Baton Rouge – As safe water supply and electricity have been restored to many of the areas affected by the recent hurricanes, many residents are returning to live in their homes. However, as they repopulate the area, many are encountering mold growth in their residences. The Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Public Health wishes to offer citizens some basic guidelines for safe mold cleanup and removal.
Indoor mold growth typically happens when mold spores come in contact with wet areas. Indoor mold grows in damp, moist area and is likely to happen in places with water damage, high humidity and dampness. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find mold growth in homes after a storm.
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. Mold is most often found in bathrooms, on windows, behind water heaters and in kitchens but also may be found on ceilings, walls, sheet rock, books, wood and clothing.
“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.”
Common reactions to mold are cough, congestion, runny nose, burning eyes, headaches, sneezing and sore throat. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems may be more sensitive to mold than others.
To remove mold, it is crucial to remove the moisture source. If mold is removed without fixing the moisture problem, the mold will return.
In most cases, if the area of mold growth is small (less than 10 square feet) homeowners can clean it themselves. It is important to remove mold by scrubbing with detergent and water, and then drying the area fully and quickly.
If there is a lot of mold growth on certain porous materials like carpet, sheetrock or insulation, it should be removed and replaced. Use protection 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. Homeowners may want to talk with an expert if the area of growth is large or if you have health conditions that can be worsened by mold. There are no state agencies in Louisiana that test or clean up mold. Professional help is available through contactors and/or mold cleanup companies.
Steps to Clean Up Mold:
· Find and fix the moisture problem.
· 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 exhaust the air to the outdoors.
· Remove, bag and throw out materials that have heavy mold growth (i.e. ceiling tiles, leather, cloth, sheetrock, plaster, paneling, 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.
To Prevent Mold Growth from Re-occurring:
- 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.
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 needed if the homes 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 –www.lslbc.state.la.us or 1-800-256-1392 – can provide information about licensed mold removal professionals.
For more information or links to public health information about safe mold removal after a hurricane, please visit www.dhhemergencynews.com or call the LDH Environmental Health hotline at 1-888-293-7020.