Seek Trusted Resources for Flood-Related Health Information

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June 11th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Safety is top priority in flood preparation, response

The Internet can be fun and informative; however, it’s important to remember that not all information presented on the Web is accurate. Especially when it comes to health information, it’s wise to consult reputable and trusted websites, such as those maintained by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A recent example of inaccurate health advice is in regards to flood preparation and the use of bleach.

Bleach can be effective in cleaning and sanitizing basements and items after flooding occurs, but there is no research to show that leaving open containers or tablets of bleach in basements is effective in preventing mold growth. “Leaving bleach out in the open, especially in large quantities, is a concern because undiluted bleach is corrosive,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk.

“If it comes into contact with skin, it can cause skin irritation. Bleach mixed with other chemicals, such as ammonia, can cause breathing difficulties, and will cause gastrointestinal damage if accidently ingested by an unsupervised child.”

Mold is naturally-occurring and can be found everywhere in the environment, both indoors and outdoors. Mold will grow in areas where moisture is present. Mold growth, which often looks like spots, can be many different colors, and can smell musty. Exposure to mold can cause a variety of health effects, or none at all.

The most common health complaints are allergic symptoms (runny nose, and itchy eyes) due to mold allergies. If you have an existing health condition such as asthma, emphysema or COPD, it can make those conditions worse.

If you think you are experiencing a serious health problem due to mold, you should consult your health care provider.

(Press Release, Iowa Dept. of Public Health)