Mould, Mould, More Mould: The Problem Persists

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Tourism Junior Minister, At Large Representative Hon. Archibald Christian announced that the complaint of some civil servants who are affected by mould is being dismissed as fabrication. Hon. Christian announced that the situation of mould in Government offices still prevails.

While speaking in the Private Members business section of the 19 December sitting of the House of Assembly, Hon. Christian said: “I am also concern Madame Speaker about the mould issue that continues to prevail throughout the Territory in the Central Administration Complex or in some statutory organization including the Financial Services Commission.”

The Legislator noted that some employees claim about mould consequences are being denied: “To the point Madame Speaker where it is even believed that persons are making up stories when they complain about mould issues and health related issues, and so I want as a government for us to be able to drill down and focus more on those mould issues that exist in these organizations [in]2017,” Hon. Christian added.

Over the past years reports of mould in public buildings have been aired particularly in the public schools, library, General Post Office, and the Central Administration Complex. A commentator offered that the problem is poor maintenance of air conditioning systems where dangerous bacteria proliferate.

Mould Bacteria in Schools

During the 2 March, 2015 NDP Drive Time program, Hon. Christian commented: “We simultaneously begun to repair the infrastructure, get rid of the mould in our school buildings…”

While speaking about the Ministry of Education, Hon. Christian said that he was informed that mould was discovered in the Claudia Creque Secondary school. At that time he announced: “Madame Speaker, I am not an expert on mould but I know that 20 years ago when all of us went to school we didn’t know about a thing called mould and we were educated in classrooms…but we have come of age when most of our schools and for whatever reasons mould has crept into the environment, and it is something that we have to deal with.”

The At Large Representative said that the mould issue is being dealt with and he noted that provisions have been made to continue to address the matter: “It is something that we have to pay very special attention to because persons are affected by the presence of mould. Teachers go home sick, students go home sick, sometimes persons are affected for months, even for years; and he (Minister for Education and Culture, Hon. Myron Walwyn) has been trying his best to arrest the problem. I am hoping that with an allocation in the budget under his Ministry that would be able to arrest the problem,” Hon. Christian stated.

Mould at Admin Complex

In 2009 the VI Civil Service Association (VICSA) reported that they started a renewed campaign to address the poor air quality conditions in the Central Administration Building by writing several letters to the Governor and Ministry of Communications and Works expressing concerns about the impact the mould was having on employees´ health, employee productivity and personal lives.

The reason for the campaign was stated as being the poor air quality, consequential allergens that affected and compromised the health of some public servant. In a letter VICSA said: “Since the new VICSA executive took office in 2009, we have found that the problem of indoor air pollution exists in other buildings around the BVI – other government and government leased buildings and office spaces. We have received numerous grievances from employees about working conditions that they perceive to be making them sick. Many are documented by physicians and in many cases told not to venture in the vicinity much less inside the building.”

On 13 July (2009) Government signed a $1.9 million contract with Roy’s Construction Inc. whose offices are based in St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands for the removal and replacement of the existing roofing system at the Central Administration Building.

Later in October, 2009 it was announced that more work was being done to improve the air quality in the building. A press release stated “the air quality improvement project consisted of the roof replacement and the interior remedial works which will include the re-design of the air conditioning system, upgrading the ceiling grid and tiles, the installation of energy-efficient lighting fixtures and new air conditioned ducts and the replacement of carpet.

In February 2016 government signed a contract with Trane Puerto Rico, Inc to address the belabored mould and poor air quality problems at the Central Administration Complex.

Moulds generate health complications

According to Wikipedia, mould is a fungus that grows in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae. In contrast, fungi that can adopt a single-celled growth habit are called yeasts. Moulds cause biodegradation of natural materials, which can be unwanted when it becomes food spoilage or damage to property. Some diseases of animals and humans can be caused by certain moulds: disease may result from allergic sensitivity to muld spores, from growth of pathogenic moulds within the body, or from the effects of ingested or inhaled toxic compounds (mycotoxins) produced by molds.  Following is USA’s EPA list of things you should know about mould:

Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mould exposures include allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory complaints.

There is no practical way to eliminate all mould and mould spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mould growth is to control moisture.

If mould is a problem in your home or school, you must clean up the mould and eliminate sources of moisture.

Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mould growth.

Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60%) to decrease mould growth by:

Venting bathrooms, dryers and other moisture-generating sources to the outside

Using air conditioners and de-humidifiers

Increasing ventilation

Using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing and cleaning

Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mould growth.

Clean mould off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are mouldy, may need to be replaced.

Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.

In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting (i.e., by drinking fountains, by classroom sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).

Moulds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are moulds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.

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