NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – Dozens of Facebook comments rolled in over the weekend claiming that some University of Oklahoma residence halls were covered in mold and that students were feeling sick as a result of it.
The two residence halls that came into question were Walker and Couch.
KFOR took a trip to OU’s campus in Norman to ask students if they were experiencing mold themselves.
“It’s in the bathroom. It’s in the grout. it’s black mold,” said OU Couch Center resident and freshman, Jenna Lucas.
Lucas told KFOR she has experienced congestion and coughing.
She said she does feel better, but, “I feel like I’ve gotten used to it, definitely.”
“I’m a little grossed out, but I don’t know. I feel like it’s my only option right now,” she explained.
Another OU Couch Center resident and freshman, Hayden Hunter, said he has contracted respiratory problems since living in his residence hall.
“Personally, in my room, I haven’t seen any mold. I know some rooms I have seen, like, carpets turning green,” Hunter added.
Hunter said he has woken up with a sore throat and a cough as well. He claims his roommate has the “exact same” health problems too.
Before moving into Couch Center, Hunter said there were nicknames for the symptoms students would contract: Walker Wheeze and Couch Cough.
“I honestly, like, personally, I thought that was just, like, what I had to kind of to live with. I moved in knowing that there was a couch cough,” explained Hunter.
Hunter said he has a dehumidifier in his room, but he hasn’t noticed a “big change” in the air quality or in his health.
Lucas explained she has considered buying a dehumidifier, but that they’re expensive.
News 4 also spoke with an OU parent who asked that her and her daughter’s identity not be revealed.
Her daughter shared pictures showing what looks to be mold growing on the air vents in her dorm room.
Her mom said her daughter and her roommate went to Goodard Health Services Monday because they weren’t feeling well, claiming it may be a result of the alleged mold.
“It’s infuriating,” she said.
Other OU parents raised the same concern on Facebook, saying, “My son has had maintenance requests in daily. There’s mold issues and constant odors. Maintenance will look at it, not do anything and then mark the request as ‘completed.'”
Another OU parent posted on Facebook, saying, “My daughter was sick every month there last year. It was terrible! She missed classes and work due to this issue! They need to make a change because that isn’t ok! When she came home for the summer, the issue went away.”
News 4 reached out to the university for an on-camera interview. A representative said no one was available for one, but that a statement would be sent.
“OU has taken steps to ensure residence halls meet the highest standards of cleanliness. As is typical during the fall, allergens and irritants in the air increase. The university has taken action to mitigate the effects of these seasonal changes in OU Housing spaces by installing Synexis Sphere devices. These antimicrobial devices work to eliminate and reduce contaminants, including viruses, bacteria and fungi to effectively break down microorganisms and provide better air quality.”Mackenzie Scheer, Director of Media Relations for OU
According to Scheer, a multi-year strategic First-Year Housing Master Plan was approved during the March 2021 OU Board of Regents meeting, which will enhance on-campus living for students and increase environmental sustainability.
Beyond the university’s cleaning protocols, OU said residents also play a significant role in preventing environmental issues by adhering to mold, mildew and moisture prevention tips.
Students can submit a maintenance request to have reported issues inspected and addressed as well.
“All resolutions are addressed directly with the student,” added Scheer.
Some parents have raised the idea of purchasing an air quality and humidity detector in the meantime.
However, the owner of Enviro-Mist, Dave Salas, said, “It scratches that mental itch, like what’s going on, but they’re not very accurate. So, you want some professional equipment and, more than that, you want someone to analyze the results. Because once you have the results, then you’ve got to make sense of them.”
When asked what is considered safe and unsafe when it comes to mold spore counts, he said there is no “federal standard” of what is safe, as everyone has different reactions to different spore counts.
“What you have to do is take one air sample outside as a baseline or a comparison. Then you take a minimum of one air sample from a non-complaint area, so you take those samples, you’re able to compare them and analyze them and come up with with an answer,” he added.
Salas said there can’t be an issue of mold without having an issue of moisture. He suggests looking for a water leak or a place full of moisture to find the origin of mold.
“The guidelines for the industry is you get above 65 percent humidity, and that’s when problems can arise. The challenge is different times of the year. Your indoor climate is going to get really close to matching the outdoor climate, so depending what time of the year you’re testing, you might get very similar readings,” Salas explained.
Salas recommends when someone is suspicious of mold or concerned in any way to not get tied up in the type of mold it is, as the quantity is more important, but to find the quantity means having a professional test it.
If you wish to report a building on the basis of sanitation, you can file a Consumer Health Service Complaint with the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
The parent News 4 spoke with claims she has already filed one.