Officials tell parents not to panic about mold

Possible mold ABC11 I-Team found at South Granville High School

March 31, 2011 7:31:08 PM PDT
ranville County School officials are backtracking a bit from their claim that there were no elevated levels of mold found at South Granville High School, but they are also making it clear that parents shouldn't panic.

A deep cleaning is still underway at the high school more than a week after ABC11's I-Team story first aired.

During that report, the I-Team discovered mold covering the air conditioning unit in classroom 27 and mold growing in the ceiling tiles.

Now, that unit looks clean and the tiles have been replaced.

In the hallways, hundreds of ceiling tiles with water or other damage have been replaced too.

"Your coming and visiting helped us make sure that we could act on that just as quickly as we could," said Stan Winborne, Granville County Schools public information officer.

The visit also resulted in asking an independent engineer from Cary to test for mold the day after ABC11's visit.

Parent Danita Lehman says the school announced results from those tests, which showed no elevated levels of mold.

Click here to read the full report.

Click here to read the lab results.

In an e-mail to the I-Team dated March 27, Winborne revealed the independent findings stating, "Based on the results from his recent, more thorough study, it appears there is no real danger to our students or staff. However, we are taking extra precautions and the building is undergoing a full cleaning this week. All surfaces that even have the appearance of mold/mildew and dust are being cleaned and all air conditioning systems are getting a surface cleaning. We have replaced over 300 ceiling tiles as well. We are also going to monitor the situation very carefully this spring as we begin using the A/C system again."

In another e-mail Winborne shared with the I-Team, Granville Schools Safety/Regulatory Coordinator Sidney Moody provided results of the Indoor Air Quality Report SGHS dated March 23 -- two days after ABC11 visited the school. The changes mentioned above are a result of the independent inspection and findings, which were detailed in the e-mail.

"In general, cleaning recommendations are provided. In particular, immediate action should be applied to Room 17, Room 27, and Room 7. These rooms show elevated levels of a species that is very common in North Carolina. In fact, it is the most common type in outdoor air in our area. While the concentration measured in these classrooms is lower than the median normal for outdoor air in April, they do indicate an active culture in these rooms. A cleaning using the methods in Mr. Herrick's report is in order. I suggest that the HVAC equipment and walls be wiped down with the solution indicated. Ceiling tiles that appear to be sagging or show signs of staining or moisture should be replaced. If needed, place fans to speed the drying process."

Lehman says it's disheartening because people don't believe her claims that mold inside the school triggered her daughter's asthma attacks. She learned about another asthma attack this week through a text message, but her daughter is okay.

"People are now looking at her differently," Lehman said. "A teacher argued with her yesterday [and] basically told her no, the school told him there was no mold."

She says people need to take a closer look at the report. It shows a presence of mold that's commonly found in North Carolina.

Air samples taken inside classrooms show mold levels double in some classes and nearly quadruple in one room, higher than the level found outside the school.

"That's what parents and teachers and everyone need to know is that it is active, it is there and we didn't make it up," Lehman said. "And we didn't hire these people the school did."

Winborne had told the I-Team the testing found no elevated levels of mold.

"This is the actual, original report," Winborne said as he showed it to the I-Team.

The I-Team had him take a closer look at the results.

"Here it is above, you're correct," he added.

Winborne sees some of the levels are higher inside certain classrooms than outside the school but clarifies the levels are still below the national average.

"We take this very seriously," he said. "This is not something that we're dismissing. It's something we responded to, and we're working very hard to make sure that this is a safe building."

The I-Team took the results to NC State University.

Lung Biologist Jamie Bonner studies the impact of pollutants on lungs. The I-Team asked him what it means it indoor levels of mold are higher than what's found outside.

"The basic idea is that you don't want indoor levels of any type of allergens being as high as you might encounter outdoors," Bonner said.

But he says parents of otherwise healthy children shouldn't panic.

"I would tell parents not to panic," Bonner said. "If a child has asthma, they're going to be much more sensitive to any types of allergens including mold."

So while Lehman's daughter may get sick, other children may not.

"It's not that it's toxic or that it's bad for everybody, but when you're an asthmatic and you have this allergy, then it's bad for you," Lehman said.

She's glad to see the school taking extra steps to clean the building to try to keep students safe.

For more information about mold from the Environmental Protection Agency, click here.

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