DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – As parents send their students off to college, one health risk many overlook is mold.
A CBS 11 I-Team investigation found 47 cases of mold discovered at Texas colleges since 2018 that required reporting to state.
In each of these cases the mold had spread at least 25 square feet, requiring professional remediation and reporting to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
For some students, exposure to this mold can cause allergy-like symptoms while for others, symptoms can be more severe.
Sarah Melton, 18, said the mold in her dorm room at the University of Oklahoma made her so sick she was forced to leave school.
Along with allergy-type symptoms, the recent Frisco graduate said the mold in her dorm room caused her to have hand tremors, memory loss and even a personality change.
“I would call my mom and text my mom and tell her I was going crazy because I thought I was literally losing my mind,” Melton said.
When she first started having symptoms just days after moving into her dorm, Melton and her parents chalked it up to “the Petri dish of the dorm.”
It would be several weeks before Melton noticed wide-spread mold on the ceiling on the bathroom at her dorm and made the connection.
Today, nine months removed from living in her dorm, Melton said she still feels the effects.
“The main issues are with my memory,” she explained. “I’m still very forgetful. I’m just not myself. It hard to look in the mirror every day and see a completely different person.”
The University of Oklahoma told the CBS 11 I-Team shortly after mold was reported a professional cleaning firm undertook a “15-step cleaning process for air units and bathroom air vents in every residence hall room.”
Plus, prior to students arriving on campus for the fall 2019 semester, a pre-fungal treatment is being used in all living spaces.
Mold issues are not unique to Oklahoma.
At the University of North Texas in February large amounts of mold were removed from restroom walls at the College Inn dorm and 80 square feet of mold contaminated drywall was removed from a music room at Rawlins Hall, according to state records.
UNT officials said the university takes a proactive approach to addressing potential mold concerns including the use dehumidifiers as well as daily inspections during high risk times for high risk areas.
Mold removal was also reported from student dorms and apartments at Texas Tech University, Rice University, and Texas A&M University.
Dan Mizer, the Director of Housing at Texas A&M, said his campus and others are seeing an increase in mold cases in recent years.
Mizer said dorms are especially susceptible to mold because of old and complicated air condition systems and because students often don’t notice the mold until it’s already spread.
“I think it’s inevitable,” Mizer said. “I don’t think there is any way you can avoid it but I think you can be proactive about it.”
This year students at orientation at Texas A&M will be told what to look for and how to report mold while Mizer has made mold a point of emphasis for his staff.
Melton said she never thought about mold when she moved into her dorm last fall which is why she started a Facebook page called, Break the Mold, where dozens of students have shared their stories about dorm mold.
The 18-year-old wants to see colleges be legally required to do periodic mold inspections and have better guidelines on how to deal with mold when it is discovered.
“You are supposed to go to college and learn, make friends, and have fun and get ready for the rest of your life. Nobody should have to put that on hold for something so preventable,” she said.
Tips to prevent mold growth in dorms (from TAMU):
Put in a work order as soon as you notice mold, mildew, or excessive moisture or a problem with your AC.
Keep your AC set at 70-76 degrees and the fan speed set to low, medium or high, never off.
Do not tamper with or cover your thermostat with anything – this will prevent it from working properly.
Keep your windows and doors closed – open windows and doors can cause condensation and may contribute to mold growth.
Keep your room free of wet or damp items (such as clothes, towels, or over-watered plants).
Clean your room regularly! Small amounts of mold can be easily cleaned with household cleaners or disinfecting wipes, then dried completely.