NEW YORK—January 9, 2020—The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has announced that it will spend $50 million to update ventilation systems and sanitize ductwork in order to fight mold in public housing apartment buildings, according to New York Daily News. This will be the first comprehensive, system-wide duct cleaning performed on the 326 apartment complexes overseen by the Housing Authority, meaning some of these ventilation ducts have not been cleaned in decades, since the buildings were constructed. In addition to cleaning ductwork, NYCHA plans to replace old, malfunctioning roof fans in order to improve building ventilation, the Daily News reports. The project is expected to be completed in 2022.

Mold in public housing has been a persistent problem for residents for the past 10 years. In 2013, Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (Metro IAF) sued the city on behalf of residents with asthma who were being housed in mold-infested apartments that exacerbated their condition. NYCHA entered a consent decree in order to settle the suit, but in December 2015, the case was back in court as the problem persisted. According to the Daily News, some residents claimed that NYCHA simply painted over mold, only to have it return. Manhattan Federal Judge William Pauly appointed a special master to oversee cleanup of the mold in public housing.

Four years later, mold and moisture continue to plague New York’s public housing. “It’s why we pushed for the ventilation modernization,” said Metro IAF organizer Michael Stanley in an interview with the Daily News. “When vents are cleaned and when roof fans are repaired or replaced, we have seen that make a huge difference in reducing mold.”

Though mold and moisture are now widely recognized as indoor air quality issues leading to health problems like asthma and respiratory infections, our understanding of the health effects of mold is relatively recent. The World Health Organization’s “Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mold” was released in 2009, and as the Daily News points out, widespread recognition of mold as a serious health hazard has come about within just the last decade. The New York State Labor Department began licensing professionals to inspect and remediate mold just four years ago, joining only a handful of other states that have some regulations for mold inspectors and remediators.

The launching of this $50 million plan to fight mold and improve indoor air quality in the public housing of America’s flagship city is surely a moment of significance for members of the mold remediation and IAQ industry.