Told of mold

By Jake Wetzstein
Flapjack Chronicle staff

It’s warm and it’s fuzzy, but you don’t want to pet it. Mold with its fresh breath of allergens can make you sick. Mold is a common find among students every year in the Humboldt State University dorms. Certain living areas on campus have more severe and greater numbers of occurrences, typically the older dorms.

Nancy Palmer a chemistry major, and her roommate noticed what Palmer now believes was black mold when she first moved into the room. She didn’t think much of it at the time. After living in the room for three weeks however, they started noticing mold. Eventually “stains” were found on her wooden shoe rack and the immediate surrounding fabric in the bathroom adjoined closet space. Many of the items with mold were permanently damaged, however some clothing was saved by being machine washed.

Palmer told housing about the mold, but cleaned the mold herself with bleach. She contacted housing four times in dealing with the mold. Housing’s response was to replace the bathroom fan. It was needed to fully remedy the situation by improving ventilation. The mold was primarily in the bathroom area, but did make it into the living space, growing on a guitar case.

Palmer saw several posters on how to avoid mold and took precautions. She believes the mold originates from within the structural frame of the building however, perhaps due to previous occupants.

“[Cleaning up the mold] is just something I’m going to need to keep up with,” Palmer said.

Laurel Hoffman, a botany major minoring in geology, was asked how does mold grow? She explained that a worrisome kind of mold that could grow in the dorms is commonly called black mold.

Hoffman called it an ascomycete, one of the groups of fungal organisms.
“[Ascomycetes] grow by having a network of mycelium,” she said.

Mycelium are roots in a sense, in their substrate or the surface an organism grows on.
“Mold decomposes parts of the wood, by contact between the substrate [wood] and mycelium,” she said. “The mycelium secrete enzymes that dissolve the substrate.”

At that point the substrate is consumed by the mold. When the mold begins to run out of food, it to develops “fruiting bodies,” this can potentially be the stage where people see the fur-like appearance.
According to research, many ascomycete spores are reported to be allergenic, and some genera of black mold in particular produce mycotoxins, capable of causing disease in humans and other animals. The regional climate of Humboldt County facilitates the growth of mold.

As common as mold is, few students asked at the campus apartments have had personal encounters with mold. Current employees asked to comment on mold in the dorms declined to be interviewed.
Saryna Collette, a former housing employee, did see mold however. Part of Collette’s job was to clean mold, with bleach based mold and mildew cleaners. She found that mold mostly spread behind movable closets and couches, particularly at the campus apartments.

“One time below a couch there was a huge square of mold underneath, and on the carpet in campus apartments,” she said.

By Collette’s account mold doesn’t smell so great, and appears as patches of green and black “foam or fuzz.”  Collette doesn’t currently feel any different after having worked around mold, she thinks those things take a long time to harm a person.

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