High Water Threatens Lung Health Even After the Rains End

Floods can be extremely dangerous, and the flood water itself — even after it recedes — may put lung health at risk. To best protect your lung health during and after a flood, here are five quick things to know:

  1. During the flooding, evacuate if directed. Don't try to wait out the flood in your home if you're advised to leave! Be sure to take medications with you. Don't drive through flooded waters. Know that floodwaters may contain sewage and chemicals.
  2. If you stay at home and lose power, be careful. Never cook indoors with portable gasoline- or diesel-powered generators, gas stoves, charcoal stoves, grills, portable camping stoves and other devices. These produce carbon monoxide that can kill if it builds up indoors. 
  3. After the flooding, protect your health from the start. Stop the water intrusions first. Trace the pathways of the water to find where damage has spread. Contain the water-damaged materials and furnishings and protect workers and occupants from exposure to them, as they may contain toxins from the flood waters or mold.
  4. Be safe during your cleanup. Turn off the electricity and gas at the main location. Take steps to protect yourself and any workers and occupants from exposure to airborne particles and gases during cleanup.
  5. Clean what you can, and discard the rest.  Materials which can be cleaned must be cleaned and dried thoroughly. Discard any materials that can't be cleaned or are damaged beyond use, as they may harbor mold or dangerous toxins from the flood waters.

Know who in your family faces the greatest risk because of their age or health. Identify and protect vulnerable family members, which include children, older adults and anyone with chronic diseases or a suppressed immune system.

This list is just the beginning. Get more information on protecting your health from a flood and links to even more resources.

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Related Topics: Healthy Air, Health & Wellness,

  • Janice Nolen
    Assistant Vice President, National Policy
    American Lung Association
    Janice Nolen is the American Lung Association's Assistant Vice President of National Policy.
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