- TECHNICAL CENTER
- Compliance Surveys
- Reference Charts
- Refererence Pages
- Site Map
- CUSTOMER SERVICE
- Contact Us
- How to Order
- Quality Guarantee
- Price Guarantee
- Request A Quote
- Request A Sample
- Distributor Sign Up
| Mold Prevention Cleanup After Hurricanes and Major Floods|
June 9, 2006
The most effective way to eliminate mold growth is to remove it from materials that can be cleaned and to discard materials that cannot be cleaned or are physically damaged beyond use (9,18,19,26--30). Persons with respiratory conditions, allergies, asthma, or weakened immune systems should avoid mold cleanup if possible or seek the advice of their doctor and determine what type of personal protective equipment is appropriate. Appropriate PPE (e.g., tight-fitting NIOSH-approved N-95 respirator, gloves to limit contact of mold and cleaning solutions with skin, and goggles) (13,26--30) should be used when performing clean-up or other activities in mold-contaminated homes or buildings after a flood.
Removing mold problems requires a series of actions (6,9,16). The order of these actions is sometimes important (6), but might vary on a case-by-case basis. Typically, the following actions are taken regardless of whether a problem is small and simple or large and complex:
Returning to Mold-Contaminated Homes or Buildings After a Flood
When persons return to homes or buildings after a flood, they should take the following steps (6,9,16,26--30):
Removing and Cleaning Up Mold in a Building
For cleaning mold covering <10 square feet in an area flooded by clean water, detergent and water might be adequate (9,16). However after hurricanes and major floods, flood water is likely to be contaminated and, in this setting, mold can be removed with a bleach solution of 1 cup chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of water (26--30). Never mix bleach or bleach-containing products with ammonia or ammonia-containing products. If water damage is substantial or mold growth covers >10 square feet, consult the EPA guide, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings (15).
Some companies specialize in water damage restoration and can assess the issues involved in cleaning up homes after a flood. Two professional trade groups that might be able to help locate such an expert are the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration (http://www.ascr.org) and the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (http://www.iicrc.org).
Contractors used for remediation should have experience in cleaning mold. Check references and ask the contractor to follow the recommendations in the guidelines of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) or other guidelines from professional organizations or state agencies. Contact your state health department's website for information about state licensing requirements for contractors in your state. Examples of websites from states that have recently dealt with natural disasters include http://www.tdh.state.tx.us/beh/mold (Texas) and http://www.lslbc.louisiana.gov (Louisiana).
Cleaning Clothes, Textiles, or Stuffed Animals
Ensure that laundry is washed in safe water. Use only water that is properly disinfected or that the authorities have stated is safe. Take the appropriate steps to make sure that use of gas or electric appliances is safe.
Before using a washing machine that was in a flooded building, run the machine through one full cycle before washing clothes. Use hot water and a disinfectant or sanitizer. Take clothes and linens outdoors and shake off any dried mud or dirt before washing them. Hose off muddy items to remove all dirt before putting them in the washer.
If the items are only wet, they can be laundered normally. Check the labels on clothes and linens and wash them in detergent and warm water if possible, or take them to a professional cleaner. Adding chlorine bleach to the wash cycle will remove most mildew and will sanitize the clothing. However, bleach might fade some fabrics and damage other fabrics. If the label reads "dry clean only," shake out loose dirt and take the item to a professional cleaner.
Consult a remediation professional for advice on whether heavily mold-contaminated items made of leather, suede, or a similar material are salvageable or should be discarded. Do not burn or bury textiles that cannot be cleaned. Put them into properly sealed plastic bags and dispose of them as you would normal household garbage in your area.
Salvaging Household Items
When assessing or remediating mold contamination to a house, homeowners or clean-up personnel might decide to repair or clean household items (e.g., housewares or kitchen items) damaged or contaminated by flood waters. As with clothing and other textiles, make sure the water being used is safe. Use only water that is properly disinfected or that the authorities have stated is safe.
