~~The immediate danger from rain and floods in the Hunter Valley of NSW may now be over, but those returning to their homes need to be aware of several potential health risks that will continue to plague the already devastated communities.
"One of the most widespread dangers after a flood is the rising damp – as flood affected homes produce an ideal growth environment for mould - it's moist inside and there's 'organic' material (such as walls, ceiling tile or carpet padding made from natural fibres), which allows for the germination of mould spores,"says Juliet Duffy, Occupational Hygienist at Regional Enviroscience.
The health risks come from actually breathing in these mould spores, which can provoke health issues, including sinus infections and congestion, coughing and breathing problems, and irritation of the eyes or skin and it can also worsen asthma and allergic conditions. People most at risk include those with weakened immune systems, allergies, severe asthma and chronic, obstructive or allergic lung diseases.
Mould grows best in damp and poorly ventilated areas, and reproduces by making spores. Airborne mould spores are commonly found in both indoor and outdoor environments. When they land on damp spots indoors, they may begin to grow and spread.
"Mould can begin to grow within 48 hours from when flooding first occurs," says Juliet. "Generally, if you can see or smell mould, you need to clean up and remove the mould immediately because mould can damage what it grows on. The longer it grows the more damage it can cause."
Small areas of mould can be cleaned using a damp cloth and detergent solution, vinegar solution or alcohol solution. Mould treatments available in stores can bleach mould, but may not kill it. It's also important to remove sources of moisture that are allowing mould to grow. After flooding, clean and disinfect all affected surfaces inside the house, including floors, walls, the kitchen, bathroom and laundry.
Other physical health issues after the flood can include bacterial infections from buildings being in contact with sewerage contaminated water.
Builders and insurance companies who are involved in the flood clean-up are more aware of the ongoing issues of mould and bacteria. "We have seen an increasing interest in mould and bacteria air testing and clearance certification’ says Juliet, ‘experience has shown that if a property being rebuilt or repaired has not had all mould affected materials removed and be cleaned properly, then mould will invariably return. This clearance ensures the job has been done properly."
For more information please contact Juliet Duffy on 0407 120 325 www.enviroscience.com.au
Juliet Duffy holds a Master of Sustainable Management from Sydney University and has been managing environmental health issues since 1988. Juliet is Director of Regional Enviroscience – an asbestos & hazardous materials laboratory and occupational health consultancy based in regional NSW - Hunter Valley, Central NSW and the Riverina.
Regional Enviroscience are Occupational Hygienists looking after health with over 20 years combined experience. Specialists in asbestos testing, asbestos air monitoring, asbestos building registers and asbestos management plans, mould and bacteria clearance. Enviroscience is based in regional NSW including Central West/Orana, Riverina and Hunter Valley. We are members of the NSW Government Occupational Hygiene Panel, are preferred contractors for NSW Government asbestos air monitoring and work with major government departments, agencies and multinationals on NSW regionally based Asbestos and hazardous materials projects.
M: 0407 120 325