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American Lung Association of Upper Midwest Offers Tips on Dealing With Floodwaters

CHICAGO, March 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest shares the concerns many are feeling about the rising water levels and flooding in several states that we serve. Because flood water damage from this emergency can pose special problems for the thousands of people with lung disease, and may cause lung disease in healthy individuals in the region, we are offering these tips. For more specific help on cleaning up after a flood or water damage, contact the American Lung Association Help Line at 1-800-548-8252.

Direct risks from contact with floodwaters

The greatest health risk for the general public may come from water-borne microorganisms and toxins. However, even after the water recedes, the contaminants, bacteria, viruses and mold left behind pose a risk to those with preexisting lung disease. Exposure to these microorganisms and toxins may increase the risk of developing lung disease.

The physical stress of dealing with the flood may also put a strain on people who are already ill or the elderly, providing an opportunity for respiratory infections and other sicknesses to arise. In addition, the time spent in large group emergency housing may increase the risk of spread of infectious diseases, such as influenza, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

Damp buildings and furnishings promote the growth of microorganisms, dust mites, cockroaches and mold, which can aggravate asthma and allergies and may cause the development of asthma, wheeze, cough and hypersensitivity pneumonitis in susceptible persons.

Emergency power risks

If electric power is lost during a flood, many people may turn to portable gasoline- or diesel-powered generators, gas stoves, charcoal stoves, grills, portable camping stoves and other devices to cook indoors. All of these produce a deadly odorless and colorless gas, carbon monoxide. Exposure to carbon monoxide reduces the blood's ability to carry oxygen and can lead to death. To keep yourself and your family safe, remember the following advice:

  • Never operate gasoline-powered or diesel-powered engines indoors, including garages, sheds and outbuilding.
  • Do not use ovens and gas ranges to heat your home.
  • Do not burn charcoal or propane inside a home, cabin, recreational vehicle or camper.

After the flood: safe cleanup tips

After the flood water is gone and local officials determine it is safe for homeowners to return, the process of cleaning up should begin soon afterwards. Mold can begin growing within 48 hours of the flood, so start by removing or cleaning any materials affected by the flood.

Wet materials such as sheetrock, carpeting particleboard and plywood that have been exposed to floodwaters or basement flooding need to be removed from the home. Bag the materials to be tossed out inside the area that flooded, rather than drag them through the rooms that remained dry, to reduce the risk of spreading contaminants throughout the home. Provide continuous and controlled ventilation in work area, with the area of contamination kept at a negative pressure in relationship to the rest of the home. In other words, air should flow from clean to dirty areas, not the other way around.

Air cleaning devices can help remove some indoor air pollution, but won't solve the problems alone. Cleaning up the water, the contaminants, and the damaged furnishings and material are essential steps and nothing can substitute for them. Avoid using air cleaning devices that emit ozone. Ozone has not been found to clean indoor air, including mold problems. Ozone can harm lung health, especially for children, the elderly, and people with asthma and chronic lung diseases.

Sources of additional information:

American Lung Association Lung Help Line:

American Lung Association Flood Cleanup Fact Sheet

American Lung Association of Upper Midwest Health House Mold Tip Sheet

SOURCE American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest
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