The University of Chicago shall identify and correct conditions present within University facilities that permit mold growth and contamination while protecting the health of building occupants and workers involved in mold cleanup.

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Authority and Responsibility

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is responsible for:

  • Conducting walk-through investigations of mold complaint areas, if the responsible maintenance group is unable to identify visible mold growth;
  • Assisting with moisture source investigations, if the responsible maintenance group is unable to identify moisture source; and
  • Contacting environmental remediation contractors to coordinate removal or stabilization of asbestos-containing materials or damaged lead-based paint containing surfaces, as deemed necessary.

Departments are responsible for:

  • Notifying the responsible maintenance group for any moisture issues, water infiltration or visible mold growth;
  • Providing access when an investigation and/or remediation is needed;
  • Arranging for removal of furniture, equipment, etc. from the affected area prior to the start of remediation; and
  • Ensuring occupants vacate the area prior to the start of remediation.

Maintenance Groups (Facilities Services/ Physical Plant) are responsible for:

  • Determining the source of visual mold growth;   
  • Correcting the source of moisture or water infiltration;
  • Notifying EHS when mold remediation may trigger an environmental project (i.e., impact suspect materials in pre-1990 buildings (see Asbestos Policy) or painted building materials inside pre-1978 residential or child-occupied facilities (see Lead Policy);
  • Notifying Risk Management immediately if water damage or flooding occurs which could be deemed a recoverable loss; and
  • Contacting and coordinating custodial staff or water/mold contractors to conduct mold remediation and water cleanup activities if the scope of work exceeds the resources of the maintenance group.

Risk Management is responsible for:

  • Assisting the Maintenance Groups with mold remediations which can be claimed has a recoverable loss; and
  • Notifying EHS when mold remediation may trigger an environmental project (i.e., impact suspect materials in pre-1990 buildings (see Asbestos Policy) or painted building materials inside pre-1978 residential or child-occupied facilities (see Lead Policy).

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Introduction to Mold

Molds are a part of the natural environment and generally do not pose a hazard to healthy individuals. Molds are fungi that can be found anywhere indoors or outdoors throughout the year. Mold needs moisture and a food source to grow. Indoors, mold growth becomes an issue when moisture or water is present and impacts porous organic materials.

Molds may produce adverse health effects such as allergy-like reactions in a portion of the population; however, there are currently no federal standards or recommendations for airborne concentrations of mold or mold spores.

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Preventing Mold Growth

The key to controlling mold growth is moisture control. All departments shall act promptly in response to recognized moisture issues within University facilities. Water infiltration should be stopped and cleaned as soon as possible. Drying efforts, cleanup, and removal of water damaged material should be done within 48 hours of initial water infiltration to prevent mold growth. Refer to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings for procedures in responding to floods on campus.

The following is a list of mold prevention efforts for engineers, maintenance and custodial staff:

  • Repair plumbing leaks and building envelope leaks as soon as possible;
  • Perform routine building inspections and note moisture issue areas;
  • Fix all sources of recognized moisture problems as soon as possible;
  • Managing building envelope to reduce likelihood of water intrusion;
  • Maintain indoor humidity levels at less than 60% relative humidity; and
  • Inspect HVAC systems regularly for condensation, keep drip pans clean, flowing properly and unobstructed.

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Reporting Mold Complaints

If mold growth is observed or if musty odors are detected, contact your Facility Manager who will reach out to the responsible maintenance group (Facilities Services or Physical Plant). If the maintenance group is unable to locate the potential mold issue for subsequent removal or identify and remediate the moisture source, they will contact Environmental Health and Safety for a follow-up walk-through investigation.  

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Walk-through Investigation

Environmental Health and Safety’s walk-through will consist of a visual inspection, interviews with building occupants, an interview with engineers, maintenance or custodial staff, inspection of various building systems and typical indoor air quality parameters (e.g., moisture content of building surfaces, ambient and surface temperatures, and relative humidity.

For specifics on Indoor Air Quality investigations, please reference the Industrial Hygiene Survey Policy.

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Mold Sampling

Environmental Health and Safety will not conduct sampling for mold or mold spores. If visible mold growth is present the affected building materials will be cleaned (non-porous) or removed (porous) in a controlled manner by the responsible maintenance group, custodial group, or mold remediation contractor

Environmental Health and Safety recommends against sampling for mold for the following reasons:

  • Mold is naturally occurring and always present in indoor and outdoor environments. Since we know mold will be detected in every air sample collected air sampling is not useful;
  • Federal, state, and local regulatory agencies deemed mold sampling unnecessary and not useful tool to address mold growth. At this time, analyzing air sampling results is purely subjective since federal, state, or local agencies have not published limits for acceptable levels of mold or mold spores; and
  • Since each individual reacts to mold differently and some people have no reaction at all, sampling cannot be used to determine if there is an overexposure to mold.

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Mold Remediation

Facilities Services, with the assistance of a Facility Manager, shall coordinate all mold remediation and cleanup efforts. Engineers and maintenance staff shall ensure all water or moisture problems are corrected prior to remediation and cleanup activities.

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Departments should notify building engineers, custodial staff and Environmental Health and Safety of any reoccurring moisture issues and returning visual mold growth.

Additional building evaluations may be warranted for return of moisture or visual mold growth.

Reviewed:  March 2020

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