Harrisburgh, PA -- Flooding hit sections of Pennsylvania more than a month ago, but residents may still face serious mold problems, state and federal officials said.
"You should be concerned about mold, particularly if the amount is extensive," said David M. Sanko, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. "If mold does develop, fixing the problem quickly is important and could save homeowners thousands in mold removal costs and potential health problems in the future," Director Sanko advises.
Molds are simple microscopic organisms found virtually everywhere, indoors
and outdoors. When mold is present in large quantities it can result in allergic
symptoms similar to those caused by plant pollen.
Be aware that exposure to mold can occur during cleanup. To minimize exposure, use a mask or respirator, wear rubber gloves and take breaks in a well-ventilated area.
"Be careful when cleaning mold," said Federal Coordinating Officer Tom Davies of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "Mold grows within two days, so the sooner mold is removed, the lower the chance of long-term health effects." Chester County was declared after severe storms and flooding that hit the area Sept. 15-23.
When airborne mold spores are present in large numbers they can cause allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections, and other respiratory problems. People who are at higher risk from the effects of mold include infants and children; the elderly; people with compromised immune systems because of HIV infection, liver disease, or chemotherapy; pregnant women; and people with existing respiratory conditions such as allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity, and asthma. People with these conditions should consult a physician if they are experiencing health problems.
Here are some tips for cleaning mold:
- Identify and correct the moisture source. Then clean,
disinfect, and dry the moldy area. Keep the area well ventilated and dispose
of anything that has moldy residue, such as rags, paper, leaves or debris.
- Porous materials can trap molds. Items such as paper, rags,
wallboard and rotten wood should be thrown out. Harder materials such as glass,
plastic and metal can be kept after they are cleaned and disinfected.
- Wear protective gloves, such as rubber dishwashing gloves,
when working with moldy materials. Remove and discard porous materials such
as ceiling tiles, drywall, carpeting and wood products.
- Carpeting can be a difficult problem. Drying does not remove
the dead mold spores. If there is heavy mold on the carpet, the best course
of action may be to discard it. If the area was flooded, remove drywall
to at least 12 inches above the high water mark. Allow the area to dry two
or three days before replacing damaged materials.
- Use non-ammonia soap or detergent, or a commercial cleaner
in hot water. Scrub the entire affected area thoroughly using a stiff brush
or cleaning pad. Then rinse with clean water.
- After thorough cleaning and rinsing, disinfect the
area with a solution of 10 percent household bleach (1½ cups bleach
per gallon of water). Never mix bleach with ammonia. The fumes are toxic.
Allow disinfecting areas to dry naturally overnight to kill all molds.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepar...