Duke Expert Says Mold Risk High in Flooded Cities
DURHAM, N.C. -- Homes and businesses sitting empty after
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are at high risk for mold growth
and people should exercise caution when entering these
buildings, says Duke University Medical Center professor and
mold expert Wayne Thomann, Dr.P.H.
"Normally, our response is to immediately remove wet
materials before mold growth starts, but people may not have
been able to get into their property to effectively mitigate
potential problems with microbial growth. There is also a risk
associated with residual, contaminated flood waters. People
should be aware that these storms were very different -- there
is an increased probability that their buildings, their
furnishings and contents will have experienced mold growth,"
Even homes not directly affected by flooding may have mold
because the high heat and humidity in the Gulf Coast states can
trigger microbial growth, and many houses have not had
air-conditioning for several weeks, said Thomann, assistant
clinical professor of community and family medicine in Duke's
division of occupational and environmental medicine. Thomann
has more than 20 years experience assessing homes for mold
damage after flooding and other natural disasters, including
hurricanes and tornadoes.
Thomann recommends returning evacuees stay attuned to their
environment, and be cautious and careful in their initial
inspections of homes and workplaces.
"Watch for signs of visible mold, and the musty odor that
signifies microbial growth. We really emphasize prevention, and
we don't want people putting themselves in situations where
they will experience symptoms, either from allergic reactions
or irritation," Thomann said.
"In many cases in may be necessary to get professional help
with mold cleanup. Homeowners should discuss remediation with
their insurance agent and make sure they do a background check
on anybody they bring in to help," Thomann said.
Thomann suggests following guidelines on mold
and mold cleanup, with special attention to the personal
safety considerations, from the Environmental Protection
The American Red Cross also has a brochure
on repairing flooded homes.