When Waters Recede, Mold Can Take Hold

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Release date: 
September 9, 2011
Release Number: 

RALEIGH, N.C. -- When waters flood a home or business it may cause mold to grow on walls and flooring within 24 to 48 hours. Even worse, mold will continue growing until steps are taken to eliminate the problem.

Mold and mildew can cause serious health problems, as well as structural damage to a home when a property has experienced flooding. Cleaning up quickly and drying out thoroughly may help prevent immediate and long-term health problems.

Molds are simple microscopic organisms. When present in large quantities, mold could cause allergic symptoms similar to those caused by plant pollen.

Typical symptoms reported from mold exposure include:

  • respiratory problems including wheezing and asthma attacks
  • burning or watery eyes, nose or throat irritations
  • skin irritations like rashes or hives
  • nervous system disorders including headaches and memory loss

Allow areas to dry two to three days before replacing damaged materials. Identify and correct the moisture source. Remove all water and fix any leaks before cleaning.

Porous materials such as paper, rags, wallboard and rotten wood can trap molds and should be thrown out. Harder materials such as glass, plastic and metal can be cleaned and disinfected.

To remove moldy materials, wear a filter mask and gloves to avoid contact with the mold. Remove porous materials such as ceiling tiles, wallboard and wood products. If wallboard is flooded, measure and cut at least two feet above the high water mark.

Carpeting can be a difficult problem because drying does not remove the dead spores. If there is heavy mold, consider disposing of the carpet.

After thorough cleaning and rinsing, disinfect the area with a solution of household bleach and water (1½ cups of bleach per gallon of water). Never mix bleach with ammonia - the fumes are toxic!

Let disinfected areas dry naturally overnight to kill all the mold.

Download FEMA's mold and mildew cleanup brochure at: www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=3049&fromSearch=fromsearch

To order a free copy of FEMA's Mold & Mildew; Cleaning up your Flood Damaged Home (FEMA 606) call: 800-480-2520 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Publications can also be ordered by e-mail at: fema-publications-warehouse@fema.gov or fax:

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

FEMA's temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

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