By Janean Sorrell and Michael Yu, Oct. 4, 2022
Students living in the Estrellas dorms discovered growths of mold inside their ventilation systems, with some of the students reporting severe reactions and raising concerns about Cal Poly Pomona’s administration response time.
Two students interviewed by The Poly Post said they experienced health related issues upon move in back in August. They believed it was due the mold. Both students suffered health related issues such as difficulty breathing, chills, sweats and headaches. This forced one student to move back home while the administration was looking into the matter and one student being hospitalized.
A statement released on Sept. 30 from Hui Chieng, the interim director of Environmental Health & Safety, addressed the concerns about the mold in the dorms. The statement said that due to the low probability of significant health risks, no remedial action is required beyond deploying basic cleaning practices.
“I had in hindsight, what is a severe allergic reaction to something the first day that I moved in,” one student told The Poly Post. “I would struggle the rest of the day, for weeks on end, with breathing, whether it was in class, or just trying to socialize. This past Sunday when I was at the emergency room, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, started losing taste in my mouth and had a couple dizzy spells.”
The students only shared their story on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the university’s administration.
One of the anonymous students also showed us the five prescriptions they were prescribed while in the hospital and noted that they were perfectly healthy prior to moving into Estrellas and never required medications before.
According to Christina M. Gonzales, vice president of student affairs and Megan Stang, associate vice president of student affairs they were both unaware of students being hospitalized with sickness due to the mold.
According to the CDC, mold can cause several health-related issues such as coughing or wheezing, burning eyes or skin rash, while people with asthma or who are allergic to mold may have severe reactions. Immunocompromised people and people with chronic lung disease may get infections in their lungs from mold.
EH&S held an informal Q&A session on Sept. 20 in building 73 with the residents of Estrellas to discuss indoor air quality, according to PowerPoint slides obtained by The Poly Post. According to students interviewed, they were asked not to record the meeting.
The outbreak has also sparked concern from parents of the affected students, with five parents expressing worries over their children’s health and the living conditions on campus.
“The most significant issue is the rough start to her school year,” said a parent of the second student. “She didn’t get a freshman year because of COVID, took a gap year sophomore year and this first time on campus has now started off shaky because of this health issue and her inconvenience trying to keep organized without her computer and a steady place to call home.”
According to Cynthia Peters, senior communications specialist for Cal Poly Pomona, Sept. 14, CPP administration contacted Environmental Health & Safety about the mold issue, who then started working with housing on Sept. 15. Following that, a microbial test was conducted on Sept. 19 by EH&S.
Stang said the university also hired disaster recovery company Belfor to either clean or replace student’s ventilation systems, as well as supplying students living in Estrellas with air purifiers. However, students shared that more extensive actions need to be taken to fully absolve the issue.
“They are saying that they don’t want to evacuate the dorms, they only need to evacuate the people that are currently suffering symptoms,” said an anonymous student. “You are just going to have the next people hitting critical mass, getting sick and then needing to move out. The cause is still the building. “
Stang said that students can communicate with the Dean of students about negative experiences with housing.
“Student safety and security is of upmost importance, if (students) are worried about that, you’re not going to concentrate on classes,” said Stang. “We’ve set up different levels of resources very intentionally for folks and we can help communicate that in different ways from different offices to students.”
Despite administrations statements about the mold, concern and doubt about the solutions presented by the school persist among students.
“It is a systemic issue, those are Band-Aid solutions and I do believe that they need to actually do a proper mold (removal) or mediation,” shared a second anonymous student.
Feature image courtesy of a concerned parent
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