Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mold can cause adverse health effects - FEMA

Mold is an ever-present problem following storm flooding and can be a significant health risk if care is not taken, warn officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA).

They urge residents and owners of flooded property to take action now to identify mold and take steps to clean it up and not wait until inspectors arrive.

Health officials say problems from exposure to mold can follow if it is disturbed through improper cleanup procedures. Also, mold is easily transferred from one surface to another. Infants, children, immune-compromised patients, pregnant women, individuals with existing respiratory conditions (allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity, and asthma) and the elderly appear to be at higher risks for adverse health effects from mold.

Symptoms can include nose and throat irritation, wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks in individuals who have asthma, and lower respiratory tract infections in children. People with pre-existing respiratory conditions also may be susceptible to more serious lung infections.

Mold growth is a common occurrence in flood-damaged homes and damp environments. Mold can become a problem in your home if there is enough moisture available to allow mold to thrive and multiply. Mold discoloration comes in a variety of colors from white to orange and from green to brown or black. Whatever color, it characteristically gives off a musty or earthy smell.

There is no practical way to eliminate all mold spores in the indoor environment, but there are many ways to help control moisture and mold growth. Care must be taken to clean and completely dry any areas of the home that have gotten wet from floodwaters to prevent structural damage and adverse health effects from mold.

The following are a few suggestions to help in preventing mold:

  • Rebuild or retrofit with water-resistant building materials such as tile, stone, deep-sealed concrete, galvanized or stainless steel hardware, indoor/outdoor carpeting, waterproof wallboard and water-resistant glues.
  • Clean fabrics such as curtains and upholstery often and keep them dry. Store clean fabric items in well-ventilated areas.
  • Consider having air ducts cleaned and inspected professionally or replaced.
  • Reduce moisture in the air with dehumidifiers, fans and open windows or air conditioners.
  • Do not use fans if mold already exists; a fan will spread the mold spores.
  • Routinely check potential problem spots. Disinfect often with a 10 percent solution of bleach - about 1-1/4 cup of bleach to a gallon of water. Don't add ammonia as mixing bleach and ammonia will create toxic fumes.

For more information, contact the following sites online: Federal Emergency Management Agency at or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at

Individuals also may obtain a free copy of FEMA's publication, Mold & Mildew: Cleaning Up Your Flood-Damaged Home, Publication No. 606, by contacting FEMA Publications at 1-800-480-2520.

FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.


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