Mold in Kress, and asbestos in Vaughn Literature Building

Emily Barlow, Contributing Writer

Lewisburg and its surrounding areas experienced above-average rainfalls for the months of June, July and August. The rain totals are at least seven inches above average, and humidity levels have spiked as well.

The significant increase in humidity has taken a toll on various buildings on the University campus. Kress Hall fell victim to the weather as heightened levels of mold spores grew in the building.

The Housing Services and Residential Education office sent an email to Kress residents explaining the situation. The office claimed that the humidity overwhelmed the air-handling systems, which led to “elevated levels of Aspergillus/Penicillium that can irritate those prone to asthma or other respiratory conditions.”

The email also stated that “it is important to note that this is not the dangerous ‘black mold’ (Stachybotrys) that garners significant media attention.”

In order to solve the mold situation before students returned to campus, the University replaced the flooring, sanitized and painted the walls, and cleaned the ventilation units in several rooms in Kress Hall.

“I believe there was still mold in my room when I arrived on campus. If I sat in my room for more than 15 minutes, I was sneezy and started to cough. I ended up purchasing a mold spore air purifier, which has seemed to resolve this issue,” Kress Hall resident Tatym Racz ’21 said. One room in the residence hall has yet to return to acceptable indoor air quality levels and remains uninhabitable.

Additionally, asbestos was recently found in the Vaughan Literature Building. Pieces of vermiculite insulation containing asbestos fell into areas of the second floor of the building.

Asbestos can be found in materials such as floors, roof shingles, stucco ceilings, and insulation. The mineral itself is harmless. It is only when it is broken into airborne fibers that it can be dangerous to one’s health. This does not seem to be the case in Vaughan Literature, as “the [indoor air quality] test in the office in which vermiculite was initially identified was negative, showing no measurable evidence of airborne asbestos,” Interim Provost Robert Midkiff said in an email sent to faculty, staff, and students.

Industrial hygienists tested the building on Aug. 29. The tests of samples from Vaughan Literature “showed a concentration of less than 0.01 fibers per cubic centimeter of air,” stated an Aug. 31 follow-up email from Amy Foerster, the University’s General Counsel.

The low concentration of fibers demonstrates an acceptable concentration. More tests will be conducted in the future through “microvacuuming.” This test will conclude whether or not pieces of the fallen vermiculite debris have been crushed, causing airborne asbestos particles. The results of these tests are still outstanding.

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