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Mold can create health risk after storm

Published 10:26pm Tuesday, August 30, 2011

As residents evaluate the damage Hurricane Irene caused to their homes and businesses, the Virginia Department of Health is urging people to watch out for mold in moisture-damaged buildings.

Mold growth can be accelerated by moisture that enters buildings as a result of leaks and flooding, and its presence can cause disease or aggravate allergies in people with mold sensitivity or asthma.

Larry Hill, a public information officer for the Virginia Department of Health, said anyone who suffered moisture damage in his or her home from Hurricane Irene should get it checked for mold as soon as possible.

“If they feel like they have a moisture issue, they should get their home checked or check it themselves,” he said.

There are usually signs there is mold growth in a building, Hill said, that include a musty smell and the appearance of the mold itself.

“You get a mildew-type smell or you can see the presence of it,” he said.

Although mold is a health concern for everyone, people with asthma and allergies are most at risk.

Hill said it can create severe breathing difficulties, and asthmatics and people with allergies should not stay in a building with mold growth.

To protect against mold, any standing water should be removed from the home along with any wet materials.

Any moldy material that has already grown should be cleaned or removed.

Hill said the health department recommends homeowners have professionals remove mold.

“Let the experts handle it,” he said. “There’s a variety of contractors who can do that.”

Hill said professionals who do ventilation work, most cleaning companies and environmental service workers can remove mold in buildings.

If removing or cleaning mold yourself, the health department suggests you wear gloves, goggles and a particle respirator.

However, people with heart disease or a chronic lung disease should not use a respirator and anyone with mold allergies or asthma should not clean mold.

In addition to creating new problems, Hill said, the storm also could have aggravate existing mold issues.

“Some people may already have a problem and not know it, but (the storm) may have made it even worse,” he said.

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