So many Texans this week are dealing with the aftermath of floods and water damage to their homes and businesses. But in the rush to rebuild what’s been lost? What are the health-related risks associated with floods?
Dr. Alfred Scott Lea, Associate Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at The University of Texas Medical Branch joined the Texas Standard to discuss.
What the biggest threat in these situations?
“Mold will grow anywhere there is organic material — which would be wood and fabric. If a person has their home flooded, all of the materials need to be removed and dispensed with. That can be really difficult for a homeowner to do on their own,” Lea says. “Make sure the water is completely removed. That generally involves, unfortunately, having to remove the wall boards. Make sure that the studs are clean in the walls because if it’s not properly taken care of then the fungus grows particularly in between the space within the walls.”
What about mold-related illness warning signs, what should we be on the look out for?
“In the home mold can cause a lot of respiratory type problems: wheezing, coughing, irritation of the eyes, irritation of the sinuses. Typically there have been some molds, some black molds, have been implicated in sudden death in certain patients. That’s a little more draconian and I’m not really sure that that’s something that folks in medicine all totally agree with, but there’s no question that it’s a respiratory problem,” he says.
What about those tough decisions people might have to make between trying to salvage something – a piece of furniture, books, or something of sentimental value – that’s damaged by the floods?
“You can clean. You can dry. You can replace fabric,” Lea says. “With a book that’s a much more difficult problem. If a book’s involved, I would think that that would take some very very special expertise if it’s that important…. Just in the house most things you can salvage in terms of furniture. It’s gonna be the rugs and the wallboards that’s gonna be the problem.”