INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- If your home was affected by the March flooding, it may be hiding mold. Mold can be a significant problem after flooding and proper cleanup is critical to ensure that it does not affect you or your family's health.
People sensitive to mold may experience a stuffy nose, irritated eyes, skin irritation, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. People with asthma, pregnant women, infants, the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems are at higher risk for health problems from mold. If you or your family members have health problems after exposure to mold, contact your doctor or other health care provider.
To prevent or stop the growth of mold after a flood, all areas of a home that were wet in the floodwaters must be cleaned and completely dried. Mold can start to grow within 48 hours. Discard all moldy carpeting and any porous materials such as books, clothing, bedding or furniture that already smells of mold or is visibly growing mold. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out.
Once a house has a mold problem, all areas of the home must be checked, cleaned and dried including air ducts and basement crawl spaces. To prevent further mold growth, seal all leaks in roofs, walls or pipes that bring excess moisture into the house. Discard all moldy drywall, ceiling tiles and wet insulation. Keep receipts from the cleaning process since disaster assistance may be available to help with cleaning costs.
To clean away mold already growing on hard surfaces, use commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach per one gallon of water. Use a stiff brush on rough surface materials such as concrete. Always open windows and doors while working with bleach to provide fresh air and wear non-porous gloves and protective eyewear during the cleaning process.
Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. Mixing bleach with other cleaning products will produce dangerous, toxic fumes so always follow the manufacturer's instructions when using cleaning products.
Damage to a home from flooding may be so extensive that it may seem easier to hire a contractor or cleaning service to help with flood damage cleanup. When hiring a contractor, use extra care in the hiring process and make sure they have experience cleaning up mold.
Whenever possible, deal with trained and experienced professionals in your own community. These are business people with a local reputation to protect and can be held accountable for their work. Avoid offers that seem to good to be true. FEMA does not endorse specific contracting companies.
For more information on mold and mold cleanup, the Environmental Protection Agency provides a comprehensive description on the dangers of mold and how to clean and disinfect a mold-damaged home on its web page. Mold resources are available at www.epa.gov/mold/moldresources.html.
Those affected by the March 8 -14 severe storms, tornadoes and flooding can begin applying for assistance by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the speech- or hearing-impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers operate from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. (EDT) seven days a week. Individuals can also register online at www.disasterassistance.gov. ?Registration deadline is June 22.
FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation, to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.