John J. is a school nurse at Jackson Elementary School, which was built in 1960. Nurse John has noticed that many students from Ms. Zee’s second grade class have come to the clinic complaining about coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes. Nurse John has also observed that Steven Tea, the only asthmatic student in Ms. Zee’s class, has had more asthma attacks this year than he did last year. Because the rest of the school is not experiencing the same respiratory problems, Nurse John is concerned that something in Ms. Zee’s classroom is causing students to feel ill.
Nurse John decides to visit Ms. Zee’s classroom. Upon entering the classroom, one of the few located in the school’s basement, John is struck by the powerful musty smell that inhabits the room. While talking to Ms. Zee, John learns that the classroom has “smelled bad for years,” and that students from previous years have complained about respiratory problems. Nurse John notes that Ms. Zee has stuffed a blanket at the base of the classroom’s small rectangular window near the ceiling because the window does not close completely.
John suspects that Ms. Zee’s classroom walls are contaminated with mold. Upon further research, Nurse John learns that if water gets between the exterior and the interior of a building’s wall, mold can grow in the moist environment. This situation can occur as the result of construction defects in the building (e.g., leaky windows). Nurse John also learns that people who are exposed to extensive mold growth may experience allergic reactions, such as hay fever-like allergy symptoms, and that people who already have a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma, may experience difficulty breathing when exposed to mold. Nurse John is concerned about the possible mold contamination effect on his asthmatic student, Steven.
1. Identify the agent, host, and environment in this case study, and describe how they interacted to bring about the occurrence of disease.
2. Is the mold contamination in Ms. Zee’s room a point-source pollutant or a non–point-source pollutant?
3. What can Nurse John do to learn more about indoor air quality (IAQ) and about what to do in case of mold?
4. What are some possible interventions that Nurse John could apply to address the mold contamination in Ms. Zee’s room?
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