After the Flood
Microorganisms brought into the home during flooding may present a health hazard. These organisms can penetrate deep into soaked, porous materials and later be released into the air or water. Examples of these pathogens include: Aspergillus and Absidia.Coming in contact with air or water that contains these organisms can cause illness, such as lung infection; especially in older adults and anyone with a weakened immune system.
Remove Standing Water and Dry Out Your Home
For health reasons, and to lessen structural damage to buildings, all standing water should be removed as quickly as possible. Please keep in mind that:
- Standing floodwater is a breeding ground for microorganisms, which can become airborne and be inhaled.
- Standing floodwater may contain sewage or decaying animal carcasses, a source of infectious disease.
- Even when due to rainwater, standing water fosters the growth of microorganisms, which can cause allergic reactions and respiratory infection.
- Long-term increases in humidity in the home can also foster the growth of dust mites, a major cause of allergic reactions and asthma.
- If the house is not dried out properly, a musty odor, signifying growth of microorganisms can remain long after the flood.
- You will need to be patient. The drying out process can take several weeks, and growth of microorganisms will continue as long as humidity is high.
Remove Wet Materials
It can be difficult to throw away water damaged personal belongings, particularly those with sentimental value. However, keeping certain items that were soaked by water may be unhealthy, especially for older adults who may be more sensitive to microbial contaminants. When cleaning up a building:
- Wear an N-95 respirator, goggles without ventilation holes, gloves so that you don't touch mold with your bare hands, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and boots or work shoes.
- Discard all building contents made of paper, cloth, wood and other absorbent materials that have been wet for longer than 48 hours. They will likely remain a source of mold growth.
- Keep smooth, hard surface materials such as metal and plastics, as they can often be cleaned effectively.
- Clean and disinfect the ductwork for the heating and air conditioning system, if it has been flooded.
- If electricity is available and safe and when fumes are not a concern, closing windows and running a dehumidifier or window air conditioner can be an effective way to remove moisture if the damage is moderate.
For more information, please visit the Mold Prevention and Cleanup section of the EPA’s website , or call IAQINFO at 800-438-4318. Also, for more detailed information on repairing your home after a flood, please see the booklet, Repairing You Flooded Home , by the American Red Cross and FEMA.
Cleaners and Disinfectants
The cleanup process involves thorough washing and disinfecting of the walls, floors, closets, shelves, and contents of the house. In most cases, common household cleaning products and disinfectants are used for this task.
It is important to remember that disinfectants and sanitizers contain toxic substances. The ability of chemicals in cleaning products to cause health effects varies greatly, from those with no known health effects to those that are highly toxic.
To prevent illness:
- Read and follow label instructions carefully.
- Provide fresh air by opening windows and doors.
- Avoid mixing together household cleaners and disinfectants. Read the labels. Mixing certain types of products can produce toxic fumes and result in injury and even death.
- If it is safe for you to use electricity and the home is dry, use fans both during and after the use of disinfecting, cleaning, and sanitizing products.
- Call the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222, if you or a family member shows symptoms of having been poisoned.