?

Although there are thousands of different species of molds, when media and news sources refer to “black mold,” they are generally referring to a specific type of mold called Stachybotrys chartarum. This type of mold has shown to produce adverse health effects. It is extremely rare to find black mold in the residence halls.

Stachybotrys has a greenish-black color and often has a shiny sheen on its surface. Fortunately, it only occurs in areas where there is a constant water source. It typically grows on materials with a high cellulose content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board (drywall), and paper. It is not commonly found on hard, non-porous surfaces such as ceramic, aluminum, sheet metal (vents), etc.

Many types of common molds are dark brown or black in color. Some can produce adverse health effects; others may cause no effects at all. No matter the type, visible mold inside a building is unacceptable and the area should be cleaned, or the building construction product removed.

What do I do if I suspect mold?

Enter a work order at: https://www.kent.edu/ufm/ready-work-request. If you need more immediate attention, you can call University Facilities Management (UFM) at 330-672-2345.

I am feeling ill from suspected mold or mildew in my room and would like to change rooms. How do I request a relocation?

According to federal health and safety agencies, mold growth is commonly found in both indoor and outdoor environments. Some people are sensitive to mold and may experience short-term reactions in the presence of mold. Symptoms associated with mold exposure are not unique and cannot be readily distinguished from symptoms caused by other medical conditions, such as the common cold or seasonal environmental allergies. Since some individuals may have more intense reactions, those with medical conditions or who experience symptoms should consult with medical personnel regarding their risk of mold exposure.

To facilitate a move to another space on campus, we ask that you visit the DeWeese Health Center or your doctor to assess your situation and the likelihood that the symptoms you are experiencing may be related to a mold or mildew allergy. If that is the case, please contact a Residence Hall Staff member who can talk to you about options for a temporary or permanent relocation to another on-campus residence hall location. To locate the residence hall staff member for your hall visit: https://www.kent.edu/housing/staff.

How does the University investigate mold?

UFM and EHS follow regulatory guidance from the EPA and CDC when conducting mold investigations. This entails performing a thorough visual inspection of the building which includes occupied spaces, mechanical spaces, and mechanical systems.

The visual inspection consists of:

  1. Identifying any areas of visible mold.
  2. Identifying areas of water intrusion, water leaks, or water-damaged building products.
  3. Taking environmental readings such as relative humidity and temperature.
  4. Taking moisture readings of building products as appropriate.
  5. Checking areas for musty or moldy odors.

Based on regulatory guidance, UFM does not perform air sampling during mold investigations because it is not considered an effective way to determine if a mold problem exists. This is due to the unpredictable nature of biological activity, variability in sampling, and difficulty with data interpretation. Standards for judging what is an acceptable, tolerable, or even normal quantity of airborne mold have not been established.

The use of petri dish style do-it-yourself home mold test kits is a topic that occasionally comes up during a mold investigation. These test kits are widely available online or in places like hardware stores and grocery stores. The kits consist of opening a petri dish containing growth media for a period and then sending it to a laboratory for analysis. These kits are not considered a credible method for assessing indoor air quality and are not recognized by reputable indoor air quality professionals.

In most investigations, no mold problems are found to be present. In rare cases, the university may employ the services of a third-party environmental consultant to evaluate a building or spaces within a building.

Should air samples routinely be taken for mold or mildew in my residence hall?

Mold is present in the indoor and outdoor air and on surfaces all around us each day. It requires moisture and a food source to colonize mold. The University does not routinely conduct air sampling for mold and instead follows federal agency guidance:

From the CDC: "Standards for judging what is an acceptable, tolerable, or normal quantity of mold have not been established" and "Generally it is not necessary to identify the species of mold growth in a residence, and CDC does not recommend routine sampling for molds. Current evidence indicates that allergies are the type of diseases most often associated with molds. Since the susceptibility of individuals varies greatly either because of the amount or type of mold, sampling and culturing are not reliable in determining your health risk... therefore, no matter what kind of mold is present, you should arrange for its removal." (https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm)

From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): “In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building's compliance with federal mold standards.” (https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-testing-or-sampling)

Are there state or federal regulation governing how mold and mildew is treated?

Mold and mildew remediation are not regulated by the EPA or CDC. According to the EPA, mold cannot be eliminated in the environment unless extreme measures are taken constantly, as would be the case in a “clean room” laboratory. The presence of visible mold on indoor building materials is generally agreed by professionals to be an unacceptable condition that should be remediated as quickly as possible. Anytime that mold or mildew is suspected UFM should be contacted 330-672-2345 or by submitting a work order at: https://www.kent.edu/ufm/ready-work-request.