Mold After A Disaster

Highlights

  • People with asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold.
  • If you or your family members have health problems after exposure to mold, contact your doctor or other health care provider.
  • Controlling moisture in your home is the most critical factor for preventing mold growth.
  • If you plan to be inside the building for a while or you plan to clean up mold, you should buy N95 masks (or a respirator with a higher protection level) at your local home supply store and wear one while in the building. Make certain that you follow instructions on the package for fitting the mask tightly to your face. Even if you go back into the building for a short time and are not cleaning up mold, you need to wear an N95 mask.

After natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, excess moisture and standing water contribute to the growth of mold in homes and other buildings. When returning to a home that has been flooded, be aware that mold may be present and may be a health risk for your family.

People at Greatest Risk from Mold

  • People with asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold.
  • People with immune suppression (such as people with HIV infection, cancer patients taking chemotherapy, and people who have received an organ transplant) are more susceptible to mold infections. People with a weakened immune system, especially people receiving treatment for cancer, people who have had an organ or stem cell transplant, and people taking medicines that suppress the immune system, should avoid cleaning up mold. Children should not take part in disaster cleanup work.

Possible Health Effects of Mold Exposure

People who are sensitive to mold may experience stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing, or skin irritation. People allergic to mold may have difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath. People with weakened immune systems and with chronic lung diseases, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs. If you or your family members have health problems after exposure to mold, contact your doctor or other health care provider.

Safely Preventing Mold Growth

Clean up and dry out the building quickly (within 24 to 48 hours). Open doors and windows. Use fans to dry out the building. Position fans to blow air out doors or windows.

See the fact sheet for drying out your house, Reentering Your Flooded Home and the Homeowner’s and Renter’s Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters.

  • When in doubt, take it out! Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home. Porous, noncleanable items include carpeting and carpet padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, insulation material, some clothing, leather, paper, wood, and food. Removal and cleaning are important because even dead mold may cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • To prevent mold growth, clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water.
  • Homeowners may want to temporarily store items outside of the home until insurance claims can be filed. See recommendations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • If you wish to disinfect, refer to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document, A Brief Guide to Mold and Moisture in Your Home[1.4 MB, 20 Pages].

If there is mold growth in your home, you should clean up the mold and fix any water problem, such as leaks in roofs, walls, or plumbing. Controlling moisture in your home is the most critical factor for preventing mold growth.

To remove mold growth from hard surfaces use commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of household laundry bleach in 1 gallon of water. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions for use (see product label). Use a stiff brush on rough surface materials such as concrete.

If you choose to use bleach to remove mold:

  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. Mixing bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products will produce dangerous, toxic fumes
  • Open windows and doors to provide fresh air. Use fans to dry out the building. Position fans to blow air out doors or windows.
  • Wear non-porous gloves and protective eye wear.
  • If the area to be cleaned is more than 10 square feet, consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guide titled Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. Also available is A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home.[1.4 MB, 20 Pages]
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using bleach or any other cleaning product.
  • For more information on personal safety while cleaning up after a natural disaster, see Response Worker Health and Safety.

If you plan to be inside the building for a while or you plan to clean up mold, you should buy N95 masks (or respirators with a higher protection level) at your local home supply store and wear one while in the building. Make certain that you follow instructions on the package for fitting the mask tightly to your face. Even if you go back into the building for a short time and are not cleaning up mold, you still need to wear an N95 mask.”

Original Article Source: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/mold/index.html

Health Risks Associated with Smoke, Soot, and Mold

House fires are terrifying because the flames can cause intense bodily harm that results in serious injury and even death.  Once the fire is put out, many homeowners are relieved in the sense that the threat to their life or health has ended.  However, the flames themselves are not the only potential source of health issues.  Many of the byproducts of a fire are toxic.  Fires leave behind smoke, soot, corrosive byproducts, and even mold that negatively affects your health.  It is important to know the health risks caused by the byproducts of a fire to keep yourself and your family safe in the aftermath.

