ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Crews are working around the clock to clean out the mold in more than 20 Alamance-Burlington School System buildings.

How dangerous is the exposure to mold?

Mold can be very dangerous to your lungs. There are short-term symptoms, which include itchy eyes, runny nose or shortness of breath, but the major concern is what could happen long-term if you continue to breathe in that mold for years.

“I would see all mold as potentially dangerous. It all depends on the level of exposure,” said Dr. Murali Ramaswamy from Cone Health’s Pulmonary Fibrosis Program.

He works with patients who have experienced mold exposure, in some cases leading to a chronic lung disease, known as pulmonary fibrosis.

“I’ve seen teachers in my practice who worked in school buildings years ago where there was mold exposure on a sustained basis, and they have this condition,” Dr. Ramaswamy said.

It can happen years or even decades after the exposure, but there is no definite answer about how long it takes for the damage to be done.

“While it is not common long-term damagers from mold, the damage is real, and the main treatment is to get rid of the exposure,” Dr. Ramaswamy said.

That is why the hours spent each day remediating the mold is so crucial, and it has to be done right.

“The presence of mold in buildings that is visible coming through AC ducts because of damp environments is toxic in itself,” Dr. Ramaswamy said.

Right now, there is remediation happening at 26 school buildings across the Alamance-Burlington School System.

Several companies have been called in from across the country to help. They are also taking precautions like masking and air filtration to keep their workers safe.

Once the work is complete, Dr. Ramaswamy says parents should not be concerned about sending their kids back into the school building.

“They can return to the school building once remediation is done, and the mold is cleaned up,” Dr. Ramaswamy said.

The Alamance-Burlington School System says they are still on track to safely open up their buildings and start the new school year on Monday, Sept. 11.