Watch out for mold problems after Sandy

November 20, 2012

The cleanup from Sandy continues with Delaware now seeing one of the potentially hidden challenges from flooding - mold. The Delaware Division of Public Health reminds Delawareans of the importance of completely cleaning and drying any home or business hit by excessive rain or flood waters.

“Mold is linked to a number of health problems, including allergies and asthma,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. “In extreme cases, mold can cause severe illness. Cleaning up mold quickly and safely following any flooding is important to protecting you and your family’s health.”

To fight mold, immediately following flooding, residents should follow these steps:  Remove standing water using water pumps and fans.  Remove damaged or moldy materials; wallboard, carpet, furniture, etc. that has been wet for more than 48 hours should be considered for removal and replacement.  Use dehumidifiers to remove moisture that has soaked into building materials and furnishings that are otherwise intact.

Do not depend only on sight or smell to determine if all mold is gone. A hygrometer (which measures moisture in the air) is an important tool to determine when drying is complete. Hygrometers can be purchased at hardware stores or online and can be found for a little as $5 to $10.

After the recovery from an event is complete, routine maintenance such as sealing foundation cracks and other water intrusion points is vital, plus monitoring and maintaining humidity between 35-55 percent as measured by the hygrometer. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the HVAC system can help prevent future mold problems.

“Mold is not only a problem in warm weather; it can still grow in colder temperatures,” said Thom May, DPH Health Systems Protection director. “And, while it is cold outside, the heat inside a home can easily create an environment for mold regardless of the weather.”

DPH’s Health Systems Protection has been in the field in Delaware providing guidance and analysis of potential mold problems in homes and businesses. DPH staff were part of an assessment team that included local county, state and federal staff who worked to assess areas that were particularly hard hit by the hurricane and flooding. Based upon reports from residents, the team traveled to communities throughout Sussex County to inspect the area and assess the extent of the damage.

While the intent was to get a perspective of the damaged neighborhoods, DPH staff were able to personally connect with affected residents, providing immediate support in the form of cleaning and remediation advice and referral to other needed services. The team was able to provide comfort to homeowners with advice and recommendations and continues to support residents affected by the event.

“Mold does not cause a lot of problems itself, but can make many health problems worse,” said Jamie Mack, DPH program manager. “The residences we have seen range from complete devastation to almost no visible change, but all are susceptible to mold anytime water is present.”

For fact sheets on flood preparedness and recovery, visit For further information or advice on mold remediation, call Health Systems Protection at 302-744-4859.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency and protecting vulnerable populations.


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