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Mold: Keep threat from growing

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Abigail Klein
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
As Ellsworth transitions into warmer temperatures, the melting snow and the moisture left behind has highlighted an issue members of Ellsworth may not be aware of - mold.

Despite increased public and media attention, the discovery of "toxic mold" or "black mold", a toxin producing-mold, in homes is no more frequent now than it has been in past years.

Black mold is also rarely a problem in this region of the country, and is usually limited to more humid conditions in the Southern part of the U.S., said Dennis Burdick, 28th Civil Engineer Squadron housing facilities chief.

According to the Center for Disease Control Web site, www.cdc.gov, there are more than 1,000 species of mold in the U.S. that are capable of growing in warm, moist and humid conditions. Molds usually don't cause problems indoors, but mold spores that latch on damp surfaces and begin growing can produce allergens capable of generating health problems and damage to homes, dormitories or workplaces.

"Due to the amount of snow in March 2009, there was an increase in the amount of moisture infiltration in base housing," Mr. Burdick said. "The moisture accumulations from the melting snow, provided a source of moisture for mold to grow on, and caused an increase in the amount of complaints about mold in base housing."

What most residents may not know, is these mold growths can be prevented or treated, and are not toxic to their health, said Maj. Stephen Boglarski, 28th Medical Operations Squadron Operational Health Flight commander.

Despite the non-threat of toxic molds at Ellsworth, the prevention of other molds is preventable and treatable.

"For mold to grow, it needs a constant source of moisture," Major Boglarski said. "This source could be anything from an undetected pipe leak to a cracked roof or improperly sealed window."
To prevent these sources from becoming mold sources, Mr. Burdick and Major Boglarski recommend vigilant maintenance of homes or workspaces.

They also recommend other preventative measures such as using the exhaust fan while showering, and wiping the walls dry after each use to prevent mold growth in bathrooms, often where mold accumulates easiest.

Performing these steps will help residents avoid potential money loss or possible health problems that may arise.

If mold is currently growing in a military housing unit, or a member suspects its growth, Mr. Burdick recommends immediately notifying housing management.

"I wouldn't want anyone to live in a house with any kind of mold, toxic or not, and I wouldn't hesitate to have a wall knocked-out if mold is present." Mr. Burdick said.

After contacting housing management about suspected mold growth, Mr. Burdick immediately contacts Ellsworth's 28 MDOS Bioenvironmental and Public Health Flight to do an inspection of the suspected area.

While there, the team looks for visual and sensory signs of mold, while also measuring the moisture in the air with a moisture meter, said Staff Sgt. Matthew Hardy, 28 MDOS Bioenvironmental Engineering technician.

Housing units identified as having abnormal amounts of mold due to severe water leaks or damage are immediately pulled from the military family housing inventory.

Not identifying mold within living units can also possibly lead to mold allergies symptoms, which may arise from mold growth and are similar to most other allergy symptoms. These are also considered of paramount importance.

Though some mold is naturally present both indoors and outdoors, it can create health problems for if present in high levels or if people are allergic and exposed, said Mr. Burdick. Allergy tests can be administered through the 28th Medical Group.

Information on mold is also provided, as regulated by Air Force Instructions, to all personnel and their families upon moving into any military housing unit. One of these pamphlets, "Mold, Moisture and Your Home" is published by the Environmental Protection Agency, and available at www.ellsworth.af.mil, under the Ellsworth Housing tab.

If a member suspects any mold issues in military family housing unit, dormitory or workplace, they can notify the base housing office at (605) 385-2575 or dormitory management at (605) 385-2567.

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