Healthy Flood Restoration Tips That Prioritize Safety on Molds
Mold growth not only ruins walls, furniture, carpets, flooring, etc., it can lead to poor indoor air quality causing respiratory problems including asthma, and can lead to severe illness.
The indoor molds that grow after a flood primarily affect the respiratory system, says Jay Portnoy, director of allergy, asthma and immunology at Children’s Mercy Hospital and Clinic, Kansas City, Missouri.
“When mold grows on a surface that’s damp, it produces a lot of things that get into the air. Spores contain allergens that can become airborne, causing asthma and nasal allergy, so people have trouble breathing. They can also produce volatile organic compounds which produce that moldy, musty smell. It’s very irritating, and even if you are not allergic, can cause respiratory problems. And the sheer number of particles they produce as they make spores can be irritating. There is a lot of harm that can occur in a moldy environment.”
Mold can be found almost anywhere; it can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. Concern about indoor exposure to mold has been increasing as the public becomes aware that exposure to mold can cause a variety of health effects and symptoms, including allergic reactions.
Preventing mold growth is key to keeping your home’s air clean and healthy. So in addition to calling your insurance company, here are a few tips to deal with your flooded basement and minimize the water damage.
There is mold that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.
Since mold requires water to grow, it is important to prevent moisture problems in buildings. Moisture problems can have many causes, including uncontrolled humidity.
Assess the size of the mold or moisture problem and the type of damaged materials before planning the remediation work.The decision to relocate occupants should consider the size and type of the area affected by mold growth, the type and extent of health effects reported by the occupants, the potential health risks that could be associated with debris, and the amount of disruption likely to be caused by remediation activities. If possible, flood restoration activities should be scheduled during off-hours when building occupants are less likely to be affected.
What to do
Contaminated, porous materials like drywall and carpet need to be dumped, not bleached, says Straus. “We usually don’t recommend putting bleach on things. It may kill mold in the immediate time frame, but as long as things stay wet, mold will grow.”
And although bleach will kill mold at the surface, the slender hyphae of fungus penetrate deep into wood, which bleach cannot reach. “Wood, obviously, is much more difficult to remove, and wood framing is almost impossible,” says Straus. “If framing is dried quickly, mold is not going to grow on it, nothing like the way it grows on Sheetrock. The best thing to do is get all water-damaged material out immediately, and the things you can’t get out, try make sure they are dried as quickly as possible.”
But at a certain point, expert advice makes sense, Portnoy says. “There are experts who specialize in this area; the typical home inspector may not have all the qualifications you need.” Many people wear a paper mask while removing moldy crud, and these masks may filter out spores and particles, but not mycotoxins. Thrasher, however, advocates more protection. “Treat it like a highly dangerous situation. Don’t do any cleaning without respiratory protection, up to and including a complete hazmat suit.”
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