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Got mold?

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- As Korea settles into the spring season, things are slowly returning to life -- though not all are as welcome as the flowering trees around base. Around Osan, spring has also meant the return of mold.

"We expect to start seeing mold grow around the base during late spring or early summer," said Maj. Timothy Allmann, the 51st Medical Group bioenvironmental engineering flight commander. "It's important people do what they can to prevent mold from growing or to clean it up before it grows too much."

He emphasized three key points that people should know in order to deal with mold in their homes or workplaces.

First, building occupants are the first line of defense against mold. If mold does appear, clean up any small areas using bleach and water or any of the numerous cleaning agents that can be bought from a store. He said according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a small area is defined as about 10 square feet.

He warned that people shouldn't mix chemicals when cleaning to get a better effect, however.

"Mixing cleaners together, like bleach and ammonia, can be very bad and hazardous to your health," Major Allmann said.

According to Capt. Chunil Paeng, bioenvironmental engineering's deputy commander, a solution of 10 percent household bleach and 90 percent water can be applied to surfaces to kill mold. But on porous surfaces much of the mold may survive under the surface. Sometimes the only way to get rid of mold on porous surfaces is to remove the surface entirely. Mold in carpet, for example, may mean the carpet has to be thrown away. If mold gets deep enough into some wall surfaces, the walls themselves may need to come out. Usually, however, mold problems are usually smaller in scale and easier to deal with.

The second key point is if mold covers more than an area of 10 square feet, a work order needs to be put in with the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron. Once the work order has been put into their system, it will be treated as a priority job until the source of moisture has been found and fixed.

Lastly, anyone who feels they are experiencing health issues due to mold should see their health care provider immediately before doing anything else.

People are around mold every day. It and other allergens are everywhere, the major said. The problem with mold doesn't start until a larger amount is able to accumulate in one spot.

While molds come in different varieties, they function and behave in basically the same way, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Information obtained from the EPA pamphlet, "A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home," breaks down the sometimes slimy fungi, explaining that molds produce tiny spores rather than seeds, to reproduce. Mold spores are constantly present in the air and in- and outdoors, but when they land on a damp spot indoors, they begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive.

"Having mold in itself is not a root cause for related health problems, but can exacerbate existing allergies and cause problems for people already suffering from asthma or other respiratory conditions," the captain said.

According to the EPA, mold growth occurs when moisture problems remain undiscovered or un-addressed. There is no practical way to eliminate all molds and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.

The best way to keep mold from growing is to keep the humidity down, said Major Allmann. This means people should close their bathroom doors when showering, and keep the fan in their bathroom running the whole time the shower is on. This is important because dorm rooms on base are smaller than a house, which means the moisture from the running shower that escapes into the air has much less space to spread out in.

"This is especially important when the air conditioners are turned on," he said. "As temperature decreases, the amount of moisture the air can hold also decreases. If you start seeing water droplets forming on the inside of your window, it's not a good thing."

If you do start seeing condensation forming in your room, turn the thermostat up a little to allow the air to hold more water. If your room doesn't have a thermostat, contact your dorm manager and ask them to change the temperature.

For more information about preventing or fighting mold, contact the bioenvironmental engineering flight at 784-2623.