The Department of Health and Hospitals' Office of Public Health provides residents of flood-affected areas some basic guidelines for safe mold cleanup and removal.
Indoor mold growth typically happens when mold spores come in contact with wet areas, which can be prevalent in recently flooded homes. Signs of indoor mold growth include staining on surfaces, a musty odor, dark spots on or around vents, water stains and peeling or curling of vinyl floors or wallpaper.
Common reactions to mold are cough, congestion, runny nose, burning eyes, headaches, sneezing and sore throat. Children, pregnant women, older people and people with weakened immune systems may be more sensitive to mold than others.
"Most types of molds are not harmful to otherwise healthy people," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard. "However, because mold can cause some health problems, particularly for people with asthma and allergies, it is best to avoid mold growth indoors and get rid of it as soon as it is found."
In most cases the area of mold growth is small (less than 10 square feet), and homeowners can clean it themselves. However, after severe weather events like the recent floods, residents should be aware that, if there has been a lot of water damage and/or mold growth that covers more than 10 square feet, a contactor and/or mold cleanup company may be needed. Professional help is also needed if the home's heating/venting/air conditioning system has mold growing inside of it or if the water/mold damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water.
The Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors can provide information about licensed mold removal professionals and can be reached at (225) 765-2301.
Steps to Clean Up Mold:
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, an N-95 breathing mask, eye goggles, long sleeves and pants when cleaning up mold. This is important because, during cleanup of mold, spores can be released into the air.
- Find and fix the moisture problem. If mold is removed without fixing the moisture problem, the mold will return.
- Shut off all heat or air conditioning to stop mold spores from spreading around the home or building. If possible, turn on a fan in a window to pull the air outdoors.
- Remove, bag and throw out materials, especially porous ones, that have heavy mold growth (e.g., ceiling tiles, leather, cloth, sheetrock, plaster, paneling, insulation, wood products, paper, carpet, padding, etc.)
- Use detergent in hot water and scrub the moldy area. Use a hard brush or cleaning pad on rough areas.
- Rinse the whole area with hot water. A wet-dry vacuum can be used to pick up extra water.
- Fully dry the area for two or three days. Raising the temperature and using dehumidifiers and fans will help.
- Vacuum your home, if possible, with a HEPA-filtered vacuum.
Steps To Prevent Mold Growth from Reoccurring:
- Fully dry wet building materials, furnishings and carpets within 48 hours of getting wet, if possible.
- Replace water-damaged items as soon as possible.
- Make sure that heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) systems are always running to keep the right amount of air flowing inside of the building.
- Keep indoor relative humidity below 60 percent (ideally, between 30 percent and 50 percent). Good airflow and dehumidifiers help to keep humidity low. These items are available at home supply stores.
- Check roofs, ceilings, walls, floors and carpets for water leaks, mold growth or musty odors.
- Fix broken roof gutters.
- Routinely replace air conditioner filters and clean drip pans.
- Make sure that stoves/ovens, bathrooms and clothes dryers are vented to the outside of the home, if possible.
For more information about returning home after floods or other disasters and emergencies, please visit www.dhh.la.gov/emergency.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents.To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.la.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's Twitter account and Facebook.