Mold a growing concern for recent flood victims

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 16, 2010

Danger is still lurking even after the flood waters subside, health officials warn.

Last week’s slow moving weather system caused flooding and landslides across the Tri-State.

It also caused many families to be displaced from their homes. As people begin the arduous task of cleaning their water-damaged homes, health officials warn that another danger may be present.

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Mold growth is imminent after flooding. Moisture and standing water promote the growth of the fungus and may continue to grow as long as there is a moist environment.

Mold spores become airborne when contaminated areas are disturbed. These spores can then be inhaled, causing respiratory problems.

“We view mold as an unhealthy environment to live in,” said Paul O’Banion of the Lawrence County Health Department.

According to the health department, people with the greatest risk from mold are those with asthma or other breathing conditions, allergies, and people with immune suppression.

O’Banion also suggests contacting your personal physician with any specific health questions.

“Take precautions if you are allergic to mold. Use adequate filtration such as an electrostatic air filter,” said Dr. Ron Gain of Microbiological Consultants in Huntington, W.Va. Dr. Gain has a PhD in microbiology with an emphasis in fungi.

Health officials warn that mold exposure can cause mild side effects such as sneezing, stuffy nose, red eyes and skin rashes.

More serious side effects can be shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, dry, hacking coughs, and even lung infections.

Health official also say that mold can be recognized by sight and smell. It can discolor walls and ceilings and may smell musty, earthy or foul. Mold can also grow out of sight, so if the area cannot be dried or cleaned, chances are good that mold could be growing.

“Drywall will have to be removed because mold loves it,” said Gain.

To clean mold on hard, non-porous surfaces, the LCHD recommends using soap and water or a bleach solution of one cup per every gallon of water. Absorbent materials such a carpets, upholstery, floor and ceiling tiles, wood and insulation may require professional cleaning because mold can hide in hard to reach crevices.

Also wear non-porous gloves and a mask that can be found at a local home supply store.

Keep windows open to ventilate, but do not use fans where mold is present. The spores could be spread into the air or to other areas.

“We’ve offered clean-up kits, and there are still some available,” said Mike Boster, Emergency Management Director of the Lawrence County emergency management agency. The kits include bleach, gloves, mops and buckets, sponges, and other cleaning supplies.

Boster also said that anyone still needing assistance with flooding should contact the emergency management agency. Volunteers will be arriving in the next few days to assist.

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