TRENTON – Senator Ronald L. Rice has introduced legislation that would require testing in all New Jersey schools for the presence of mold and other air contaminants. The bill is an effort to further protect the health of children in New Jersey schools, and follows the successful advocacy by Senator Rice and other Senate Democrats for a requirement that drinking water in schools is tested for lead.
“Schools should be safe places for children to learn and thrive and as a state we must take the action necessary to make sure students are protected from potential health hazards,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “We recently discovered there were elevated lead levels in schools in Newark and elsewhere in New Jersey and, as a result, worked to ensure that lead testing would take place in all of our schools. We should also take proactive steps to be sure children are not being exposed to other dangerous elements inside of school buildings. We know that mold can be harmful to a child’s health, and particularly for those with asthma and allergies. Testing for mold and other air contaminants is a basic step to ensure that children are not inhaling harmful toxins and are in a healthy environment.”
For those who are sensitive to molds, exposure can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.
In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughing, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition. The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.
The bill would require that within 24 months after its effective date, and at least once every five years thereafter, the superintendent or chief administrator of public, private and charter schools within the state provide for evaluation of the interior of every school building for the presence of mold and air contaminants. The evaluation would be required to be performed consistent with the procedures already established for the evaluation and assessment of building interiors adopted by the Department of Health.
In addition, the bill would require that the Department of Health, in consultation with the Department of Community Affairs, adopt regulations that establish indoor standards for (1) exposure limits to mold in school buildings that are protective of the public health and safety; (2) procedures for the inspection, identification and evaluation of the interior of buildings for mold and (3) standards for mold hazard abatement, including specialized cleaning, removal, maintenance, painting, temporary containment, and practical guidelines for the removal of mold and the abatement of the underlying cause of mold and associated water intrusion in indoor environments.
The Legislation was introduced last Thursday.