As Hurricane Ike evacuees return home and begin to rebuild their communities, they will encounter various environmental health hazards including mold, contaminated soil, infections, and respiratory ills.
Speaking to Galveston County Daily News, Dr. Scott Weaver points out that organisms living in soil contaminated by human waste can be easily transmitted from hand to mouth; these germs can lead to Hepatitis A, tetanus, or other infections. He advises that people should avoid touching their mouth and eyes and wear rubber boots and gloves. Anyone involved in extensive clean up efforts should get a tetanus shot to be safe. You can also order special disinfectants to clean up areas damaged by flooding.
Dr. Mike McGinnis warns that waterlogged carpet, sheetrock, and other materials should be thrown out because of mold, which can vary in color from dirty white to green to black.
“The big thing is not to panic and to realize that the problem is the presence of water,” says Dr. McGinnis. “If we can get rid of water and dry things out, the environment necessary for mold to grow is gone.”
If your home or business suffers from water damage, call a remediation expert as soon as possible; they will have access to professional water damage restoration equipment that may save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in repair costs.
If you attempt to clean up small patches of mold, be sure to wear a respirator mask, gloves, and goggles. One cup of bleach in nine cups of water makes a suitable cleaning solution for mold, as does straight 70 percent alcohol.
The areas hit by Hurricane Ike will likely have a very high mold spore count for several weeks. Mold is a common allergen and asthma trigger. Local doctors expect to see a surge in respiratory ailments this fall. Prevention is key; if you have asthma, be diligent about refilling your medications and avoiding triggers. See Dealing with Asthma to learn more.