The destruction of homes and communities in the aftermath of the flooding from Hurricane Harvey is tragic, and the cleanup itself creates the potential for serious and long-lasting threats to health, warns the American Lung Association. The Lung Association stresses the importance of beginning the cleanup effort as soon as flood waters recede and following proven tips to reduce health risks. Chemicals, sewage and other dangerous substances found in flood waters can pose health risks to area residents. Dampness breeds bacteria, viruses and mold. All water must be removed to prevent the growth of mold and protect respiratory health.
"Mold has been associated with wheezing, coughing, and in some cases asthma attacks," warns Norman H. Edelman, M.D., Senior Scientific Advisor of the American Lung Association. "Some evidence links mold with respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children. Mold can grow anywhere there is water or dampness. Cleaning up affected household items after the water recedes is vital to protecting your health."
The American Lung Association offers guidelines to help you and your family stay healthy after flooding. Protect yourself before returning to your building. Make sure it has been inspected for damage. Wear protective clothing, including gloves, rubber boots and face masks to protect you from contaminants. Individuals with lung disease or those with high risk of developing lung disease should seek help cleaning their homes and workplaces after floods.
Discard damaged materials and furnishings, including any items that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried within 24 to 48 hours. Simply drying out water will not remove the bacteria or toxins that can make people sick. Furniture and other personal belongings covered by water should be discarded to prevent mold growth. Dangerous substances in floodwater can include sewage, chemicals, oil and gas which can saturate materials in the home and give off harmful gases.
Use soap and water instead of bleach for cleaning efforts. Open your windows to add ventilation. Avoid using air cleaning devices that emit ozone, which has not been proven to clean indoor air and can harm lung health.
If more than 10 square feet of your home is flooded, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends hiring professional cleaners. Mold flourishes in this environment and attempting to clean without professional help may increase the risk of developing respiratory problems.
For more information on cleaning up after a flood, contact the toll-free American Lung Association Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.