Smoke

All fires involve smoke and everyone knows that smoke inhalation is extremely dangerous because of the chemicals it contains.  Smoke is the byproduct of incomplete combustion and contains the following toxins:

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN): The potential health effects of carbon monoxide are well known as many homes have carbon monoxide detectors for safety. Less people know about the risks of the other major chemical in smoke, hydrogen cyanide.  Hydrogen cyanide is over 30 times more toxic than carbon monoxide and inhaling a combination of both can be deadly.  Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of fire related deaths.
  • Chemicals from Burnt Materials: When materials such as wood, drywall, and flooring are burned in a fire, they release hundreds of chemicals in the smoke that are harmful to your health. Some of the dangerous chemicals released by burning household materials include hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen chloride, carboxylic acids, nitrogen oxides, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, and much more.

Soot

After the fire and smoke have cleared, there is still a substance present that can spread throughout the home and cause health issues as well as property damage; soot.  Soot is dangerous because it spreads and settles everywhere including the air ducts where it can get redistributed into the air.  Most health problems caused by soot result from inhalation but soot can also get absorbed in the skin and eyes.  The main health effects from soot include lung irritation and respiratory issues such as bronchitis and asthma as well as more serious issues including heart attack, stroke, and even cancer.

Mold

Few people associate mold growth with house fires but if a house fire is extinguished with water, this excess moisture can quickly lead to mold growth.  Moisture is the main cause of mold growth and organic materials that are wet from putting out the fire can become contaminated with mold within 48 hours.  Mold not only adds to the health risks already present after a fire, but also causes even more property damage that makes the restoration process longer and more expensive.

If a fire breaks out in your home, make sure that everyone evacuates safely and do not return to your home until it has been restored and deemed safe.  The byproducts of a fire are just as dangerous as the fire itself and can cause serious health effects long after the fire has been put out.  It is of extreme importance to begin the fire damage restoration as soon as possible by hiring professionals that can safely remove dangerous byproducts from soot and smoke.  These professionals have effective cleaning products and personal protective equipment to keep themselves safe during the restoration process

 

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About 

Expert in emergency fire and water restoration services, fire cleanup and water damage cleanup, mold removal, as well as carpet and upholstery cleaning services. Contributor to several restoration and cleaning blogs.

Your Kitchen and Mold

Kitchen Mold Removal

Are you concerned that black mold could be lurking in your kitchen, perhaps hiding in the cupboards? Not only is it unattractive, it can also cause respiratory problems for your family. The following guide can help you locate, prevent and destroy any black mold that has taken up residence in your kitchen.

Where to find black mold in the kitchen?

Black mold tends to grow in dark, damp areas, which means it could be festering in a kitchen cabinet or cupboard for a long time before you uncover it. For this reason, it’s vital that you identify the areas in your kitchen that are going to be most prone to mold growth. This will give you the necessary knowledge so that you can find the problem before it gets too bad. Places to check include the following:

    • Underneath the kitchen sink. Check the cabinet bottom and the back wall where the sink pipes enter for dampness or past signs of water damage, such as bubbling or peeling surfaces. Even if black mold isn’t visible, it could be growing on the underside of the sink cabinet or behind the wallboard.
  • Under the refrigerator. A leak from a water line to the icemaker or simple condensation collection underneath the fridge could create the optimum environment for fungal growth. If your kitchen flooring looks like it has suffered water damage or if there is standing water and mildew present, black mold could also be growing under the floorboards. Also, check any cupboards near the fridge to make sure there is no moisture damage.
  • Cabinets above or next to wall mounted microwaves or oven hoods. Another common trouble spot is behind the cabinets that border microwaves and hoods. This is because moisture and condensation from cooking can accumulate in these cupboard areas, especially if ventilation is insufficient.

Kitchen mold prevention

Since prevention is key to black mold management in the home, now that you know your kitchen’s trouble spots you are better able to stop it from growing in the first place.

