Kentucky Flood Victims Urged to Take Mold Prevention Steps

August 26, 2009

Mold is an ever-present problem following storm flooding and can be a significant health risk if care is not taken, federal and Kentucky officials warn.

“People are anxious to get on with their lives after a flood,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael J. Lapinski, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s top official in Kentucky for the Aug. 4 severe storms and flooding disaster recovery, “but if you had flood waters in your home, take the time to clean thoroughly so problems don’t arise later that affect your home or your health.”

Officials are urging residents and owners of flooded property to take action now and not wait until FEMA inspectors arrive.

“Though mold is almost always present in the air, it grows best in damp areas where humidity levels are high,” said Guy Delius, director of the public health protection and safety division in the Commonwealth’s Department for Public Health. “The recent heavy rains throughout the state caused flooding in several areas, and many homes experienced water damage. This is a concern for homeowners, not only because of damage to their home, but it also could lead to a mold problem if left untreated.”

It can become a problem in a home when there is enough moisture available to allow mold to thrive and multiply. Dampness in basements, walls, carpets and wood provide an environment for mold to flourish.

Microscopic organisms are found everywhere and develop easily into mold in the presence of water or dampness. Mold discoloration comes in a variety of colors from white to orange and from green to brown or black. Whatever color, it characteristically gives off a musty or earthy smell.

There is no practical way to eliminate all mold spores in the indoor environment. But there are many ways to help control moisture and mold growth. The basic rule is to identify any moisture sources if mold can be seen or smelled and to remove the mold before health problems develop.

The following are a few suggestions to help in preventing mold:

  • The source of mold is moisture, therefore fix all leaks in pipes and in any damp area around tubs and sinks;
  • Rebuild, or retrofit, with water-resistant building materials such as tile, stone, deep-sealed concrete, galvanized or stainless steel hardware, indoor/outdoor carpeting, waterproof wallboard and water-resistant glues;
  • Prevent seepage of water from outdoors into a house. It is important to have rainwater from gutters or roof drains away from the structure. Ground around the house should slope away to keep basement and crawl space dry;
  • Cover dirt in crawl spaces with plastic to prevent moisture from coming up from the ground. Ventilate the area as much as possible;
  • Clean fabrics such as curtains and upholstery often to keep them dry, because soil promotes mold growth;
  • Consider having ductwork cleaned and inspected professionally or replaced if you suspect mold exists on the inside surface of the duct or if duct insulation has been wet;
  • Reduce the moisture in the air with dehumidifiers, fans and open windows or air conditioners;
  • Do not use fans or vacuum cleaners if mold already exists, especially in hot weather. A fan or vacuum cleaner will spread the mold spores;
  • In moisture-prone areas, choose carpets of man-made fibers;
  • Reduce potential for condensation on cold surfaces by insulating; and
  • Routinely check potential problem spots. Disinfect often with a 10-percent solution of bleach – about 1ΒΌ cup of bleach to a gallon of water. Don’t add ammonia, which will create toxic fumes.

For more information, visit FEMA’s online site.

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