by Jay Reeves and Carla K. Johnson
En route to their flooded Harvey home in east Houston, Lakeithia Bankhead and her four children left the city’s convention center mass shelter on Friday after five nights sleeping on beds among thousands of others evacuated. They filled a relative’s sport utility vehicle with trash bags full of donated clothes, food and a crib.
But Bankhead felt ill-equipped to deal with health hazards in the form of mold, spoiled food, gas leaks and downed power lines. The 38-year-old knows she’ll have to remove the wet carpet from her rented home, but she’s unsure what to do with other potential issues like mold, which can cause respiratory problems if inhaled.
The danger is not yet over for evacuees from Harvey returning to flood-ravaged homes and dragging sodden debris onto the sidewalk. Sharing tips on recommended mold cleanup strategies and other safety tips is now one of the biggest challenges for public health officials in the wake of Harvey.
While some of those who escaped the floods lost internet access when they abandoned or lost mobile devices, many others kept their phones. Public health officials hope to reach evacuees via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with safety messages, and hope that those who see the advice posted online will spread the word to others.
Avoiding health threats during flood cleanup requires foresight. Here are some health precautions:
Mold and mildew can start growing in a home a day or two after flooding. It will continue to grow unless it is deleted. Inhaling airborne mold spores can cause coughing, wheezing and asthma attacks. People with chronic illnesses can develop dangerous infections in their lungs.
Dry out a damaged home as soon as possible. When it is safe to use electricity, turn on a fan in a window to exhaust air outside.
Hard surfaces can be cleaned with soap and water, then disinfected with a bleach solution, about one cup of bleach to one gallon of water.
‘We’re posting tips like don’t mix bleach and ammonia’ to clean mold because the two cleaning products together produce toxic fumes, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman said. social, Joni Geels.
But drywall, insulation, carpeting, bedding, and anything porous, including books, should be destroyed.
“That little patch of mold can grow around the house, especially in the Southern heat,” said Dr. Parham Jaberi of the Louisiana Department of Health.
If the mold covers more than 100 square feet, a qualified mold remover is recommended, he said.
FATAL FUMES AND LEAKS
Before entering a flood-damaged home, check for loose power lines or gas leaks. At least one person died in Harvey’s suite when he stepped on a live electrical wire in ankle-deep water.
Carbon monoxide fumes pose a threat as people go home without power and plug in generators, said Renee Funk of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Any kind of roof over a generator is actually a problem,” Funk said. “When people come in and out to fill the generator, they can be defeated.”
If a structure, such as a garage or shed, is attached to the house, the house can fill with fumes.
Charcoal grills and camp stoves used indoors can also produce carbon monoxide.
INJURIES AND TETANUS
The Texas Department of State Health Services urges people with puncture wounds or cuts exposed to floodwater to get a tetanus shot if they haven’t had one in the past 10 years.
Sagging ceilings, slippery floors and other structural issues can cause injury. Exhaustion can contribute to accidents. Children should not participate in disaster clean-up work.
Foods that may have come into contact with flood waters are unsafe to eat. Cardboard containers for juice, milk or formula should be discarded as they cannot be disinfected. Discard any food in damaged cans.
Harvey destroyed municipal water service in some areas. Boil water or use bottled water to drink if the water comes from a well or if authorities have issued warnings.
Harvey’s health risks will continue during cleanup
© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Quote: Danger not over: Gas leaks, mold loom for Harvey evacuees (September 2, 2017) retrieved March 1, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2017-09-danger-gas-leaks-mold-loom.html
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