State hiring expert to look for mold and other indoor air problems

Within two weeks, the state will have an expert working full time to find and eliminate mold and other air quality problems from its office buildings.

Risk Manager Sue Dunt said indoor air quality has become a major concern for the state as more and more workers complain of "sick buildings."

The biggest concern among state workers seems to be the fear of mold, which has been blamed for a variety of chronic health problems.

Most recently, tests were ordered for the state's leased building at 400 W. King St. in Carson City.

She assured workers there -- which houses her Risk Management division, Mines and Minerals, the Public Employee Benefits Program, the Division of Industrial Relations and part of Child and Family Services -- they are not in danger from mold contamination.

"We tested and there's no mold in any of the work areas," Dunt said. "We're absolutely confident about that."

She said the mold in the building was discovered in a basement area not used by workers and isolated from the building ventilation system. Dunt said she would guess it began to develop when the area got wet during the 1997 flood.

"We've asked the building owners to bring in a professional contractor," she said. "But we're very comfortable that we don't have anything in our work areas. Only down in the basement."

In about two weeks, she said, Ted Ice will join Willis Pooling, the contractor who handles state loss control. His full time job will be to deal with indoor air quality issues for the state."

"He'll get out there and do routine inspections before they come to us as reported health problems," Dunt said.

She said Ice will join the full-time safety inspector Willing Pooling has assigned to the state and, in the near future, a part-time worker will be hired to deal with wellness and fitness issues for police and fire employees. The part-time post is to be shared with the Nevada Association of Counties.

Dunt said Ice will handle all indoor air quality issues because most of the problems commonly referred to as "sick building" issues aren't because of mold.

"A lot of the problems aren't mold," she said. "Sometimes they're a former warehouse that was converted to office space but the ventilation wasn't upgraded. Some of the landlords don't change filters on a regular basis.

"About 70 percent of indoor air quality problems are caused by poor ventilation but right now, because of the concern everybody has about mold, everybody thinks their building has a mold problem."

Similar tests for mold were ordered in the Parole and Probation building at 1301 Cordone Ave. in Reno. Those tests have not come back yet.

She said her office has been checking numerous reports from state workers worried that their building has dangerous mold.

"We're getting a good feel for when you've got significant health issues and when we don't," she said. "The biggest potential health problems happen when it gets disturbed and spores get into the ventilation system."

She said it will be Ice's job to follow those reports, find out what the problems is and how to fix it. She said he is currently working for the Public Works Board and has the expertise to, hopefully, get ahead of the problem.

"We just have to be able to manage this and not let it manage us," she said.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment