In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, homes, offices, and other enclosed areas that were moist or flooded may harboring bacteria and mold. Health officials say fast action can prevent mold growth.
The most common problems for people are allergies (such as hay fever, asthma, or irritation of the eyes, nose, throat or lungs) from breathing mold spores. Indoor mold growth does not affect everyone, but people who are sensitive to molds should avoid areas with active mold growth until they can be cleaned or removed.
Health officials say the goal after a storm is to dry out areas as quickly as possible to prevent mold growth. If your home or office is not dried out properly you can begin to see or smell mold.
Look for discoloration of the ceiling or walls or warping of the floor. A musty odor or water staining are signs of mold and can remain long after being wet. After water is gone you should check often for new mold growth or signs of moisture that may indicate the need for cleanup, repair, or removal of affected materials.
As a general rule, health officials say materials that are wet and cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried may have to be thrown out because they can be harmful to your health. It can be hard to throw away sentimental items, however, keeping certain items soaked by water may be unhealthy. Some materials tend to absorb and keep water more than others.
The following wet items should be thrown away:
- Carpet, carpet padding and rugs
- Upholstered furniture, mattresses and box springs
- Computers, microwaves, window A/C units, and other electronics/appliances that have fans and were housed in moldy rooms
- Photo albums
- Papers and books
- Fiberboard, insulation, and disposable filters in your heating/cooling system
- Wooden cutting boards, wooden dishes and utensils, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers that have come into contact with floodwater, cannot be safely cleaned
Follow these steps to get rid of mold:
- In small areas, mold can be cleaned on hard surfaces, such as wood or concrete, by scrubbing the area with a cleaning rag or brush wetted with diluted detergent.
- Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse, and then sanitize with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available). Allow to air dry.
- Make sure to clean corners, cracks and crevices, door handles, and door seals, in rooms that have been affected by flood water.
- Use rubber gloves and a dust mask (look for one labeled N95 at the hardware store) to reduce direct exposure to chemicals and cleaning products.
- Read and follow all label directions and warning labels before mixing any products. Mixing some products can create hazardous fumes. For example, never mix products containing ammonia and bleach.
- If you have known mold allergies or asthma you should not clean or remove mold, as your condition may be aggravated.
- For large mold problems or if you are highly sensitive, you should hire an experienced professional.