Cleaning up after a flood can pose health risks. You and your family should wait to re-enter your home until professionals tell you it is safe, with no structural, electrical or other hazards. Before you start cleanup activities, contact your insurance company and take pictures of the home and your belongings.
Failure to reduce moisture and humidity can present serious longterm health risks. Standing water and wet materials are a breeding ground for microorganism – especially mold. They can cause disease, trigger allergic reactions, and continue to damage materials long after the flood. Remember – drying your home and removing water-damaged items is your most important step for preventing mold damage. Here are some tips provided by the Homeowner’s and Renter’s Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters for addressing potential mold problems after floods.
Is There a Problem?
Was your home flooded? If so, and you were not able to dry your home (including furniture and other items) within 24-48 hours, you should assume you have mold growth. You need to completely dry everything, clean up the mold, and make sure you don’t still have a moisture problem. You may see or smell mold on clothing, drywall, furniture, cardboard boxes, or books, but it may also be hidden under or behind items like carpet, cushions, or walls.
Mold Basics: How Mold Affects Your Health
Exposure to mold can lead to asthma attacks, eye and skin irritation, and allergic reactions. It can lead to severe infections in people with weakened immune systems. Avoid contaminated buildings and contaminated water as much as you can.
WHEN ENTERING OR LEAVING ANY MOLDY SITE:
- Protect yourself and loved ones against hazards. People with breathing problems like asthma or who have weakened immune systems should stay away from moldy sites. Children should not take part in disaster cleanup work. Check for loose power lines or gas leaks. Make sure the electricity and gas are turned off. Look for sagging ceilings or floors or other structural problems. Watch out for wet, muddy, or slippery floors.
- Protect your mouth and nose against breathing in mold: wear at least an N-95 respirator. If you plan to spend a lot of time removing moldy belongings or doing work like ripping out moldy drywall, wear a half-face or fullface respirator. Basic information on using it is in OSHA’s general respiratory protection guidance.
- Protect your skin. Wear protective gloves (non-latex, vinyl, nitrile, or rubber). Do not touch mold or moldy items with bare hands.
- Protect your eyes. Wear goggles that provide complete eye protection. Choose goggles designed to keep out dust and small particles. Safety glasses or goggles that have open vent holes will not protect you against dust and small particles.
- Protect yourself and loved ones after you leave a mold site. Shower and change your clothes. This will help you avoid carrying mold and other hazards back to your current living quarters.