The warm, humid climate of the areas affected by the recent hurricanes offers a fast recipe for mold accumulation, according to the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA®), which warns of a potential mold epidemic across those regions.
What should homeowners who are attempting to make repairs and do about mold? For starters, they should not attempt to tackle mold problems themselves.
Beyond their control
"The subject of mold can create emotionally charged health concerns for building and homeowners but it does not have to, as long as they realize that mold contamination is beyond their control and employ the help of a qualified professional," said Russell D. Hayward, CIH, AIHA's Managing Director of Scientific and Technical Initiatives. "People must remember to inspect all areas of the property, including items inside it such as furniture, clothing, under carpets, and behind the walls of the structure."
In addition to calling one's insurance company, AIHA suggests contacting a licensed mold inspector (depending on your local laws) or an occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) professional who has specific work experience in dealing with mold evaluation and clean-up. They can look behind the walls of a home and perform indoor air quality testing, as necessary. Many insurance companies will not provide this service. AIHA has created the "Mold Resource Center" which is available to OEHS professionals as well as the general public. It is an online hub of information focused on mold and mold control, including frequently asked questions, general information, additional outside resources, and an industrial hygienist consultants listing.
While AIHA does not recommend that individual building and homeowners use these resources to determine possible problems within their building or home, these resources will help the public ask educated questions when meeting with qualified professionals.
Carbon monoxide a danger as well
"Our hearts go out to all those who have been injured or who have lost family members and friends, homes and livelihoods. We hope all of you know we are ready to help you in any way we can," said Deborah Nelson, PhD, CIH, President of AIHA. "We would also like to give a special warning about carbon monoxide. In the aftermath of disasters, exposure to this potentially fatal gas can occur when generators are in use, or when building or home heating and venting systems have been damaged. For more guidance on returning home, check the Department of Homeland Security's website at Ready.gov."
For questions on these documents please contact Russell Hayward, CIH at firstname.lastname@example.org.