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Concerns about mold growth delayed school openings in Allegheny County

According to the Allegheny County Health Department, three school districts in Allegheny County had to alter their class schedules, as well as their locations, as a result of mold growth that is believed to be caused by the wet and warm weather the region experienced over the summer.

The Plumb Borough School District and Shaler Area High School delayed the start of classes until September 4. The delay allowed for the removal of mold growth in the schools. Additionally, students who were originally scheduled to attend Hance Elementary in the Pine-Richland School District began classes at the Eden Hall Upper Elementary School while mold was being removed from their home school.

The Mount Pleasant Area School District, located in Westmoreland County, also had to delay the first day of school at their junior-senior high school until September 4 after water damage was found near the windows in classrooms that are located on the exterior of the building.

In response to the mold growth in the schools, Dave Namey, program manager for the health department’s housing and community environment, said, “It’s not surprising we’re hearing about these mold situations, given the weather we’ve had this summer – high humidity, flooding, lots of rainfall, and the buildings closed up.”

Namey said that while the health department doesn’t test for mold, it does respond to requests for assistance to find the source of mold growth problems. He also said that the department makes recommendations for remediation and removal. Namey stated that none of the three school districts in question contacted the health department for help regarding the mold issues they were experiencing.

Mold spores can be found everywhere – outdoors, in homes, in schools, and in workplaces – indoor mold growth is triggered when moisture and warmth are present. Namey said that hot, wet weather, plumbing and roof leaks, and stagnant indoor air with humidity levels that are higher than 60 percent can all spark mold growth, Namey said.

The spokeswoman for the Shaler Area School District, Bethany Baker, said that the district delayed the start of classes so that the classrooms where mold and mildew growth were found could be re-cleaned. The mold growth, she said, was caused by high humidity levels, as well as a damaged air handler in the high school.

“The air handler has been repaired,” Baker stated in an email, “and the humidity levels are returning to a normal range in the building.

Baker said that the district hired a third-party company to re-clean all of the surfaces in the classrooms, as well as to dehumidify the entire school, as well as operate high-efficiency particulate air filters in the high school.

Mold exposure can cause health complications, such as watery eyes, congestion, runny nose, skin irritation, and respiratory problems.

Mold Inspection & Testing Pittsburgh has conducted countless mold assessments throughout the city. We strongly recommend that the Pittsburgh schools that have been affected by mold growth schedule regular mold tests to ensure students, faculty, and staff are safe. To speak with an MI&T representative, call 412.444.5374.

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