Monday, November 5, 2012

Post Flooding Mold Problems

Post Flood Mold: Dealing with Hurricane Sandy’s moldy mess

For the majority of people, mold represents more of a nuisance than an actual medical hazard and much of the information below may seem a little excessive.  For those of us with mold allergies, an ounce of prevention is worth but for those with mold sensitivities, exposure can be life threatening.

Who needs to worry about mold?
For many people, molds are nothing more than a nuisance: black spots on the wall, and a musty odor. So who needs to worry about mold.  Any one with a history of sensitivity to molds and:

·      Asthma
·      Mold allergies
·      Weakened immune systems/Immune deficiencies from cancers, HIV, or medications (such as steroid use)
·      Transplant patients
·      Any chronic lung disease
·      Hypersentivity pneumonitis
·      Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis
·      Organic Toxic Dust Syndrome
·      Sensitivities to mycotoxins (see below)

What can mold do to me?
Mold exposure can affect our health in many ways. The three most important involve:
·      Hypersensitivity disorders: These include anything from mild nasal and ocular allergies, eczema flares, to asthma exacerbations and even anaphylaxis.
·      Infection: Molds have been known to infect lungs, bone, skin and even cerebral spinal fluid. People with congenital immune disorders are at high risk as are any people on immunosuppressive drugs commonly used in cancer, autoimmune diseases and organ transplants.
·      Toxin mediated reactions: Molds such as Aspergillus, Fusarium and Stachybotrys are capable of producing toxic compounds that have been linked to everything from cancer and kidney failure, to migraines and muscle aches. These reactions are not allergies, but are related to the toxic effect of the compounds produced by these and other molds.

How are molds and weather disasters related?
Molds love moist. The more water that infiltrates a structure, and the longer that the structure is wet, the more mold grows.  Many homes in the Staten Island, downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, Jersey Shore and Long Island have standing water still in basements and lower levels.

Surveys of houses in the areas affected by Katrina showed double the amount of mold spores normally found, with almost 50% of homes affected, and almost 20% of those with severe mold problems. The molds that were found most increased from normal included the common allergy and asthma provoking molds Cladosporidium, Aspergillus and Penicillium, along with potent mycotoxin producing Stachybotrys.

How do I know I may have a mold problem?
Is there water damage in your home or apartment? Has it been there for more than 48 hours? If the answer is yes to both of these questions, you already have a problem.

Am I the right person to deal with this?
There are many companies that specialize in mold removal, but for most people, this is not necessary.  Prior to tackling any mold problem, the first thing to do is purchase an N95 respiratory mask from a local hardware store or pharmacy. Everything described below should be done wearing one. Then call your insurance company and file a claim.

If mold gets into sheetrock or other building structures it can be very difficult, if not impossible to remove without an expensive intervention by a professional.

The Clean Up
·      Step 1: Dry everything out. Although this sounds simple, it’s the most important and crucial step. Open doors and windows, and purchase (or borrow) a dehumidifier.  This can be difficult in apartment buildings, and all clean up should be done either by, or with the blessing of the building management.
·      Step 2: Toss stuff out. Anything too big to go in the washing machine and has been soaked for two days that can be tossed out, should be tossed. This includes carpeting, padding, upholstery, drapes, etc. Even if it looks clean with a thorough washing, it probably is not, and will have mold growth weeks or months later.
·      Step 3: Sterilize. Mix one cup of bleach with one gallon of water and disinfect surfaces that have been dried. Never mix bleach with ammonia!
·      Step 4: Save your stuff. Salvageable items are things that can be either thoroughly washed in a washing machine, or non-porous objects that can be wiped clean (or better yet, put in a dishwasher). Prior to using any appliance, ensure its safe, and run it for one cycle to get rid of any mold or contaminant that has gotten in the appliance.
·      Step 5: If you are over your head…: Or if you have a very serious mold infection, or if you find yourself getting short of breath or feeling strange in the house stop and call a professional. Professional mold removers in homes that have serious infections use full respirators and wear full body protection. In a bad mold infestation, call a professional.  You can file a claim with your insurance company to help cover these expenses!

Remember, mold can be dangerous to the health of you and your family.  Following some of these steps can help prevent adverse health outcomes from exposure.  Always seek professional help if you feel you cannot handle the situation yourself!