State health officials are warning New Yorkers to be on the lookout for mold growth if their homes experienced water damage from Irene. Exposure to mold can cause cause adverse health effects in some people.
While not likely to trigger infections in most healthy people, mold infections can compromise those with severely suppressed immune systems. The most common effects from mold are allergic responses from breathing airborne mold -- including aggravated hay fever or asthma symptoms, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat or lungs.
The state Health Department said it's recommending the following steps to reducing the potential risk of mold:
Promptly remove standing water and all porous wet materials such as carpeting, saturated wallboard (sheetrock) and upholstered furniture from the home.
Aggressively ventilate the home to dissipate moisture by opening windows and using fans, if available. Dehumidifiers are useful in enclosed areas or when windows need to be closed because of rain or high humidity.
Clean mold from small areas on hard surfaces, such as wood or concrete, by scrubbing the area with a cleaning rag wetted with diluted detergent. Rubber gloves and a dust mask can be used to minimize direct exposure to contaminants and cleaning products.
Discard porous materials such as drywall, carpeting, upholstered furniture and ceiling tiles with extensive mold growth.
Check routinely for new mold growth or signs of moisture that may indicate the need for cleanup, home repair, or removal of affected materials. A mold problem can usually be seen or smelled. Mold growth may often appear as slightly furry, discolored, or slimy patches that increase in size as they grow. Molds also produce a musty odor that may be the first indication of a problem. The best way to find mold is to examine areas for visible signs of mold growth or water staining, or follow your nose to the source of the odor. Be careful when using household cleaners or disinfectant products. Read and follow all label directions and warning labels before mixing any products. Mixing some products (for example, products containing ammonia and bleach) can create hazardous fumes.
Keep children away from both cleaning products and areas where mold is present. Individuals with known mold allergies or asthma should not clean or remove mold, as their condition may be aggravated.
Hire an experienced professional for a large mold problem, or if you are highly sensitive to mold.