Are You At High-Risk for Mold Exposure Post-Sandy? [AUDIO]
It's been just over a month since Superstorm Sandy unleashed her fury on New Jersey and as the extensive clean up begins, may Garden State residents may not even realize they fall into a high-risk category for dangerous mold exposure.
But, there are ways that high-risk people can protect their health while living in the hardest hit areas.
"First, it's important for people to understand if they fall into a high-risk category," said Lee Ann Billings, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina and co-author of MOLD: The War Within. "People who have auto immune disorders or those who are chronically ill or have had organ transplants generally know that they are at increased risk, but there are also those hidden high-risk groups and they are the ones who can get blindsided. Those groups include the elderly, children and infants and pregnant women. It's very important for parents and care-givers to understand this so they can take steps to protect those who can't protect themselves."
"The largest, most hidden high-risk group includes people who take nasal steroids," said Billings. "It's a common treatment for allergies and asthma and people don't realize that the steroids reduce the immune system quite significantly. Another hidden high-risk group includes people who have had recent major surgery. The people who fall into these high-risk groups should never remediate or try to clean up mold on their own. Mold can get into the lungs, start to grow and take hold of the immune system. Mold in an indoor environment is very complex because it can also contain bacteria. The two together can produce toxins. So, you're not just being exposed to one thing. If you're in a high-risk group to start with and you are exposed to these toxins, it can become too much for your body to bounce back from."
The following is a list of DOs and DON'Ts for residents living in hurricane affected areas:
1. Do find out if you or a family member fall into one of the CDC's high-risk groups for mold, which include but are not limited to the following:
· Infants and children
· Elderly people
· Pregnant women
· People with respiratory conditions, such as allergies or asthma
· People who are immune-compromised or who have weakened immune systems
· People who have undergone recent major surgeries
· People who take immune suppressing medication, including oral or nasal steroids
2. Don't perform remediation tasks if you fall into one of the CDCs high risk groups. To best protect your health and property, hire a trained mold professional.
3. Do take the CDCs high-risk group warning seriously. The health of a seemingly 200 lb. strapping young man in his 20s or 30s can become compromised when exposed to mold even if he only has a health history of allergies.
4. Don't, especially if you fall into one of the CDCs high risk groups, live, work, or go to school-if at all possible-in a structure that has been flooded or suffered water damage until it has been properly remediated and passed final clearance testing.
5. Do wear personal protection equipment (PPE) when entering a mold-contaminated structure for even a short duration of time.
6. Don't think that personal protection equipment (PPE) is going to be enough to protect you if you are in a high-risk group. Studies show that spores and spore fragments easily penetrate N-95 and N-100 facemasks.
7. Do use a HEPA air purifier to reduce indoor airborne mold spore counts.
8. Don't use any air purifier as a long-term solution instead of proper remediation.
9. Do use a HEPA air purifier that is sized properly for each room.
10. Don't expect the HEPA filter to last as long in a mold- and bacteria-contaminated environment as it would under more normal conditions.
11. Do at least create a "clean" sleeping room if a HEPA air purifier can't be placed in each room.
12. Don't think that a clean sleeping room is as good a solution as sleeping somewhere else that did not experience water damage.