Within a week of moving into her on-campus residence in Heilman Hall, student Lara Brown, ‘25, says she started experiencing symptoms that she described as “pure exhaustion, super stuffed up [nose], dry throat, runny nose [and a] dry sort of cough.” Brown believes these symptoms are indicative of an allergic reaction to mold and mildew in her on-campus living space.
“We noticed we had to dust every two days due to how bad our room was,” Brown said. “One day we looked up at our vents and realized how disgusting they looked. There was mildew coating [them] and mold on the outside of the actual cover to the vent.” Brown said that a month and a half after complaining about their findings, Heilman’s residence director gave her and her suitemates 48 hours to move out with no definite information about when they could return. Brown and her suitemates ended up permanently moving to another floor in Heilman.
On Nov. 16, students living in Heilman were notified via email that Meredith had scheduled a contractor to clean air ducts and the air handler in Heilman over winter break to ensure continued healthy air quality. Prior to winter break, Heilman students will need to move all personal belongings at least four feet away from the hallway wall to ensure protection of belongings from the vent cleanings.
However, Heilman is not the only residence hall that students have found mold in. While residents of Faircloth Hall have also been notified of intended cleaning, Andy Bullock, ‘25, who lives in Poteat Hall, says she also found mold in her room and has been sick ever since she moved on campus. She said she has a persistent “sore throat” and that many other of the students on her floor do as well.
When asked about how she felt about the upcoming cleaning project, Brown replied, “I don’t understand how they are just now getting to it when a lot of people get sick from mold, mildew and dust. It just seems very irresponsible of the school to not put their students' safety first. A lot of Meredith students…are from far away places, not local, and it is in no way convenient for them to have to take things home or store them somewhere else.”
Carrie Barnhart, Director of Residence Life, explained that once the College was notified of the problem by students, they brought in an environmental hygienist to take a closer look. “The results of the testing by an American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) certified lab showed no safety concerns,” Barnhart said. “Having this AIHA certification is a sign that they are providing expert testing and analysis, and that their review of the test results is trustworthy.”
When asked about the cleaning schedule already in place, Barnhart said, “The air vents and air handlers in our residence halls are cleaned regularly by our Facilities staff, and the College also has a rotation for having a contractor provide additional cleaning of air ducts and the air handlers.” She added that according to the environmental hygienist, “the levels [of mold] found did not indicate an immediate need for remediation in order to remain at a safe level for residents.”
According to Barnhart, “Heilman is next on the list for this extra step of cleaning by an outside contractor during winter break. All of the residence halls will have this cleaning on a regular schedule as part of this rotation.”
By Evelyn Summers, Staff Writer