Westfield, Mass. -- In light of recent floodwaters caused by Tropical Storm Irene on August 27 - 29, many Massachusetts residents may find their homes affected by storm-water damage. For those undertaking the cleanup of their homes and businesses, 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 sheetrock, some paneling, fiberglass insulation, cellulose insulation, mattresses, pillows, wallpaper and upholstered furniture should be discarded;
- Sheetrock 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 and allowed to dry completely;
- Floors, concrete or brick walls, countertops, plastic, glass and other non-porous materials should be washed with 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; and
- People allergic to mold and people with asthma or other respiratory conditions should not do mold cleanup.
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 the elderly are more likely to develop mold-related illnesses.
More information on mold removal is available at www.redcross.org and typing "mold" in the search box.
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