Thursday, 26 November 2009

After every flood comes an even more damaging blight: mould


In a week that has seen extensive flooding in the UK and Ireland it is timely to look at the damage caused by moulds growing on all the damp materials left when the floodwaters recede. Many materials including building materials such as plasterboard will absorb and hold on to water long enough to allow the growth of moulds. They are difficult to dry out and it only takes 48 hours of damp to result in large amounts of fungal growth particularly in places where little sunlight shines.

So what next?
Clearing up is largely a case of throwing out all materials that are mouldy and cannot be cleaned e.g.soft furnishings, carpets, clothing, units and furniture made out of chipboard, wallpaper. Drying out homes as quickly as possible is a high priority as moulds can grow in hidden cavities and prefers to keep out of the light.
There are extensive instructions on how to clean up here - on the right hand side under the heading 'Emergencies: Floods and Hurricanes'.

Health Effects
There are many potential health effects of living in a damp mould affected house and the discussions on this subject are plentiful. There are two recent review publications that go into this subject in some detail, both published this year (2009), the first one being written by a prominent fungal researcher who herself  lives in New Orleans and whose home was flooded:

Here in the UK we have the National Aspergillosis Centre which specialises in the treatment of all aspergillus infections and is closely affiliated with the Regional Mycology Laboratory in Manchester which has a large amount of expertise in the investigation of indoor mould. RML is run by Professor Malcolm Richardson who advised the World Health Organisation on indoor health effects of  fungi amongst others and is a Professor of Medical Mycology at Manchester University.
The US have a (voluntary) certification scheme for mold remediating companies, many run by the Indoor Air Quality Association. The Environmental Protection Agency have a listing of the associations involved here.

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