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DC Department of Health Mold Clean-up Alert: Prompt Flood Clean-Up Lessens Health Problems

Release date: 
August 24, 2001
Release Number: 

Release is courtesy of the DC Department of Health

Washington, DC -- The District of Columbia Department of Health issues the following Health Alert: One of the negative after-effects of a flooded building is mold. When airborne mold spores or mold cell bodies are present in large numbers they can trigger allergic reactions, asthma episodes and other respiratory and immune system problems. An allergy to mold can develop and become a lifelong problem.

"People with asthma or pulmonary problems and those who are allergic to mold are especially vulnerable to mold-related illness, " said Dr. Ivan C.A. Walks, Chief Health Officer of the District of Columbia and Director of the Department of Health. "It's important to clean and disinfect the contaminated area and remove the source of moisture. If this is not done, mold growth will recur."

Moist, fibrous materials and stagnant water provide the ideal climate for mold growth. Molds infiltrate dry wall, carpeting and insulation. Once saturated, these materials should be discarded.

The first step in the clean-up process is to throw out water-logged carpets and to identify the source of the moisture and try to stop it. Mold has a musty or earthy odor, so if you can smell it or see it, then a mold problem probably exists. Once identified, you should clean, disinfect and dry the moldy area.

When working around moldy areas, use respiratory protection. Even though people vary in their susceptibility, almost anyone who breathes enough mold spores will have an adverse reaction. Such reactions may include tightening in the chest, flu-like symptoms or even more reactions.

The following steps are suggested in cleaning the moldy areas:

Use a non-ammonia soap or detergent and hot water or a commercial cleaner. Thoroughly scrub all contaminated surfaces with the soap or detergent, using a stiff brush to clean masonry walls. It is best to use an excessive amount of cleaning solution. Rinse all objects with clear water.

After cleaning, apply a disinfectant solution of household bleach to the surface, using one or two cups of bleach per gallon of water. The solution can be applied with a garden sprayer or wiped on with a sponge or rag. Be sure to wet the studs, wall cavities and floors thoroughly. Use a wet-dry vacuum to collect extra bleach solution. Allow the solution to dry naturally for a six to eight-hour time period. It should not be removed or dried quickly because extended contact time is important.

Moldy rooms should be exhaust ventilated with large window box fans to dry out water absorbed into building surfaces. For more information about flood clean-up, visit //

This press release was modified on 8/17/2005.

Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 13:00