Nonporous items (e.g., dishes, pots, glass items, and hard plastic items) can be salvaged. However, because floodwaters are contaminated, nonporous items should be washed by hand in a disinfectant and then air-dried. Do not use a dish towel. Porous items (e.g., cloth, some wood and wood products, and soft plastic) must be discarded because they probably absorbed whatever contaminants were in the floodwaters.
Before using the dishwasher, clean and disinfect it. Then use a hot setting to wash your pots, pans, dishes, and utensils. Do not use the energy-saving setting. Throw away canned foods that are bulging, opened, or damaged. Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, flip tops, snap-open, and home-canned foods should be discarded if they have come into contact with floodwater because they cannot be disinfected. If intact cans have come in contact with floodwater or storm water, remove the labels, wash the cans, and dip them in a solution of 1 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water. Relabel the cans with a marker.
Cleaning a Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning System
All surfaces of an HVAC system and all its components that were submerged during a flood are potential reservoirs for dirt, debris, and microorganisms, including bacteria and mold. In addition, moisture can collect in areas of HVAC system components that were not submerged (e.g., air supply ducts above the water line), and this also can lead to the growth of microorganisms. Therefore, all flood water-contaminated and moisture-laden components of the HVAC system should be thoroughly inspected, cleaned of dirt and debris, and disinfected by a qualified professional. CDC has prepared recommendations for professionals to help ensure that floodwater-contaminated HVAC system components are properly cleaned and remediated (21). If HVAC systems are not properly cleaned and disinfected to prevent the dissemination of mold and other debris throughout a building, bioaerosols of mold and other microorganisms might exists and can cause a variety of adverse health effects to the building's occupants. Ensure that the HVAC system is shut down before any remedial activities.
Types of Personal Protective Equipment
Skin and Eye Protection
Gloves keep the hands clean and free from contact with mold (9,29). Gloves also protect hands from potentially irritating cleaning solutions (29,32,33). Long gloves that extend to the middle of the forearm are recommended. The glove material should be selected on the basis of the type of substance or chemical being handled. When using a biocide (e.g., chlorine bleach) or a strong cleaning solution, gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC are needed. When using a mild detergent or plain water, ordinary household rubber gloves can be used. Latex or nonlatex medical examination gloves should be used if hands are likely to be in contact with infectious materials. Persons with natural rubber latex allergy should not use natural rubber latex gloves and should consult the NIOSH Alert on latex gloves for further information (34).
To protect eyes, properly fitted goggles or a full face-piece respirator are needed. Goggles must be designed to prevent the entry of dust and small particles. Safety glasses or goggles with open vent holes are not appropriate in mold remediation. CDC has published guidelines on this topic (35).
When conducting building inspections and remediation work, workers or homeowners might encounter hazardous biologic agents and chemical and physical hazards. Consequently, appropriate personal protective clothing, either reusable or disposable, is recommended to minimize cross-contamination between work areas and clean areas, to prevent the transfer and spread of mold and other contaminants to street clothing, and to eliminate skin contact with mold or chemicals (9,32). In hot environments, precautions to prevent dehydration and heat stress when wearing protective clothing (e.g., drink plenty of water) are needed.
Disposable PPE should be discarded after it is used. Such equipment should be placed into impermeable bags and usually can be discarded as ordinary construction waste. Protective equipment for biocide applicators (e.g., goggles or face shield, aprons or other protective clothing, gloves, and respiratory protection) must be selected on the basis of the product manufacturer's warnings and recommendations. In addition, the manufacturer's recommended precautions should be followed. Reusable protective clothing, including respiratory equipment (36,37), should be cleaned according to manufacturers' recommendations for PPE exposed to mold and other potentially hazardous chemicals (e.g., bleach and biocides).
Inhalation is the primary exposure route of concern related to mold for workers, homeowners, and building occupants (6,9,17,18). When administrative and engineering controls are not adequate to eliminate airborne exposure to mold (or dust containing mold), respirators provide additional protection from inhalation of airborne mold, contaminated dust, and other particulates that are released during dust-generating processes (e.g., remediation work or debris removal) (6,9,17).
