Claudette Reichel | 9/7/2005 2:15:43 AM
"Wetness and high humidity spur the growth of these organisms within one or two days, so it’s essential to act as fast as you can after a flood," Reichel said, noting the number of flooded homes along the Gulf Coast as a result of the recent hurricane.
"Mold or fungi are bad for the house and bad for the occupants," she explained. "Mold spores are an allergen, and some types of molds produce hazardous mycotoxins that can lead to a wide range of health effects."
Decay-causing fungi grow in wood that stays wet for an extended period, causing it to lose strength.
"In a nutshell, a wet house is soon an unhealthy house and eventually a rotting house," Reichel said. "To make matters even worse, such secondary damage may be excluded from coverage on your flood and homeowners insurance."
If your home was flooded, it should be cleaned and dried quickly and thoroughly to prevent mildew and future damage by wood rot, Reichel stressed.
"Since flood water may be contaminated with sewage or other biological pollutants, you may want to disinfect, too," she advised.
On the other hand, areas wet from clean rainwater – from a leaking roof, for instance – may not need to be disinfected, according to the expert. But all wet areas should be allowed to dry thoroughly before being covered or enclosed.
"A professional water damage restoration contractor with special drying equipment is the best and safest way to go," Reichel advised. "Yet, after a flood, many homeowners don’t have that option."
If doing it yourself, for safety, wear protective clothing on legs, arms, feet and hands while cleaning up debris. And wear rubber gloves while handling flood-damaged items, Reichel said.
Also keep in mind that buildings constructed before 1978 may have lead-based paint and that sanding or scraping this paint creates a serious health hazard. Call 1-800-LEADFYI to get more information about lead-based paint before disturbing it.
"Disinfectants should be chosen and used carefully, since they can pose a hazard, too," Reichel said. "And remember that commercial disinfecting cleaners need to be diluted as directed to be effective."
Bleach solutions (such as one cup liquid chlorine laundry bleach to a gallon of water) are effective and economical general purpose disinfectants, but can damage finishes, colors and metals, Reichel said.
In addition, she cautioned to never mix bleach with products containing ammonia or acids, because such a mixture can produce toxic fumes.
Reichel also offers these tips:
Additional information on flood recovery, preparing for disasters and a variety of other topics can be found by visiting www.lsuagcenter.com.