By Holly Condon
Home to a wide variety of beautiful wildlife, Humboldt County is also a popular place for the growth of a rather unpleasant fungus: mold. While mold is not uncommon to most other parts of the world, the cool, damp climate of this region makes its growth especially prevalent. Students and residents with compromised health may need to keep a closer eye on their surroundings.
HSU film major Channing Salazar, 22, is a transfer student from Southern California. He said it was nice moving to an area without so much smog but is still concerned about the indoor air quality here.
“I’m really sensitive to airborne allergens,” he said. “Mold growth in a room can cause me to have a serious reaction.”
Mold is general term for a collection of species of fungi that flourish most wildly in damp and humid environments. In a dorm room, mold may be found in a pile of wet clothes and towels left on the floor indefinitely, or it may be in a container of food leftovers that hasn’t been touched since the housing orientation week.
When moisture is dealt with promptly, mold really poses no serious threat to students’ health. Allowing mold the opportunity to grow, especially in a small, confined space such as a dorm room, is when health symptoms of a mold infestation may arise.
Douglas Jourlin, a registered nurse at a family practice in Eureka, said a mold reaction presents exactly like an allergy, the most common symptoms being itchy, watery eyes and sneezing. Treating symptoms is fairly simple.
“We use antihistamines. Sometimes mold causes asthma attacks, so we’ll use inhalers and beta blockers,” Jourlin said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most severe reactions to mold include shortness of breath and fever. But being on the brink of death isn’t imperative before seeing a doctor. Jourlin suggests seeing a doctor when symptoms become disruptive to life.
“[See a doctor] when it persists day after day and it interferes with your lifestyle and makes it difficult to do normal activities,” Jourlin said.
It might not even be clear to the doctor immediately what your symptoms are triggered by. Typically, symptoms of an allergy are similar, so doctors have to investigate further.
“We do RAFT testing to see what they’re allergic to,” Jourlin said.
Mold may even be unrecognizable in the home. Charles York, a Sacramento-based representative for Local-411 Mold Removal & Remediation Services, said that there are a variety of mold species that all look different. But mold is present in the home long before it grows large enough for you to see it.
“Mold spores themselves are microscopic,” York said.
Mold spores are always in the air indoors, and because of this, it is impossible to remove them from your home or dorm entirely.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, simple cases of mold growth are easy to manage in the home. Hard surfaces can be cleaned of mold with water and detergent, and surfaces such as carpet may just need replacing.
According to York, more serious cases may require HEPA air filters and the use of biocides, which are chemical substances that control or kill harmful organisms.
As always, prevention is most important. Humboldt County climate can pose a challenge, but York suggests air circulation and heating throughout the home. Any spot that stays damp for a long period of time will almost guarantee mold growth.
Places to pay most attention to are in the kitchen or bathroom, usually near the sink. While mold is most commonly found indoors, perpetually damp spots around the perimeter of a building can also attract mold growth.