Respirators provide varying levels of protection. Selecting a respirator to minimize exposure to molds should be based on a qualitative assessment because quantitative data on mold-contaminated environments are not informative (38--41). All decisions about respirator selection should be made with knowledge of the relative protective capabilities and the advantages and disadvantages of different respirators. Further discussion of respirator selection is available (38--41).
Standard surgical or dust masks are intended for use only as barriers against large particles and do not provide protection against many airborne particles (38). Respirators used to protect persons from airborne contaminants (including mold and mold spores) must be certified by CDC's NIOSH. In addition, as specified by the OSHA respiratory protection standard (37), workers whose employers require them to use respirators must be properly trained, have medical clearance, and be properly fit-tested before they use the respirator. If a worker must use respirators, the worker's employer must develop and implement a written respiratory protection program with worksite-specific procedures and elements. Additional information on respiratory protection is available from OSHA (37,42,43).
PPE Guidelines for Workers in Mold-Contaminated Areas
Exposure to some level of airborne mold is inevitable because molds are found indoors and outdoors (6,17). However, demolishing or cleaning heavily mold-contaminated materials outdoors can lead to excessive exposure to mold. The level of exposure to mold outdoors is primarily based on the amount of mold-contaminated material, the amount of mold in the material, and the type of work being performed. The need for PPE (including respiratory, skin, and eye protection) for outdoor workers requires ongoing professional assessment that considers the potential for exposure to mold and the potential for exposure to other hazardous substances that might be in the outdoor work area.
Guidelines summarized below are based on guidelines from OSHA (37,42,43), EPA (13), and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (18). These guidelines recommend particular respirators on the basis of the size of the area of mold contamination. However, the size criteria are based on general professional judgment and practicality because data are limited related to the extent of contamination to the frequency or severity of health effects.
When determining the potential for airborne exposure to mold and the need for PPE, the size of the area is not the only criterion to be considered. The activities being performed in relation to the mold-contaminated materials are at least as important. Therefore, ongoing professional judgment always must play a part in decisions concerning PPE. For example, any remediation or other work that disturbs mold and causes mold spores to become airborne increases the degree of respiratory exposure. Actions that tend to disperse mold include breaking apart moldy porous materials such as wallboard; destructive invasive procedures to examine or remediate mold growth in a wall cavity; removal of contaminated wallpaper by stripping or peeling; and using fans to dry items or ventilate areas. In addition, health status and other characteristics of the persons potentially exposed to mold also might need to be considered (Table 1).
Category I Protection
Respiratory protection (e.g., N-95 disposable respirator). Respirators must be used in accordance with the OSHA respiratory protection standard (9,37).
Gloves and eye protection. (Safety goggles, safety glasses)
For use while cleaning the following:
Respiratory protection with full face-piece respirators, with N100, R100, P100 (or for powered air purifying respirators, HEPA) particulate filters. Respirators must be used in accordance with the OSHA respiratory protection standard (13).
Disposable protective clothing covering entire body including both head and shoes.
For use while cleaning the following:
These guidelines should be followed according to professional judgment. For example, more protective respirators might be required if toxic contaminants such as asbestos or lead are encountered during cleanup. All workers dealing with large areas of contamination should be properly trained to handle hazardous materials.
PPE Guidelines for the Public (Nonworkers) in Residences and Nonoccupational Settings
Clean-up, Debris Removal, or Similar Activities
The activities (and possible exposure to mold) of persons re-entering their homes or working outside might be similar to those of workers. Preventing the creation of dust and limiting exposure to dust are the best ways to minimize exposure to mold (1,9,18). For example, using wet mops or vacuums with HEPA filters instead of dry sweeping dust and debris will decrease the amount of dust in the air (1,9,18).
If building occupants, residents, or anyone must be around mold-contamin.