Merrimack, N.H. -- Disaster recovery officials warn that Massachusetts residents and business owners whose homes or businesses have been water damaged as a result of the storms and flooding that occurred in October should clean flood-damaged homes thoroughly to avoid possible health problems from mold and mildew.
Water-damaged homes provide a moist environment for mold to flourish, and the health effects can be severe, especially for those with pre-existing conditions such as allergies and asthma. It is often visible as a fuzzy growth or a discoloration of surfaces. It may be accompanied by a musty, earthy odor or a foul stench.
Residents are advised to use care when cleaning up the mold. People with respiratory problems should not spend time in houses with mold. Those who are sensitive to mold spores may experience wheezing, difficulty breathing, nasal and sinus congestion, burning and watering eyes, dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or skin irritation.
All materials are likely to become moldy if they are wet long enough. The secret to preventing problems is cleaning, drying and disinfecting all wet surfaces as soon as possible by promptly using disinfectants.
Specialists offer the following suggestions to ensure safe, effective cleanup:
- Have professionals check heating/cooling ducts and wall insulation for mold growth.
- Wash all items that came in contact with floodwaters with a chlorine bleach solution. Open windows for ventilation and wear boots and rubber gloves. Use disinfectant in full strength and keep it on surfaces for 15 minutes.
- Select and use disinfectants carefully, as most are toxic to humans as well as to molds.
- Wipe surfaces that have not been directly involved with a solution of one part bleach/four parts water to reduce contamination.
- Rinse the skin quickly and well if accidental contact takes place.
- Remember that chlorine bleach is no longer effective when the chlorine smell disappears.
Renters, homeowners and business owners who suffered damage or uninsured losses as a result of the severe storms and flooding are encouraged to register for disaster assistance by calling the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). The TTY number for speech and hearing-impaired applicants is 1-800-462-7585. Registration can also be done online at www.fema.gov.
FEMA prepares the nation for all hazards and manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, trains first responders, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.