Flood Clean-Up and IAQ

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Flood Cleanup & Florida Indoor Air Quality

During flood cleanup, the indoor air quality in a home, office or other type of building may appear to be the least of one's problems. However, failure to remove contaminated materials and to reduce moisture and humidity can present serious long-term health risks.

Standing water and wet materials are a breeding ground for microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria and mold. Many of these contaminants can become airborne and be inhaled causing disease, triggering allergic reactions and continuing to damage materials long after the flood.

If floodwater contains sewage or decaying animal carcasses, infectious disease is a major concern. Even when flooding is due to rainwater, the growth of microorganisms can cause allergic reactions and other conditions in sensitive individuals. For these health reasons, and to lessen structural damage, all standing water should be removed as quickly as it is safe to do so.

Excess moisture in a structure after a flood is an indoor air quality concern for a number of reasons, including:

• Any microorganisms brought into a building during flooding may present a health hazard. These organisms can penetrate deep into soaked, porous materials and later be released into air or water.

• High humidity and moist materials provide ideal environments for the excessive growth of microorganisms that were already present in the home before the flood.

• In addition, long-term increases in humidity in a building can also foster the growth of dust mites. Dust mites are a major cause of allergic reactions and asthma.

The drying out process can take time and the growth of microorganisms will continue as long as there is moisture or the humidity is high. Some materials tend to absorb and keep water more than others. In general, materials that are wet and cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried within 24-48 hours may need to be discarded, as they can remain a source of microbial growth. If the building is not dried out properly, a musty odor, signifying growth of microorganisms can remain long after the flood.

During cleanup, there are a number of additional concerns people need to be aware of. These include everything from electrical hazards to exposure to lead dust and asbestos among others.

These are just a few things to know about flood cleanup and indoor air quality.