DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Iowa Department of Public Health urges residents to exercise caution when removing mold from flood-damaged homes.
Mold spores are always present, but the excessive moisture left by the recent floods and the warm weather cause spores to germinate.
While mold is sometimes difficult to detect, often it can be seen or smelled. Sometimes mold appears in the form of splotchy discoloration, ranging from white to orange and from green to brown and black. If moisture has seeped into a wall, mold may leach from plaster. Its odor is earthy or musty.
When a large amount of mold is present, it can trigger allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections and other respiratory problems. In addition, exposure can cause development of an allergy to mold, resulting in long-term problems.
State Epidemiologist Patricia Quinlisk says, “People with asthma or pulmonary problems and those who are allergic to mold are especially vulnerable to mold related illness.”
Mold can also cause structural damage. When wood goes through a period of wetting, then drying, it can eventually warp and cause walls to crack or become structurally weak. Mold can also ruin paper and fabric.
The basic rule is: If mold can be seen or smelled, steps should be taken to eliminate the excess moisture at its source and to clean up and remove the mold. Because inhaling mold spores can cause illness, caution should be practiced.
The first step in the cleanup process is to identify the source of moisture and try to stop it. Then clean, disinfect and dry the moldy area.
- Use non-ammonia soap or detergent and hot water or a commercial cleaner.
- Thoroughly scrub all contaminated surfaces with the soap or detergent (Use a stiff brush to clean masonry walls.)
- Rinse all objects with clean water.
Moist, fibrous materials and stagnant water provide the ideal environment for mold growth. Molds can infiltrate dry wall, carpeting and insulation. These materials generally should be discarded if they become saturated.
After cleaning, apply a disinfectant solution of household bleach to the surface (one or two cups bleach per gallon of water). The bleach 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. After removing any excess bleach with a wet-dry vacuum, allow the bleach solution to dry naturally for six to eight hours.
The bleach solution should not be removed or dried quickly because extended contact time is important.
When cleaning up mold, the following precautions should be taken:
- Never mix bleach with ammonia because the fumes are toxic.
- Use respiratory protection when working around mold.
- Wear eye protection and rubber gloves when working with bleach.
- Ventilate the area well by opening doors and windows.
Clean-up kits and additional information about mold abatement are available by calling the American Red Cross at 1-800-GET-INFO (1-800-438-4636). Information about cleanup after a flood and ways to reduce damages from future disasters can be found at www.fema.gov/fima.
The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division was known as the Iowa Emergency Management Division until July 2003. The current name reflects the dual nature of the Division to provide programs and resources for both homeland security and emergency management efforts.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA’s continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal respon...