Mold In Libraries Causes Significant Indoor Air Quality Problems

Mold does more than ruin books; it makes people sick.

Mold does more than ruin books; it makes people sick.

Mold in libraries is no small matter; just ask the staff of the Carnegie Library in our nation’s capital. In order to protect patrons and employees from potential harm due to mold-related IAQ problems, the Washington, DC building was closed for nearly four months beginning in September of last year while indoor air quality and mold remediation efforts were underway. (1)

Broadly defined, a library is any collection of books or other forms of stored information. Library institutions are commonly housed inside a building and lend items from its collection to the members of the community it serves.

There are four basic types of library communities in the US; what they are and whom they benefit are as follows:

Academic – colleges and universities
Public – cities and towns
School – students K through 12
Special Libraries – serve those in specific environments like hospitals, businesses, museums and government entities

There are nearly 120,000 official libraries nationwide. Housed within these structures are countless paper volumes and precious documents. All must have clean and unpolluted indoor environs to keep their inventories protected. But many don’t. Which means there are countless collections specialists – those who protect and manage their inventories — who are at risk for mold-related problems.

Mold and mildew are terms that refer to more than 100,000 species of fungi. (2) Mold spores are present everywhere in our environment, generally in an inactive state where they do little or no damage. But when water or humidity provides necessary moisture, dormant spores will germinate. Mold will digest its food source – in a library, that’s paper and cloth (such as book covers and bindings) – in order to survive. (3) This process stains and destroys books, papers, and other library collections over time. It also makes people sick.

Just as mold poses a threat to documents and books, it also jeopardizes human health. Toxic mold makes its way into a person’s airways through inhalation and can also enter via the skin by way of cuts and abrasions. Although serious consequences are rare, active mold can cause respiratory problems, skin and eye irritation, and infections. The degree of risk from exposure is determined by the amount of mold present and a person’s general health – people with allergies tend to be more susceptible to mold spores. (4)

Due to mold’s aggressive nature, prevention is key. To do this, one must prevent germination and growth. Therefore, moisture control is vitally important and the key to combatting mold in the library. (5)

OSHA recommends responding to water or moisture problems within 24 hours of incidence. Clean up, drying, and damaged material removal are remediation methods that can prevent or limit mold growth. (6)

But sometimes, mold doesn’t present itself in an obvious way and humidity and ventilation appear to be at proper levels. This is when collection specialists and library staff will need extra help.

At Air Systems Inc., we serve libraries across the country by providing indoor air quality management solutions with our stellar IAQ products. Our air impurity removal systems clean library air so that toxic mold cannot occur. For the health and peace of mind of library patrons and staff alike, contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced environmental specialists.

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