Impact on Asthma
Leaks and ongoing moisture or dampness can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma. They can also cause mold growth, which worsens asthma and allergies, and can even cause allergies and asthma to develop. Exposure to mold growth can potentially cause sensitization — an increased allergic reaction to chemicals. In addition, leaks and moisture attract insects and contribute to pest infestations, which can be asthma triggers. Preventing, identifying quickly, and eliminating leaks and moisture minimizes associated triggers and mold growth, and can keep pests away.
Your school’s leaks and moisture policy should include guidance on how to address leaks and identify mold; steps for remediation, including length of time before follow-up; and measures to prevent leaks and moisture. It is important for your policy to distinguish between the type of leaks that need to be addressed immediately and larger projects (e.g., roof replacement projects) that require application to the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
Healthy Schools Environment Policy, Boston Public Schools: Outlines the city’s inspection program that documents environmental problems such as leaks and a work order system for maintenance and repairs.
Environmental Services, Newton Public Schools: Outlines the Environmental Management Team in schools, its role, and the kinds of issues addressed.
Investigating and Remediating Mold in Minnesota Public Schools: Background and best practices related to mold and remediation.
Conduct a school walk-through including less-occupied spaces such as closets, mechanical rooms, and the basement. Use a map of the school to color-code different problems such as stained or missing ceiling tiles.
Ensure that there is an effective system in place for staff to report leaks or other environmental building problems (e.g., a binder in front office, an email address, and key contact person).
Monitor areas where leaks are identified, to make sure water-damaged materials are dried or replaced in 24-48 hours. Assess if leaks are caused by activities in the school that require a behavioral response (e.g., students clogging a sink or toilet) or response to structural problems (e.g., leaky roof, pipes, and windows). A behavioral response may require increased educational and awareness about preventing the issue, while structure problems necessitate facility staff involvement and resources.
Resources & Tools
Mold, Environmental Protection Agency: Information and guidance on mold and indoor air quality in schools
Remediation and Prevention of Mold Growth and Water Damage in Public Schools/Buildings to Maintain Air Quality, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental Health: Information on mold removal and prevention, including recommendations for maintaining windows and doors weathertight to prevent water penetration into the building interior.
Indoor Air Quality Guidelines, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental Health: Guidance documents on flooding, mold, and moisture prevention.
Indoor Plants and Indoor Air Quality, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental Health: Guidance on the use and care of indoor plants in school and office buildings to protect indoor air quality.