May brought a series of powerful storms to large parts of Texas and the Gulf Coast. Many regions experienced severe flooding that caused tragic deaths and widespread damage to people's homes, schools and businesses.
Once the water receded, the arduous task of cleaning up the mess and repairing the damage began. During flood cleanup, the indoor air quality of a building may appear to be the least of one's problems. However, failure to remove contaminated materials safely and to reduce moisture and humidity can cause serious long-term health risks for building occupants.
Standing water and wet materials are a breeding ground for microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria and mold. Many of these contaminants can become airborne and be inhaled causing disease and triggering allergic reactions long after the flood.
Moisture in a structure is an indoor air quality concern for a number of reasons, including:
* Microorganisms brought into a building during flooding may present a health hazard. These organisms can penetrate deep into soaked, porous materials and later be released into the air.
* High humidity and moist materials provide an ideal environment for the explosive growth of microorganisms that were already present in the home before the flood.
* In addition, long-term increases in humidity in a building can also foster the presence of large numbers of dust mites. Dust mites are a major cause of allergic reactions and are a known asthma trigger.
"While cleanup and repairs take place in Texas, there are a number of potential hazards people need to be aware of to prevent property damage from turning into health concerns," said Hollis L. Horner, President of Indoor Environmental Consultants, Inc. "These include everything from microorganisms and lead-based paints to asbestos. IEC's building science and indoor environmental quality experts provide testing for these types of contaminants and pollutants. These services not only help to protect those tasked with cleaning and repairing flood damaged structures, but also helps to ensure the safety for all future building occupants."