MSU residents, like students at many colleges, worry about dorm mold

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Mold complaints in university housing have led to evacuations, protests and rallies at Virginia Commonwealth University, Howard University and the University of Georgia

Students at Michigan State University are also concerned. 

With the tag “mold in dorm,” college students have been taking their complaints to TikTok.

Some are videos of students who are being treated for mold poisoning or relocated because of mold. Others are showing what they have found or what mold test kits are telling them.

Whether this is a new problem, or TikTok has made the fungus go viral, it is clear that many students and their parents are concerned about mold in on-campus housing. 

Karissa Chirbas is a freshman living in MSU’s Case Hall. Her roommate, Gia Mistretta, has asthma and a heightened sensitivity to mold, so the university provided them with an air-conditioning unit.

Karissa Chirbas and Gia Mistretta in their dorm room at Case Hall.

The two spent most of their first semester in Case with an undiagnosable illness. They reported fever, stuffy nose, sore throat, cough and chest pain. Their frustration grew as they were treated multiple times for respiratory infections, with several different medications without improvement. 

Then, Chirbas saw a TikTok video of a student talking about getting mold poisoning from her dorm room. The video prompted Chirbas and Mistretta to look for mold in their own room. They found it inside the air-conditioning unit the university had provided.  

“We told them (maintenance), ‘Hey we think we have mold in our air-conditioning unit.’ They said they have been getting other calls about it, and that it is ‘environmental.’ That it just happens. We told them ‘we need to get this removed,’ so they came and removed it and replaced it with a new one.”

Joseph Petroff, the MSU Residential and Hospitality Services health and safety coordinator, works with environmental concerns involving water infiltration in residential facilities. He is a water restoration technician certified by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration

“My role is to get in as soon as we learn about damage or concern to one of our spaces, to evaluate it and make sure that it is safe for people to be living there.” Petroff said. 

For all mold-related concerns, he says students should reach out to their designated maintenance team. Depending on the evaluation, Petroff and his team follow various university protocols. 

“Mold is everywhere, it’s in the air. We bring it in and out with us when we walk in and out of the outdoors. Although all of our buildings do have high-capacity filtration on them, and very high-efficiency HVAC units that supply the interior of our buildings with air, there’s no way to necessarily eliminate mold or airborne mold spores because they are invisible, tiny little particles.” 

While the CASE roommates were eventually able to resolve their problem, they said they wish the university would be more conscientious about what it puts in dorms, especially when the AC unit that was supposed to help with asthma, aggravated mold poisoning. 

Another freshman in the dorms at MSU, Gage Bond said he and his roommates have had a huge problem with mold in their bathroom. They first noticed it on move-in day, with a high concentration in the shower. One of his roommates has asthma, as well. However, all four roommates have reported getting sicker faster than they ever have in the past. 

Caitlin Visniski is also a Case Hall resident at MSU. She reported mold on her ceiling, sink and outlining her doorways, all on move-in day. 

“We clean it as best as we can, but it comes back in like a week. I clean it every Saturday or Sunday. I’ve literally always had a dry throat since I’ve been here. I’ve had a cough recently, and earlier when we first moved in I had a throat issue for three weeks straight. I am someone who rarely gets sick, like maybe once a year.” Visniski said. 

She said students need vents in their bathrooms, and if not vents, at least cleaning supplies to better manage the growth. She said that it’s a challenge to go out and buy cleaning supplies so frequently without a car. 

While mold is common, Petroff said students should not have to live with. 

“We can control mold growth in a space by ensuring that it’s dry and that it’s clean. It’s not unusual for people to have mold start growing on their shower curtain for example, or maybe in the cracks along the base of their shower area, and that can be very concerning. The best way to address that is just with a mild soap.”

Here is MSU’s mold guide for campus residents.