Illustration by Phoebe Hughes

Humboldt Mold Manifests in Moisture

HSU students are under-informed and unprepared for the beast that is mold
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HSU students are under-informed and unprepared for the beast that is mold

It accumulates like there’s no tomorrow, unleashing its inner animal at every turn. No damp area is safe from the monster of mold. What can students do to fight it?

The rainy season is still around in Humboldt. Lurking amidst the hundreds of buildings students live in—and may be stuck in—is a hidden and nasty phenomenon—mold.

Mary Gaviglio, a freshman business administration major, has had first-hand experiences with mold, from seeing it grow on a bowl of cereal she left out overnight to meeting someone who was severely affected by it.

“He’s actually allergic to the mold spores here, so he gets really excited because they’re in the air,” Gaviglio said.

Gaviglio also remarked on how it’s easier to breathe in Humboldt than where she is from in Southern California.

“I usually get sinus infections when the Santa Ana winds come in because of all the pollutants, and now that I’ve moved here, I actually breathe a lot better,” Gaviglio said.

Dr. Miriam Peachy, an accredited practicing naturopath in McKinleyville and a mold expert, gave a breakdown of the ins and outs of mold and mold illnesses.

There are five different kinds of mold and the mold that humans can see is called active mold. Mold reproduces through spores, which get in the air, fly around, settle on surfaces and eventually begin to grow as moisture emerges.

Mold toxins, the waste products of mold, are what can get people sick. Most people aren’t affected by most kinds of mold, but for those with weakened immune systems or allergies, extended exposure to some mold can cause nausea, headaches and cold sweats.

“I’ve had people literally sleep outside because they didn’t have anywhere else to live.”

Dr. Miriam Peachy

Colton Trent, an environmental science senior, talked about how he’s dealt with mold in his apartment. His bathroom is in the middle of his apartment and has no window and an old ventilation fan, which makes for a messy situation in the winter when humidity is high.

“Whenever me or my roommates take showers or if we leave the door closed for too long, the condensation collects on the ceiling and the walls,” Trent said. “And we have to clean the walls and the ceiling pretty frequently because mold spots will start to grow.”

No matter where you stand in the mold illness spectrum, there are steps that can be taken to treat it.

The first step is distancing yourself from the mold, which means permanently leaving the environment in which the mold is taking over.

Unfortunately, in Humboldt, the lack of housing is a known factor that is doing the mold illness treatment process no favors.

“Too many people are afraid to rock the boat or lose their rental and they don’t have anywhere to go and they don’t know if the next place they go will be moldy,” Peachy said. “It’s almost impossible to find a place that’s not moldy here.”

The next step in treating mold and mold illness is remediation. That is to say, removing and replacing anything and everything that might’ve contracted mold from kitchen wooden cabinets all the way to furniture.

“I’ve had people literally sleep outside because they didn’t have anywhere else to live,” Peachy said.

The final step in the process is washing and cleaning everything that can be wiped down or otherwise cleaned like clothes and metal surfaces.

Above all, Peachy stressed the importance of getting a dehumidifier, as it can work wonders and is the most basic way of combating the spread of mold.

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