Save Now, Pay Later: The Dangers of Neglecting Building Health

"Building health" might sound like a New Age concept akin to Feng Shui, but a sick building can be deadly to its occupants.

The concept of building health is in fact based in science. Just as human beings interact with natural environments — getting wet from rain, experiencing hay fever from pollen — humans interact with built environments too.

Buildings aren't sterile, and occupants usually aren't encased in bubbles. People can develop many physical and mental symptoms from spending long periods in a poorly designed, constructed, or maintained building. The hazards of lead paint and asbestos insulation are well-known today, but one can encounter countless other hazards in buildings both old and modern. The severe mold outbreak at a large U.S. university this past fall illustrates the dangers of neglecting building health.

A tragic mold case at the University of Maryland

Heavy rainfall in the Mid-Atlantic states this year sparked excessive mold growth in many buildings, including the Elkton Hall dormitory at the University of Maryland in College Park.1. In September, the school moved more than 500 students to temporary housing in local hotels while mold remediation contractors worked to fix the problem.1

Sadly, one female freshman died after contracting adenovirus, a respiratory illness that affected five other University of Maryland students this fall. She and many other students had complained of severe mold growth on furniture, clothing, and other objects in their dorm rooms.1,3

Baltimore Sun
© 2018, Baltimore Sun, ‘Everyone’ is coughing’: Mold in dorms prompts University of Maryland to move students to hotels1

What is striking is that the students were the ones who detected and reported the mold conditions. It seems the school's maintenance team did not inspect the dorms for environmental hazards before the fall semester began or on an ongoing basis.

Ironically, at least 40 workers assigned to clean up the mold had health complaints during or after the job,4 suggesting that the mold remediation protocol was inadequate or not fully complied with.

How building health may affect you

If precipitation levels in the New York metropolitan area are higher than average in 2019, the excess moisture will cause humidity to soar, creating the perfect breeding ground for mold. If this happens, more cases of mold infestation are sure to be reported, as are related illnesses — and perhaps deaths. Fortunately, growing awareness of the importance of building health has made it easy to find help for buildings that pose hazards to their occupants.

TBL Building Sciences studies, measures, and restores indoor environmental quality while minimizing a building's impact on the outdoor environment, all with cost-effectiveness for the client in mind. Don't let negative press ruin your business — or, far worse, the death of an occupant weigh heavy on your conscience — when you can work with TBL Building Sciences to implement proactive solutions. For more information, review our Services page or contact us today.

Resources

  1. https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/education/higher-ed/bs-md-umd-mold-20180924-story.html

  2. https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2018/11/22/umd-campus-concerns-grow-over-6-confirmed-adenovirus-cases-mold/

  3. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/adenovirus-death-university-maryland-student-olivia-paregol-parents-speak-out-mold-health-center/

  4. https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/local/mold-crisis-at-university-of-maryland-affecting-workers/65-602556522

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