Floods, Mold, and Asthma
I've been watching so much on the news about the floods in Houston and in the surrounding areas, and it's hard to see.
I wish I could do something to help those in that area. I have already donated to the Red Cross, so what else can I do?
Well, I can share my knowledge as an Environmental Health Educator, and what I learned after we had a flood in our basement. Our flood wasn't anything even close to what Houston had. We only had a few inches, not water up to our roof line.
Immediate steps to take after a flood
But I learned that it's important to clean things up the right way since floods, mold and asthma are NOT a good mix. In fact, I recalled a few things I had learned during a work training with the NCHH - National Center for Healthy Housing.
The NCHH has a helpful publication called Flood Clean Up Guide. In it, they talk about being careful if you have asthma and are exposed to mold. Why? Well, here's why:
"What are the health effects associated with exposure to mold?"
"People most often are exposed to mold by breathing in mold spores that float in the air.
These mold spores are too small to be seen with the naked eye. When people with mold
allergies breathe air that has high mold levels, they can have allergy symptoms such as
stuffy nose, sinus problems and shortness of breath. Even worse, they may have a life-
threatening asthma attack."
"What are the symptoms?"
"Get medical attention if you have the following symptoms:Breathing difficulties or shortness of breath Wheezing Sore throat Flu-like aches and pains Fatigue (tired for a long time)"They also give tips for protecting your lungs from allergens, toxins and dust. All of those things could affect your asthma. They list different respirators you can use to protect your lungs too ( page 6 of the brochure.)After that, they list ways to protect your eyes, ears, feet, head and hands.Please read the brochure and be careful!With our flood, we had to clean up our basement by ourselves. Since there were so many people affected by the flood, the disaster clean up companies were overwhelmed, and didn't have time to help us.We used the information from my NCHH training and from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Tips and tools for after clean upThe most important think to remember is that things might LOOK dry, but they may not BE dry. Our neighbor's house also flooded, but they just removed their carpet and pad and immediately installed new carpet. I knew that the concrete floor couldn't dry out that fast and suggested they wait. But, they installed new carpet right away.In my NCHH training, I learned about different tools you can use to test the moisture level in concrete. We used a monitor similar to one in this video from the University of Missouri Extension office. For our basement floor, we had to wait and be patient. We used a moisture meter and tested the concrete every day after work. Every day. We had windows open and industrial fans blowing on the concrete all day and all night, but it still took almost 6 weeks to dry out!So, for those of you who are in a flood, please make sure you are patient and wait to rebuild walls and re carpet. The last thing you need is moisture trapped in the walls and floors.Because floods, mold and asthma are NOT a good mix.
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