Lung Association Offers Advice on Protecting Lung Health in Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Free Lung HelpLine Available to Answer Lung Health Questions

(November 14, 2012)

The American Lung Association of the Northeast expresses its deepest sympathy to those affected by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. As the cleanup from Hurricane Sandy continues, the Lung Association is reminding residents of affected areas to keep their lung health in mind when cleaning up from the storm and coping with the displacement caused by home evacuations and widespread power outages. Flood waters and water damage from this emergency pose special problems for the thousands of people with existing lung disease and may increase the likelihood of the development of lung disease.

The Lung Association operates a free Lung HelpLine that can provide callers with more information on cleaning up after a flood or water damage and answer questions about preventing mold growth and its proper removal. The HelpLine is staffed with registered nurses and registered respiratory therapists who stand ready to assist callers who have questions about their lung health. The Lung HelpLine can be reached at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).

"While the storm has devastated so many and disrupted everyday routines for an extraordinary number of people here in the Northeast, it’s very important for those with lung disease to keep on their schedule of medications and closely monitor symptoms," said American Lung Association of the Northeast CEO, Jeff Seyler. "Damp buildings and furnishings promote the growth of microorganisms, dust mites, cockroaches and mold, which can aggravate asthma and allergies and cause breathing problems in susceptible persons. Breathing problems can be further exacerbated if proper precautions are not taken during the cleanup process itself, so it’s important to be aware of what is helpful and what could be harmful."

The Lung Association has compiled resources on its website for those cleaning up after the storm and coping with the loss of power. Visit www.Lung.org to access extensive hurricane and flooding resources and detailed content related to improving indoor air quality and managing lung health.

The Lung Association offers some especially relevant tips to keep in mind in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

For those cleaning up:

  • When in doubt, toss it out! Remove everything that has been soaked by water, including clothing, papers, furnishings, carpet, ceiling tiles, and wallboard. Anything that cannot be cleaned and dried must be discarded.
  • Use water and detergent to scrub mold off hard surfaces, like tile and concrete. Avoid using bleach to clean damaged materials, especially in indoor areas that are not well ventilated. Indoor exposure to irritant vapors from bleach can also compromise lung health and make it hard to breathe.
  • Protect occupants and workers during the cleanup process. At minimum, wear an N-95 mask (available at hardware stores), disposable gloves and goggles.
  • Avoid using air cleaning devices that emit ozone. Ozone has not been found to clean indoor air or to solve mold problems and ozone can harm lung health, especially for children, the elderly, and people with asthma and chronic lung diseases.

For those who are without power:

  • Do not use ovens and gas ranges to heat the home.
  • Charcoal or propane should never be burned inside a home, cabin, recreational vehicle or camper.
  • Gasoline or diesel-powered engines should never be operated indoors—not even in garages with the door open, or outside near open windows.

Special advice for those with lung disease:

  • Be vigilant about taking prescribed medications.
  • Seek medical help promptly if you are having trouble breathing.
  • If you are in an area where there is smoke or debris being burned, stay indoors with your windows shut.

The Lung Association is reminding those with lung disease who are having trouble breathing – and anyone who is having trouble breathing - to get medical help. People with lung disease who’ve lost their medicine or can’t remember what medications they are supposed to be taking should also seek medical advice.

Northeast residents should be aware that it is not uncommon for people to develop lung problems after a disaster such as Sandy, even if they've never had problems before. People are advised to be aware of any breathing problems that may arise and pay close attention to family members, especially children and seniors.

Some warning signs to watch out for include:

  • Coughing, especially coughing at night
  • Wheezing or feeling short of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • CRITICAL SIGNS Get emergency medical help if fingernails or lips are turning blue or if there is severe chest pain. Both could be life-threatening.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT STAYING SAFE AND HEALTHY FOLLOWING HURRICANE SANDY

ADDITIONAL HURRICANE AND FLOODING RESOURCES

For questions about lung health, contact the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).