Student blames mold for ER visit

Ashley Brown

Staff Writer

Sable Riley


One on-campus Troy University resident continues to experience problems with mold, which she says she believes is linked to recent health issues.

“I had to get an ultrasound because of all of the mold,” said Megan Sambenedetto, a sophomore art education major from Destin, Florida, who lives in Newman Center 100.

Since the beginning of the semester, Sambenedetto has visited the emergency room and has had to miss classes because of doctor appointments concerning health issues she believes are related to the mold in her dorm.

Along with visiting the ER at Troy Regional Medical Center, Sambenedetto also visited SARHA (Southeast Alabama Rural Health Association) Doctors Center.

Sambenedetto said that after she explained “everything” to a nurse at Troy Regional, the nurse agreed that it could be mold.

Sambenedetto said she did not receive any paperwork or documentation from the nurse to confirm this.

Sambenedetto said she had never had a nosebleed in her life until she moved into her dorm room, and now, she gets them frequently accompanied with headaches.

Mark Salmon, Physical Plant director, said the mold in Newman 100 has been identified with air tests as cladosporium, a mold common to this region.

Exposure to the spores of this fungus is known to cause respiratory allergies, according to HealthLine. It can also cause asthma attacks and allergic fungal sinusitis.

Extended exposure to spores may lead to a suppression of the immune system, which allows other opportunistic viruses and bacteria to infect the host, according to Microbe Wiki.

Sambenedetto sent pictures of her dorm room on Oct. 24 to her mother, Kim Sambenedetto, who contacted the Tropolitan. Kim Sambenedetto said she didn’t connect the dots with the symptoms until the mold was found.

Megan Sambenedetto said she is not the only dorm room resident to experience health problems.

“We’ve (Megan Sambenedetto and her roommates) all been, like, kind of sick and super tired,” Megan Sambenedetto said. She said it’s not because of staying out late, either.

Megan Sambenedetto will be visiting an allergen specialist when she returns home for Christmas break to determine whether her recent health issues are being caused by the mold.

In addition to health issues, Megan Sambenedetto said many of her personal items — including two pairs of shoes, a prom dress and her dental retainer — are covered in thick layers of mold.

“I had to bring everything I own home to have it cleaned, and it was a super drag,” she said.

Dean of Students Herbert Reeves said Physical Plant was sent to remedy the problem.

“Physical Plant has cleaned the room to include cleaning walls and vents with a biocide that kills mold, cleaned the furniture and the carpet in the room,” he said in an email, adding that Physical Plant corrected some issues it had with the outside air unit.

Megan Sambenedetto said when maintenance and housing personnel came to clean, they didn’t move furniture back, and she is unable to move it alone because it’s too heavy.

Megan Sambenedetto and her mom added that the housing department has not been helpful throughout the process.

Kim Sambenedetto said housing initially kept telling the girls the problem was their fault because they were leaving the window open and turning the air on in the dorms, and that was causing the moisture problem.

“But that wasn’t true because it’s actually a defective air conditioning unit that was causing the problem,” Kim Sambenedetto said.  “The girls never opened their window.”

Reeves said a unit outside the dorms, meant to pull fresh, cool air into Newman 100, was not working properly but has been fixed.

Reeves also said that Physical Plant is working on getting a controller for the unit that would notify the plant when the temperature control in the unit quits working.

He added that in other dorms, the problem has been residents setting low temperatures and leaving windows open. He said the warm air and cold air cause moisture that allows mold to grow.

“I don’t think people should have the option of dealing with this themselves,” Megan Sambenedetto said. “They should be, like, ‘We’re coming in to fix it.’”

In some recent cases, including Megan Sambenedetto’s, involving mold in dorm rooms, housing has offered students a change of dorm room.

“If we move them to another building, we tell them what we have to offer and what the costs are, and then we prorate them based on where they are moving from to where they are moving to,” Reeves said.

Two of the four girls that were originally assigned to the same dorm room chose to be relocated to a different dorm. The other two, including Megan Sambenedetto, still reside in the dorm room.

Megan Sambenedetto said she has heard complaints of mold from others around campus, so she doesn’t see the purpose in moving.

“I don’t want to have to deal with everything again,” Megan Sambenedetto said.

Megan Sambenedetto told the Tropolitan she has talked with Reeves directly about the mold problem, but he didn’t offer a helpful solution.

She said the dean suggested she move off campus.

“But I’m not rich; I can’t just buy an apartment,” Megan Sambenedetto said.

Megan Sambenedetto does not know where she will be residing next semester but said she feels like she should be reimbursed for this semester of housing due to the extent of her problems.

“I had a nanny job with triplets and worked literally my butt off all summer so I could afford a nicer dorm,” she said.

Kim Sambenedetto said she wishes the housing department would address the mold problem more aggressively.

“I don’t feel like they are taking it serious(ly),” she said. “Since it’s college kids, people don’t seem to care as much.”

After previous reports that have been addressed in rooms in Newman, Trojan Village and some fraternity houses, Reeves said, there has been one new report of mold found in a mattress in Sigma Chi fraternity house, but he is uncertain how long the mold was present before the student reported it.

Salmon said the appearance of mold on campus is probably due to prolonged warm, humid temperatures.

He suggested that residents keep the thermostat between 72 and 74 degrees to avoid problems with mold growth.

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