The Westport Weston Health District has received a number of calls after the recent heavy rains from home and business owners who had experienced localized flooding.
Molds are microscopic organisms that are found virtually everywhere, both indoors and outdoors. Mold needs water to grow, so it is very important to dry out wet buildings as soon as possible. This includes removing standing water and porous materials that have remained wet for 48 hours or more.
Exposure to mold can cause adverse health effects in some people. The most common effects are allergic responses from breathing airborne mold. These allergic responses include making hay fever or asthma symptoms worse, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat or lungs. Serious infections from molds are relatively rare and unlikely to occur in people who are generally in good health; however, mold infections are a concern for people with severely suppressed immune systems.
The following are State Department of Public Health guidelines to reduce mold growth and the potential risk of adverse health effects:
• Promptly remove standing water and all porous wet materials such as carpeting, saturated wallboard (sheetrock) and upholstered furniture from the home.
• Aggressively ventilate the home to dissipate moisture by opening windows and using fans, if available. Dehumidifiers are useful in enclosed areas or when windows need to be closed because of rain or high humidity.
• Clean mold from small areas on hard surfaces, such as wood or concrete, by scrubbing the area with a cleaning rag wetted with diluted detergent. After cleaning with detergent, the area may be sanitized with a weak bleach solution (one part bleach + 9 parts water). Rubber gloves and a N-95 mask can be used to minimize direct exposure to mold, contaminants and cleaning products. N-95 masks can be purchased in most hardware stores. (A regular dust mask will not stop mold spores.)
• Check routinely for new mold growth or signs of moisture that may indicate the need for cleanup, home repair, or removal of affected materials. A mold problem can usually be seen or smelled.
• Keep children away from both cleaning products and areas where mold is present. Individuals with known mold allergies or asthma should not clean or remove mold, as their condition may be aggravated.
• Hire an experienced professional for a large mold problem, or if you are highly sensitive to mold. Insist that they perform all mold remediation in accordance with Connecticut Guidelines for Mold Abatement Contractors. This and other resources may be found on the DPH website at http://www.ct.gov/dph/mold .