Begin by checking underneath the sink on a regular basis and fixing leaks immediately. Keep the sink cupboard area clean and neat so you can empty it out for a quick leak check regularly. If you are like many people and use this cupboard area for cleaning supplies, place the supplies in a handled carrier so you can quickly pull everything out. A good time to check is after you have been using the sink, such as after dishwashing. If there is a leak, it is likely going to be damp if you just drained the sink.

As for the fridge, it’s good practice to pull it out and dust the rear coils every one to two months, anyway. Simply pencil this chore into your home maintenance calendar. You can then use this opportunity to check beneath the fridge for leaks and to make sure water lines are attached and not leaking.

Finally, inspect the area around and under the cabinets, microwave, and hood after you use the oven or microwave. If you find a lot of moisture or condensation, chances are that you need to add a stronger fan or better ventilation to the kitchen.

Kitchen mold removal

Black mold can be tenacious when it comes to removal. Although you can often remove the visible black mold by yourself, there is likely hidden mold that you cannot find for removal as easily. The basic removal process is as follows:

Step 1: Testing Testing is done if there is signs of moisture but no obvious visual signs of fungal growth. Testing may also be done if there is light visible growth, since the remediation firm will need to determine the extent of the growth.
Step 2: Seal the infested area The home is sealed. This means that the area that has mold, in this case the kitchen, is sealed off from the rest of the house so that black mold removal doesn’t send spores into other areas.
Step 3: Identification and replacement The cause of moisture is identified and fixed. Otherwise, the mold will simply return if there is still a moisture source. This may mean the removal and replacement of cabinets and wallboard so they cleaning can occur under them.
Last step: Removal and cleaning The actual removal and remediation begins. The crew will use a disinfecting and cleaning solution that removes and kills the fungus. Stains from the black mold may be present on cabinets, but these can usually be painted over and repaired.

The Truth about Mold: Preventing Summertime Risks and Beyond

Mold is a common household nuisance and is found both inside and outside in varying amounts. For some people, mold and its spores cause very few problems, while for others it can be devastating—even life threatening. In the U.S., there are over two million children with chronic and other serious conditions that are at higher risk for the dangers that mold in their homes and schools can cause. This is due to their weakened immune systems that leave them more susceptible to infection and allow mold to have a more harmful impact. As many as one-third of the children in the U.S., including those who are considered to be “healthy,” are at risk for allergic reactions to mold. Babies that have been exposed to mold, even without incident, may be at a higher risk for developing allergies and even asthma as they get older, which is why mold exposure can be damaging even if no negative symptoms are immediately detected.

Symptoms of mold allergies are typically similar to those of other allergies, which can make it harder to determine the cause. These include sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, wheezing, and coughing. However, symptoms can escalate to more serious problems such as respiratory and circulatory issues. Mold flourishes in warm, damp environments, which is why warm summer temperatures frequently stir up mold allergies. Make sure to stock the medicine cabinet with the appropriate tools and treatments for babies and small children in order to be prepared to treat any symptoms.

t is important for local health departments to take steps to educate families in their area on this issue to prevent easily avoidable dangers. The remainder of this blog include valuable tips and resources on mitigating health risks related to mold exposure.

Stopping Mold Before It Grows

Prevention is always easier than treatment, especially with mold. Once it gets started, some molds are more difficult to control and may require additional treatments and work. Local health departments should educate their community members on taking the following preventative measures to reduce health risks associated with mold exposure.

Reduce humidity in the home:

  • Because mold thrives in warm and wet conditions, try to keep dampness to a minimum. Install a dehumidifier if necessary. Open windows for ventilation, but close them when there are reports of higher humidity levels.

Household plants:

  • Keep houseplants to a minimum in rooms that may be at higher risk of mold growth, such as rooms with high moisture levels and low ventilation.
  • This is especially important in rooms that do not get visited often, such as the basement, where signs of mold growth can go undetected for longer periods of time.

