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Is Your Room On Campus Making You Sick?

 

By Bridget McAnulty ‘15

Staff Writer

“My roommates were told they can apply to have their bathroom redone over Christmas break, which I’m sure will help with their mold problem, but not enough for me to ever live in the apartments again.”

When junior Kristen Uhler moved into her K tower apartment this past August she immediately began feeling ill.

“I was sick pretty much from the first week of moving in, in August, but didn’t think anything of it because I thought it was just the first cold that everyone always gets when moving back into school, and being around so many people again,” Uhler said.

Over a month later, Uhler still wasn’t feeling any better as her symptoms began to worsen.

In early October, Uhler and her roommates discovered oddly colored stains in various parts of their bathroom. According to Uhler, the girls didn’t realize what it was until a friend noticed it as well and informed them that they had mold growing in their bathroom.

Merrimack officials responded by cleaning the visible mold in Uhler’s room and moving her to Royal Crest apartments. But Uhler is not the only student reporting mold problems in their dorm.

Merrimack’s Facilities Department, which is charge of maintaining the dorms, did not respond for comment. Merrimack spokesperson James Chiavelli would only say “we are aware of the students’ concerns.”

Residential Life, which oversees housing and the well-being of students in the dorms, did not respond to say how many mold complaints they have received. They did say that any student with concerns can contact them directly.

“We take any calls about mold seriously, and make sure they are called into Facilities, who respond quickly,” said Beth Solomon, area coordinator of the new residential houses and townhouses.“ As Residence Life staff we work to follow up with students to make sure that the issues are addressed as soon as possible.“

According to the Center for Disease Control, “molds are fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. They grow best in warm, damp, and humid conditions, and spread and reproduce by making spores.” Some people who are sensitive to molds can experience stuffiness, wheezing and eye or skin irritation while others, like Uhler, experience more severe symptoms making everyday more uncomfortable than the next.

Once Uhler and her roommates realized that they had an infestation of debilitating mold growing in their bathroom, Uhler said, “it finally made sense why I was so sick, and not getting any better.”

By the time Uhler decided that she had to move out of her K Tower apartment, she said, “my eyes, my fingers, and throat were extremely swollen, along with all of the lymph nodes in my body. I also had trouble breathing, especially when I slept.”

According to Uhler, her allergic reaction to the mold growing in her apartment became so severe that she “started developing debilitating migraines to the point where I was throwing up blood.”

That being said not everyone experiences the severity of Uhler’s reaction to molds. More often than not, people experience the mild symptoms of a mold reaction, which most individuals tend to attribute to the common cold, just as Uhler had originally done upon her arrival to campus this summer.

Fellow K Tower resident senior Gregory Grant reported that he and his roommates had been “feeling sick and had a cough since the first week of school that never subsided.” They too, like many others, attributed their symptoms to the common cold.

It wasn’t until Grant heard from a friend that their towermates had a severe mold problem that had forced Uhler out of her room just three weeks earlier. According to Grant, he and his roommates checked their bathroom, and “found mold growing all over their ceiling.”

Senior Brandon Egan, who is also a K Tower resident located in a different room, reported that he too has had a persistent cough and has been feeling sick for a few weeks now. Jameson Dunn, Egan’s roommate, began investigating after Grant had told him about the mold growing in his room. Dunn quickly noticed that they too had “mold growing all over the shade and ceiling tiles in the bathroom.” Dunn added, “it appears to be leaking out of the ceiling tiles and I assume that there is a lot more growing above them.”

After finding the mold and connecting it to her sickness, Uhler notified members of residence life who then contacted the physical plant to try and fix the problem. Uhler said that “once we made it known to the school that I was getting so sick from the mold they kept sending people up to clean and scrub our bathroom. They also put new caulk around the window, bathtub and the creases in the wall where you could still visibly see the mold.”

“My roommates and I looked into it more, and realized that it was in the walls itself and no amount of scrubbing will make it go away,” Uhler said.

Due to the severity of their mold infestation, Uhler said, “my roommates were told they can apply to have their bathroom redone over Christmas break, which I’m sure will help with their mold problem, but not enough for me to ever live in the apartments again.”

Uhler went to the office of residence life and told them that they had to move her out as soon as they could. Due to her severe mold allergy she had to either live in the new residence halls or over at the renovated Royal Crest apartments as all other locations on campus were too dated and have had reports of mold as well.

As the year was already in full swing, there were no spots open for Uhler to live in the new-res buildings forcing her to move over to Royal Crest. Uhler spoke very highly of the responsiveness of the reslife staff saying, “that they recognized that my health was of the utmost concern and they helped me find a new place to live in just a couple of days.”

“I just feel bad that my roommates still have to live in it because they didn’t have a severe allergy like I did, or that the other people in my building didn’t find out about the issue until they heard it through the grapevine as I was moving out,” Uhler said. “I know there are some people who are unhappy about not being told because they feel that this was important health-related information.”

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