SALEM, Ore. -- If your home was flooded it could be harboring mold. Disaster recovery and health officials warn that victims of Oregon’s December and January flooding should clean flood-damaged homes thoroughly now to avoid possible health problems from mold and mildew in the warmer months ahead.
Water-damaged homes provide a moist environment for mold to flourish. 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.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website advises anyone going into a mold-ridden house to clean up should wear a mask rated n95, available at hardware or building supplies stores. They should also wear rubber gloves and goggles.
If mold is on hard, non-porous materials like tile or floors, the surface can be washed with a household detergent or disinfectant and dried thoroughly. Disinfect the area with a bleach solution of ½ to 1 cup bleach per gallon of water). This should only be used in well-ventilated areas. One should never mix bleach with ammonia; it produces toxic fumes.
Fans at open windows or doors can be used to help with the drying out process, but they should blow outward to avoid spreading the mold. Do not use your air conditioning system until it has been checked out by a professional. If the system has mold inside, using it will spread the mold throughout the house.
Porous materials such as carpet, mattresses, upholstered furniture, insulation and ceiling tiles with mold should be discarded. Workers should wear the masks and rubber gloves while handling anything that is suspected to have mold. Wallboard, drywall and particle board are also porous and should be discarded. Water can travel up inside these materials two feet or higher than the visible water. Therefore, care should be taken to cut sufficiently above what appears to be the limits of water damage.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.