Bathroom:

  • Do not use carpeting in the bathroom, especially with children. Use washable mats or a towel on the floor instead. Dry the floor as soon as possible.
  • Bathrooms are particularly vulnerable to mold growth, because they often do not have windows, which makes ventilating the damp area more difficult. If there is a window, open it often to dry out the bathroom.
  • If there is an exhaust fan in the bathroom, turn it on as soon as the bath is done so that the room gets dried up quickly.
  • Other common areas for mold growth include the shower curtain and around the bathtub and the sinks.

Kitchen:

  • Any appliances that require water are common places for leaks and mold growth. Be sure to inspect under refrigerators, icemakers, dishwashers, coffee makers, etc.

Pipes/ Drainage:

  • Repair any leaking pipes. Clean up any water immediately and use a fan to make sure that any moisture is dried.
  • Increase the drainage away from the house to protect against leaks.

Summer Toys: The Perfect Hiding Spot for Mold

Pool, bath, and teething toys are breeding grounds for mold, because they can hold a lot of moisture and harbor mold growth undetected for long periods of time. Local health departments should provide the following prevention and treatment tips to limit mold exposure for children engaging in summertime activities and during bath time.

Pool toys:

  • During summer months, kids are playing with many moisture-laden toys to keep cool such as pool noodles, water guns, absorbent animals and balls, and all sorts of inflatable pool toys. Make sure these and other water-friendly toys are squeezed out and left out to dry before storing them after use.
  • Eliminate the risk by using alternative toys such as measuring cups, stacking blocks, and other items without places for water to hide. The advantage of these toys is the ability to toss them directly in the dishwasher after swimming or a bath.

Pool garments:

  • Swimsuits and towels are also used and re-used frequently in the summertime. Do not leave either of these sitting in a ball somewhere. It is important to pick them up and spread them out in a ventilated or breeze spot so they can completely dry out before use.
  • Be sure to regularly wash suits, towels, and any other damp clothing.

Bath toys:

  • For regular bath toys, one option is to plug the small holes with water-resistant glue. This keeps them from squeaking and/or shooting water but keeps them mold free.
  • Boil bath toys about once a week, and allow them to air dry completely.
  • Soak toys in white vinegar overnight to clean them. The vinegar odor will dissipate as it dries.

Teething toys:

  • Teething toys can also harbor moisture for mold to grow. Squeeze all of the water or drool out of rubber or mesh teething toys and clean them using a damp cloth.
  • Teething and bath toys can be run through the sanitize cycle on the dishwasher and then allowed to air dry.

A Surprising Source of Mold

One of the most surprising sources of mold problems can be found in children’s sippy cups/water bottles, used increasingly often during summer months as a source of hydration. Many people do not completely disassemble sippy cups when they are cleaning them, greatly increasing the potential for mold growth. Local health departments should provide the following cleaning steps for sippy cups/ water bottles to minimize and eliminate mold growth:

Sippy cups:

  • If there is a rubber or plastic ring on the lid of the sippy cup, make sure to pull it out and rinse under it carefully.
  • Look for sippy cups with solid, one-piece lids, but make sure to clean the spout or drinking straw as well.
  • All of the cups and parts can be washed in the dishwasher. Make sure that everything is completely dry before reassembling them.

Water bottles:

  • Disposable water bottles should not be reused, not only because of the risk of mold but because the plastic can leach into the water and can be harmful to a child’s health.
  • Metal water bottles are good because they keep drinks cooler and are easy to sanitize in the dishwasher.
  • Whenever in doubt over whether mold was completely cleaned from a toy, it is best to be safe and throw it out.

The Critical Role of Local Health Departments

Families with young children should be able to enjoy cooling off in the summer heat risk-free. Unfortunately, many parents and guardians are unaware of the hidden dangers that lurk in the nooks and crannies of their child’s toys. As a result, it is vital that local health departments provide ongoing and visible guidance to highlight the various health risks associated with mold and how to protect their child from exposure. For example, local health officials can disseminate the facts and tips included in this blog via their websites and social media pages, or by engaging in traditional community outreach (e.g., distributing pamphlets, one-pagers).