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Indoor Air Quality: Back to School: No Spore Left Behind


It’s that time of the year when students are back from their summer break for yet another academic year.


Filed under
Infection Control
September 16, 2019
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Indoor Air Quality: Back to School: No Spore Left Behind

It also means schools and universities across the region are done with their annual battle of maintenance and cleaning. Though the routine cleaning process takes place throughout the year, during the timeoff the authorities ensure that deep cleaning activities that include water tank cleaning, HVAC maintenance, pest control etc. are scheduled to welcome the new year with a pleasant and healthy environment.

One of the growing concerns in such facilities is the growth of mould on the walls or ceilings. This is generally caused due to the extreme weather conditions and high humidity levels in the region. Mould is a common occurrence and can grow anywhere due to the presence of moisture and oxygen. Moisture can also be a result of leaky roofs, drainages and groundwater that collects under older buildings. Schools and universities are particularly at risk as mould growth poses serious threat to the indoor air quality leading to various health issues. Testing buildings for mould, particularly on a large busy campus, can be time-consuming, and expensive, with variable constraints. Hence, keeping a check in and around the campus for such unwelcoming growth is advisable.

Addressing mould growth

Once the mould has been detected it must be addressed immediately, both to prevent possible health issues and to stop the growth. The space must be dried and controlled with proper equipment. Depending on the surface the mould has grown on, they must be remediated, or removed and replaced. Once the space has been cleared of mould great care should be taken to keep the space dry and ventilated, otherwise, there are high chances that the mould will return.The age of the structure is also an important factor to determine the root cause of the mould growth. One of the most common problems is the cleaning of carpets. The danger is not in the cleaning itself but the failure to extract all the water from the carpet or to use fans or air blowers and dehumidifiers after cleaning.

Mould control and prevention tips

One of the best ways to prevent mould is to control the moisture (humidity) levels via airconditioning system or dehumidifiers, but in the case of mould growth it’s advisable to call a certified cleaning contractor. Before the cleanup starts, an airborne sample should be taken to determine the number of spores in the air. Even after the cleaning procedure is completed, another sample should be taken to confirm that the spores have been reduced to safe levels.

There are many factors that can lead to mould growth in and around the campus but following are the tips for a preventive maintenance:

• Humidity levels to be kept low within permissible level all day long. The humidity levels change over the course of the day that leads to change in moisture in the air and the air temperature.

• Ensure there is sufficient ventilation.

• Fix any leaks on the roof, walls, or pipes so that mould does not have moisture to grow.

• Clean up and dry out thoroughly and quickly (within 24–48 hours) after flooding.

• Add mould inhibitors to wall paints. • Clean bathrooms with mould-killing solutions.

• Remove or replace carpets and upholstery that have been soaked and cannot be dried promptly.

• Consider not using carpet in rooms or areas like bathrooms or basements that may have a lot of moisture.

Follow the guidelines

Since mould spores are most likely to be inhaled, the potential health issues include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory issues. This makes preventing mould an important consideration for schools and universities, particularly in residential/hostel buildings.

If there has been a lot of water damage, and/ or mould growth covers a considerable area consult EPA's Mould Remediation guidelines. If you choose to hire a contractor (or other professional service provider) to do the cleanup, make sure the contractor has experience in cleaning up mould. Check references and ask the contractor to follow the recommendations in the EPA manual or other guidelines from professional or government regulatory bodies both national and international for the assessment of cleanliness and mould remediation.

If the water and/or mould damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water, then call in a professional who has experience cleaning and fixing buildings damaged by contaminated water. Lastly having well-planned preventive programmes along with a comprehensive upkeep and remediation plan in place will help the educational authorities to keep students safe from any health concerns and to regularise building operations smoothly.

About the Author: Archana Aravind is a cleaning professional who has 18 years of overall experience in the field of facility management and cleaning industry. She has been working in the UAE for about 12 years.