Mold a Big Issue in Flood Areas

Story and Photo by: Rick Harvey, American Red Cross

South Carolina residents are battling a potential hidden danger as they continue to rebuild their homes following the recent flooding – mold.

“If people can’t see it they might not know they’re being exposed to it,” said American Red Cross Health Services Volunteer Pam Deichmann, a retired public health nurse from Des Moines, Iowa.  “Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

The topic of mold, how to manage it, and how to effectively clean areas taken over by mold continues to be a priority as Red Cross caseworkers visit with those affected by the floods.  Residents are provided with information explaining that mold can be found almost anywhere on the interior and exterior of any structure, regardless of when it was built. All it needs is oxygen and moisture to develop and grow.

“If you’re immune-compromised at all, or if you’re young or elderly – those are the ones who are affected the quickest,” Deichmann said.

American Red Cross caseworker Edna Vasser 
shows a Myrtle Beach homeowner signs 
of mold during an outreach visit. 
Deichmann said respiratory issues and burning sensations in the sinus area are the quickest signs you may be sensitive to mold.

“There can be a variety of symptoms,” she said. “Generally, you can just not feel well because your body is trying to react to something it doesn’t quite know what it is. It can decrease your immune system so you can also catch other things.”

The Red Cross continues to remind those who have experienced flooding that mold can be recognized from its black color and from a pungent or musty odor.

“When we talk to those affected we want them to know that if things are wet – insulation, sheet rock, furniture – and it’s been wet for 48 hours or more, then it does have to be removed,” Deichmann said.

The Red Cross offers the following cleaning tips for the removal of mold in areas after permanently removing things that cannot be cleaned easily, such as furniture, wood, carpet and leather:
·         Use bleach to clean mold off hard things (floors, stoves, sinks, certain toys, countertops, flatware, plates, tools)
·         Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners
·         Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, goggles and N-95 mask
·         Open windows and doors to get fresh air when using bleach
·         Mix no more than one cup of bleach in one gallon of water

·         Wash an item with the bleach and water mixture. If the surface of the item is rough, scrub the surface with a  stuff brush. Rinse the item with clean water.

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