Residents urged to help prevent mold, humidity makes it a constant fight
June 6, 2012
By Vince Little
FORT BENNING, Ga. (June 6, 2012) -- Mold and mildew haven't been major issues for residents in housing or barracks at Fort Benning, post officials said. They intend to keep it that way.
Both can be found just about anywhere -- especially in the warm, humid climates of Georgia and Alabama -- but there have been no documented cases here of known toxin-producing molds such as Stachybotrys chartarum, said officials from Martin Army Community Hospital and the Residential Communities Initiative.
"We live in the South. Mold and mildew are very common," said Fort Benning housing chief Keith Lovejoy. "Whether you live on or off post, it's important to constantly be proactive to take care of any right away. If not, it could quickly become an issue or serious problem long term. That goes for our personnel living in housing, the barracks or out in the community.
"It's very critical everyone stays on the lookout for this stuff to make sure we stay on top of it and maintain a healthy environment. Moisture and humidity are in the air all the time. It's a part of life down here, so we all have to be vigilant."
Timothy Colquitt, an industrial hygiene technician for MACH's Department of Preventive Medicine, said mold growth may occur when excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on materials such as carpet, ceiling tiles, insulation, paper, wallboard, wood, surfaces behind wallpaper, or in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems.
"Molds are part of the natural environment and the most common forms of fungi found on Earth. We are all exposed to mold spores in the air that we breathe on a daily basis, both indoors and outdoors," he said. "There are over 100,000 known species of mold worldwide, and about 1,000 species can be found in the United States. … Molds can grow on virtually any substance, as long as moisture or water, oxygen, and a source of organic nutrients are present.
"It is not necessary, however, to determine what type of mold you may have. All mold should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal."
While exposure does not usually pose a significant health risk, it can cause irritating symptoms in people with underlying health conditions who are sensitive to molds, Colquitt said.
In recent years, he said, there also has been widespread publicity about possible severe health risks associated with Stachybotrys chartarum or other molds that produce toxins.
"These concerns have never been confirmed," he said, "and to date, there are no severe health effects clearly linked to this type of mold."
Amanda Weeks, community director at The Villages of Benning, said residents play a big part in controlling household moisture. But she urges anyone who suspects a problem to contact the maintenance team.
"We take this very seriously," she said. "We encourage them to report issues of any kind quickly so we can take action immediately. Residents have a responsibility in basic upkeep, cleaning and early reporting of problems. We can't stress enough how important it is to take an active role in this."