Grand Strand

Horry Co. Schools re-tests for mold; doctor talks health affects of mold

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW)- Horry County Schools did more air quality testing at St. James Elementary School on Sunday, amid mold concerns. The school district also sent an e-mail to parents laying out their plan going forward, which included results from a previous air quality test.

The school district said it placed several HEPA air scrubbers in the school over the weekend.

The district also said roof leaks and moisture from Hurricane Florence caused the mold, and that the leaks are now fixed.

School officials said black mold was not found, but parents are still have health concerns.

Jared Smith's daughter is in kindergarten at St. James Elementary and said she was out most of last week.

"Her class is one of the classes identified in that report. The K102. That's her class. Over and over sinus infection, sinus infection, and sinus infection," said Smith.

A 55 page air quality report, recommended 23 areas of the school to be cleaned. Results show mold amplification in some areas of the school, but the district said it's not the point where it poses a health concern.

Allergist Dr. Mark Shecker, who is also on staff at Grand Strand Medical Center, said a person's reaction to mold depends on their sensitivity.

"In early childhood, you can start to develop sensitivities, and that has to do with your exposure. So the more exposure you have early on in life that may trigger more allergies as you move on to adutlhood," said Dr. Shecker.

According to the report, mold spores were considered to be amplified if they were detected indoors and exceeded outdoor air. Some of those molds included Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Pencillium.

"Aspergillus can be found inside, and it can actually cause a lot of allergies or respiratory problems. Penicillum is another one," said Dr. Shecker.

Testing is required to pinpoint what causes someone's respiratory issues, and that mold assessments can be tough to interpret.

"It's difficult to always evaluate those in terms of the exact level of exposure that somebody has," said Dr. Shecker.

He said the cornerstone to allergy treatment is avoidance. Horry County Schools said it will review its best practices to help eliminate future problems including prompt repair of water damaged areas. 

Smith said he wants to hear long term solutions, and is unhappy with how the situation has been handled.

"Yes you're dealing with parents, but you're also dealing with taxpayers too. I have to worry about our children having mold in the school. In my mind, that's an F," said Smith.

The results from Sunday's air quality test will take seven to 10 days to get back.

The district also said it's expediting work orders. School officials report that from January 2018 to end of January 2019, St. James Elementary had 10 work orders that may have to do with air quality.

The full Indoor Air Quality Testing Report for HCS that was submitted on December 4, 2018 can be read here.

The full Indoor Air Quality Testing Report for HCS submitted on January 29 can be read here

Read the full email sent by Horry County Schools to the parents of St. James Elementary School students here.

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