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718th CES: Breaking the mold

Courtesy photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Courtesy photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --

The Okinawa region belongs to a subtropical climate with an average annual temperature of 23 C, and a steamy average of 79 percent humidity this past September alone. Locals and tourists alike regularly enjoy what is commonly known as the “Hawaii of Japan”, but suffer the proverbial wet blanket of indoor mold.

September is National Mold Awareness Month, but controlling the spread of mold is a full-time job. Educating Airmen on the adverse health effects and the potential structural damage exposure to mold can cause is crucial to the health and well-being of Team Kadena.

Given that Okinawa is susceptible to mold due to the environment, Team Kadena was tasked in 2019 with performing a full review of all dormitories to determine the extent, if any, to which mold posed a problem here.

“As an ADL during [that] time, our team conducted an extensive inspection of every room across every dorm we maintain,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Edens, 718th Civil Engineer Squadron Airman dorm leader. “This inspection included 11 dorms with 1.8 thousand rooms total, and our flight completed this operation within one week.”

After the inspection and many more over the last few years, ADLs and the Unaccompanied Housing Office can say dormitories on Kadena do not suffer from any mold problems, but Edens emphasized mold is something that is impossible to completely get rid of indoors.

“According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), mold is something that is to be controlled through moisture regulation,” he said. “We make sure to provide our residents with fundamental tips and an educational background about mold, [encouraging] regular cleaning to keep mold from spreading, reporting any sources of water leaks and maintaining the relative humidity of the dorm room from 30 to 50 percent.”

The EPA states molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, to include hay fever-type symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rash.

While allergic reactions to mold are common, the Unaccompanied Housing Office and the ADL’s number one concern is for residents’ safety and well-being, and conduct monthly facility inspections with a thorough check for mold in vulnerable areas mold is likely to grow.

“This job provides an opportunity to teach Airmen proper cleaning practices, as for many of them this is their first time away from home,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Jones, 718th CES ADL. “We find residents simply knowing we are there for them goes a long way, and we want them to know we are here to help. It’s great seeing them grow and become more independent as they learn how to navigate the challenges of living in their own space.”