Mold Can Be a Serious Health Threat

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Release date: 
June 25, 2008
Release Number: 
1768-029

MADISON, Wis. -- Mold growing in recently flooded buildings can cause health problems, state and federal emergency management officials warned Wisconsin residents.

Water-damaged rooms are moist environments ideal for mold to flourish. People with respiratory problems such as allergies or asthma should not spend time in houses that might contain mold. Mold often is visible as a fuzzy growth or discoloration on surfaces. It usually has a musty, earthy odor.?

Those 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.?

"Mold can cause significant health problems," said Deputy State Coordinating Officer Larry Reed. "It is urgent that residents and business owners clean their homes and work environments as quickly as possible, and not risk serious, long-lasting health effects." Reed is the state-appointed lead of the joint WEM/FEMA team responding to this month's storms and flooding.

Specialists offer the following suggestions to ensure safe, effective cleanup:

  • Have professionals check heating/cooling ducts and wall insulation for mold growth. If the system has mold inside, it will spread mold throughout the house.
  • Wash all items that came in contact with floodwaters with a chlorine bleach solution.
  • Open windows for ventilation and wear boots, rubber gloves and clothing that fully covers arms and legs, and use an N-95 rated mask.
  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners.?
  • Mix no more than one cup of bleach in one gallon of water.
  • Most antiseptics, including chlorine, are toxic to humans -- rinse the skin quickly and well if there is accidental contact with the solution.
  • Remember, chlorine bleach no longer is effective when the chlorine smell disappears.
  • Use a fan in front of open windows or doors to help with the drying process, but it is important that fans blow outward, rather than inward to avoid spreading the mold.
  • Throw away all moldy items that cannot be thoroughly cleaned. If in doubt, throw it out. This includes carpets, mattresses, upholstered furniture, stuffed animals, pillows, wall coverings and all paper products.
  • Take out any drywall or insulation that has been dampened by floodwater.
  • If there is more than a 10 square foot area of mold in a building, consider using a professional mold clean-up contractor.

"Although you may think your property does not have mold, when water gets into a structure mold can germinate quickly," FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer Dolph Diemont said. "It's also important to contact your physician if you think you have been affected by exposure to mold."

Renters, homeowners and business owners who suffered damage or uninsured losses as a result of the severe storms, flooding and tornadoes are encouraged to register for disaster assistance by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). The TTY number for speech- and hearing-impaired applicants is
1-800-462-7585. Registration also can be done online at www.fema.gov. The toll-free numbers are available 24-hours-a-day until further notice.

For more information on mold or mold clean-up, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov/mold/cleanup.htm.

FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
State/Tribal Government or Region: 
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