Honolulu, HI – The university says it is taking steps to solve the problem The Star Bulletin John Perez says in the seven years he has worked in the University of Hawaii’s Webster Hall, he suspected there was something in the air there that started health problems. In the late 1990s he raised questions about the repeated bouts of sinus problems, headaches, acid reflux, vomiting, itchy eyes, respiratory congestion and skin rashes that he and his staff of four in information services experienced, Perez said.
Many uneducated people confuse mycotoxin producing mold with allergic mold. Mycotoxin producing mold can cause a variety of serious health problems such as lupus, MS, and cancer, if not treated early.
The university conducted an air quality test that reported Webster’s air within acceptable limits for dust, pollutants and carbon dioxide. But it did not test for mold. This is often done to avoid liability, but one would hope that UH would step up to the plate and accept responsibility for the health and welfare of its faculty and students.
This year, Perez said his concern increased as “white fuzzy stuff” started growing on the leather jacket he keeps in his office and on laptop computer cases. This is great cause for concern since Hawaii is a veru humid environment.
Mold even grew inside the ionic air filters in the computer lab adjacent to his office. Down the third-floor hallway where employee Gabe Hoeffken has worked for more than two years, a similar white fuzz grows repeatedly on laptop cases. Perez said he cleans everything with Lysol or Formula 409, only to have the mold regrow in a couple of weeks. One room where he serviced a computer, said Hoeffken, had a pink mold growing. The mold in his room, he said, reminded him of “stuff I’ve seen growing in caves.” On Webster’s second floor, at least two classrooms have mold growing on the walls, and a student reading room has mold growing on books.
All this seems out of place in a building with a decor that is reminiscent of a hospital — wide, clean white-tiled corridors with crisp gray accents. Webster houses the UH School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene. “I guess what it all comes down to is, we’re supposed to have an environment that is safe from health hazards to work in,” Perez said after showing the Star-Bulletin Webster’s mold spots yesterday. “I believe this constitutes a hazard.” He e-mailed UH officials asking for action on June 10. Diane Shimitzu, administrative officer for Webster, said steps are being taken to attack the mold problem.
Custodians are scheduled to do a deep-cleaning of mold-infested spots in the building during evening hours this week, Shimitzu said. Desiccants and dehumidifiers are on order for placement in trouble spots. And building maintenance crews will continue to try to adjust the air-conditioning system to an optimum cooling level. “I think we are very concerned about it. We are taking very active measures about it. It’s an issue that’s very important to us,” Shimitzu said.
A basic problem may be that since the building was renovated about a decade ago, the air-conditioning system “has never operated properly,” Shimitzu said. UH Facilities Director Kalvin Kashimoto said there is nothing wrong with Webster’s air conditioning, “it just needs adjustments.”
This mold should be tested immediately before someone becomes violently ill. This dubious story is very disturbing to environmental health activists who are trying to educate the public regarding the severe health hazards related to fungal exposure.