As many residents here in Connecticut continue to clean up after the devastating effects of Hurricane Irene, those with property damaged by floodwaters should waste no time in preventing the spread of mold. In fact, if water damage is extensive, you can be sure that the spores are already beginning to spread in all the damp dark places, even if you can’t see it yet. Remember the green and black kind (stachybotrys charatum) is extremely toxic, and loves to grow on anything made from cellulose, including wood, paper, upholstery, gypsum board, fiberboard, ceiling tiles and wallpaper, etc.
While spores are invisible to the naked eye, you will know that they are present if normally healthy people have trouble breathing, have sudden nasal congestion and are coughing and sneezing. Those who breathe in the spores often experience headaches and fatigue as well as soreness in the mouth, throat and nose that can cause chronic coughing and other allergic reactions such as a rash and sneezing. In the worst cases, breathing in the mold can also lead to extreme nausea and heavy vomiting, as well as bleeding in the nose and lungs, and possibly death. Therefore, it is vitally important that it is removed as quickly and safely as possible.
While it is commonly believed that you can use chlorine bleach to kill black mold, those attempting it will soon discover that using it only serves to “mask” its appearance giving them a mistaken sense of security. In actuality, bleach is not powerful enough to destroy the mildew at its roots, and it can still grow and spread despite the dousing. This is because bleach, itself is made primarily of water, which ends up encouraging more growth after initial cleaning. In addition, chlorine bleach is not strong enough to penetrate wood and/or drywall, so while the surface may appear clean, the spores can continue to breed inside them.
Instead, it is better to use some of the newer natural products now on the market that not only remove the fungus, but also prevent it from returning by “starving” it of the nutrients necessary for it to survive. They are also safer for both humans and pets, since a great deal of household cleansers on the market can also be toxic in their own right. These can easily be found in supermarkets, hardware stores and online.
Begin your clean-up by using a rag or sprayer to dampen down the affected area, and then apply the mold killing solution as per directions on the bottle. At the same time, be sure to remove any damaged wallpaper, cloth materials (including carpeting) and books, magazines and other moldy papers and throw them out them immediately. If they are items you want to keep, be sure to let them dry thoroughly in sunlight after applying any mold killers to them before they are put back in your home or office. Always make sure that there is plenty of ventilation wherever you are working. In addition, use a mask to cover your nose and mouth to prevent breathing in both the spores and chemicals being used. Keep children and animals away from them to prevent them from becoming sick.
While cleaning items such as tile, glass and even hard plastic is relatively easy, in severe cases of mold infiltration, however, retail mold removal products may not be enough, and you might need to hire a professional remediation company to do the job. This is especially true where there has been extreme damage due to floods, as well as fire, where it becomes necessary to remove moldy drywall, wood and cement. These companies are generally contracted by insurance companies to do work on property whenever there is a lot of structural damage due to black mold. A professional business specializing in waterproofing basements are also qualified to repair this kind of damage and will also be able to fix things so the mold will cannot come back.
Contact you insurance company if you need help finding a professional mold cleaning service.
To learn more about dealing with mold, residents should contact the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection at 79 Elm St., Hartford, CT 06106, 860-424-3000.