Health and Safety is a serious issue after an event like Tropical Storm Irene. Damaged buildings or structures need to be examined and certified as safe befor they are entered. Those buildings that have been flooded, but are safe to enter, also contain helath risks. Mold, Lead Dust from debris in older homes, Carbon Monoxide, Electrical Hazards and the cuts and punctures that can come from contact with damaged materials all represent potential helath risks. Water contamination from ruined wells is also a concern.
Before you re-enter your home, or volunteer to assist members of your community with cleanup, be careful to protect yourself.
As summer arrives in Vermont, many of those affected by Tropical Storm Irene are continuing to deal with the devastation wrought to their homes. Unfortunately, the discovery of mold is complicating reconstruction projects across the state, and in some cases individuals are dealing with the affects of mold exposure. The presence of mold as a result of flood and rain conditions can pose significant risks to your health as well as to your home.
Mold is a microscopic organism which can grow on many surfaces, as long as conditions remain damp. Mold can hide in air ducts, attics, basements, wall cavities, and will continue to grow as long as the environment has not completely dried out. Thousands of molds exist, and some types are known allergens. Some molds produce toxins and require careful removal. However in high enough concentrations, all types of mold can potentially have harmful effects on human health.
Some people are more sensitive to mold than others. Those at a higher risk for health issues due to mold exposure include infants, children, the elderly, pregnant women, immune-compromised individuals, and those with pre-existing respiratory problems. The following symptoms are associated with mold exposure:
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, and the presence of mold is likely in your home, consult a physician. You can also call 1-800-439-8550 for answers to your environmental health questions (including mold).
SOS VT recognizes the distress that can relate to dealing with mold and all other aspects of recovery. Though many people react in their own way to a disaster, some common emotional reactions may include:
If you or anyone you know is experiencing distress or symptoms from the flooding please call SOS VT’s toll-free number for help, 1-855-767-8800, or visit our website at www.startingoverstrongvermont.org.
Vermont Department of Health - The VT Dept. of Health offers a wide range of resources related to cleanup after a natural disaster.
Creating a Healthy Home: A field guide for clean-up of flooded homes
VT Dept Health: Steps to Take Before Returning to Homes or Schools
CDC: Cleanup After a Natural Disaster
CDC: Cleaning & Sanitizing with Bleach after an Emergency
Tropical Storm Irene flood sediment and soil clean-up information
Respirator Mask Use Instructions