COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A major health concern after storms that cause flooding is the growth of molds and bacteria. Concerns relating to mold growth and exposure, which can occur inside your home following heavy rains or flooding, should be addressed quickly in order to prevent illness.
When airborne mold spores are present in large numbers they can trigger allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections and other respiratory problems. Infants, children, immune-compromised patients, pregnant women, elderly persons and individuals with existing respiratory conditions appear to be at higher risks for adverse health effects from mold. In addition, exposure can cause development of an allergy to mold, resulting in long-term health problems.
Dampness in basements, walls, carpets, and wood caused by storms and flooding provide an ideal environment for mold to flourish. If you can see or smell mold, take steps to eliminate the excess moisture, and to clean up and remove the mold as soon as possible.
Look for mold growth throughout the house, including the attic, basement and crawlspaces. Have professionals inspect areas that are difficult to see or reach, such as heating/cooling ducts and wall insulation. Wash all items that came in contact with floodwaters with a household chlorine bleach solution, mixing one quarter-cup of bleach per one gallon of water. Leave the bleach solution on the items for at least 15 minutes before rinsing off with clean water.
When using a bleach solution, open nearby windows and wear rubber gloves. If you have any further questions, call your local health department.
Individuals can begin the disaster application process by calling the toll-free registration number 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers are available 24-hours a day, seven days a week until further notice. Individuals with Internet access now have the option to register on the agency’s website at , where valuable recovery information is also available.
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 prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.