Tips To Prevent Mold-Related Health Problems

Main Content
Release date: 
March 30, 2005
Release Number: 
1583-003

LAS VEGAS, Nev.-- When water from a flood, sewage backup or leaky pipes enters a home, it can create the right environment for mold, mildew and bacteria growth which can adversely affect the health of the home’s inhabitants.

Mold is the common term used to describe a downy or furry growth on the surface or organic matter, cause by fungi, especially in the presence of dampness and decay. Mold is often used interchangeably with the word mildew. They are the generic terms that describe a variety of microorganisms, including fungi, algae, rusts, yeasts and bacteria.

Mold spores thrive in continuously wet conditions and can start to grow within 24 hours after a flood. They can cause allergy symptoms, headaches, bronchitis, asthma attacks, lung irritation and skin rashes. People with asthma or other pulmonary illnesses, compromised immune systems, infants and elderly are more likely to develop mold-related illnesses.

To remove mold: Clean hard surfaces with a solution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water; make sure to ventilate the area when using chlorine bleach. Never mix household bleach with other cleaning agents. Wear a filter mask and gloves to avoid contact with the mold. Let the bleach and water sit for 15 minutes and then dry the area thoroughly, using fans where possible.

The following precautions should be taken to minimize the likelihood of mold contamination:

  • Flooded homes should be thoroughly dried out, a process that may take several days or weeks;
  • Wet carpet and padding should be removed and discarded;
  • Porous materials—those that absorb water—such as dry wall, some paneling, fiberglass insulation, cellulose insulation, mattresses, pillows, wallpaper and upholstered furniture should be discarded;
  • Dry wall and other porous wallboards should be removed at least 12 inches above the visible water line left by the flood. Check for wicking, the upward movement of moisture to higher levels;
  • Wall studs, where wallboard has been removed, should be cleaned with bleach/water mixture and allowed to dry completely;
  • Floors, concrete or brick walls, countertops, plastic, glass and other non-porous materials should be washed with non-ammonia soap and water and then with a solution of one to two cups of bleach to a gallon of water and allowed to completely dry;
  • Wear rubber gloves and eye protection when using bleach and make sure area is well ventilated. Don’t mix bleach and ammonia. Consider using an N-95 rated dust mask if heavy concentrations of mold are already growing;
  • Materials that cannot be effectively cleaned and dried should be placed in sealed plastic bags to prevent the spread of mold spores;
  • People allergic to mold and people with asthma or other respiratory conditions should not do mold cleanup.

For more information, call the State of Nevada’s Consumer Health Assistance toll free number: 1-888-333-1597.

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.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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