Valuable books and collections can be destroyed by mold.

Mold is a serious issue for people as well as for materials and documents – as the archives staff at Emporia State University in Kansas recently found out.

In a detailed three-part series, The Bulletin’s editor in chief Kelsey Ryan explained how employees at ESU’s archives have struggled with this serious indoor air quality concern.

The Anderson Library building, which houses a portion of Emporia State’s historical archives and historical collections, has a major mold problem. The university’s archivist first discovered active mold bloom in September 2009 and subsequently found mold on more than 300 records, papers, photographs and books in the rare collections.

The Anderson building stores the majority of ESU’s archives, including over a hundred years’ worth of historical photographs, academic journals, archived issues of The Bulletin and bound issues of The Sunflower, ESU’s yearbook.

Some of these documents are in jeopardy because of alleged moisture and humidity problems in the building due to roof leaks, inadequate HVAC, high humidity levels and poor building maintenance.

The personnel have been asked to take care of the problem in-house, even though a better and quicker option would be to outsource the job to mold remediation professionals.

Mold can create health problems

The archive employees were hesitant to give details, but they spoke in general terms about their worries regarding their health.

Mold can affect human health, depending on the type of mold and exposure. According to EPA, all molds have the potential to cause health effects because they produce allergens, irritants and in some cases toxins.

Building occupants may begin to report odors and a variety of health problems, such as headaches, breathing difficulties, skin irritation, allergic reactions, and aggravation of asthma symptoms; all of these symptoms could potentially be associated with mold exposure.

There are no regulatory guidelines or regulatory issues on mold at this point by Environmental Protection Agency or Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to the director of the university facilities, but the workers were given personal protective equipment if they wanted it.

A lengthy process

In order to properly clean the documents and get the mold spores off of them, items that have mold on them must be separated from others and dried out. Once the mold is flaky, it can be vacuumed using a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner.

The archives staff keeps a clean room within William Allen White Library where they clean documents before they are stored into compact shelving.

The university has considered selling the building, but finding a buyer may be difficult since the building requires extensive renovations and maintenance. This, even though the university spent $250,000 to fix Anderson Library in the last six years, on things like the new heating system, roofs, gutters, pointing, maintaining and dehumidifiers.

The building has been plagued by mold, water intrusion and mice.

Source: Emporia Gazette

Manage mold problems with air cleaners

Source control and remediation is important when it comes to mold problems. But for a complete mold solution, to avoid health and safety complaints and enhance the protection of valuable documents and materials threatened by mold, the indoor air quality of the building needs to be improved and protected.

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