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Protect Yourself from Mold

Highlights

  • People with asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold.
  • If you or your family members have health problems after exposure to mold, contact your doctor or other health care provider.
  • Controlling moisture in your home is the most critical factor for preventing mold growth.
  • If you plan to be inside the building for a while or you plan to clean up mold, you should buy an N95 mask at your local home supply store and wear it while in the building.

After natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, excess moisture and standing water contribute to the growth of mold in homes and other buildings. When returning to a home that has been flooded, be aware that mold may be present and may be a health risk for your family.

People at Greatest Risk from Mold

People with asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold. People with immune suppression (such as people with HIV infection, cancer patients taking chemotherapy, and people who have received an organ transplant) are more susceptible to mold infections.

Possible Health Effects of Mold Exposure

People who are sensitive to mold may experience stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing, or skin irritation. People allergic to mold may have difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath. People with weakened immune systems and with chronic lung diseases, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs. If you or your family members have health problems after exposure to mold, contact your doctor or other health care provider.

Recognizing Mold

You may recognize mold by:

  • Sight. Are the walls and ceiling discolored, or do they show signs of mold growth or water damage?
  • Smell. Do you smell a bad odor, such as a musty, earthy smell or a foul stench?

Safely Preventing Mold Growth

Clean up and dry out the building quickly (within 24 to 48 hours). Open doors and windows. Use fans to dry out the building.

See the fact sheet for drying out your house, Reentering Your Flooded Home.

  • When in doubt, take it out! Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home. Porous, noncleanable items include carpeting and carpet padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, insulation material, some clothing, leather, paper, wood, and food. Removal and cleaning are important because even dead mold may cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • To prevent mold growth, clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water.
  • Homeowners may want to temporarily store items outside of the home until insurance claims can be filed. See recommendations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • If you wish to disinfect, refer to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document, A Brief Guide to Mold and Moisture in Your Home.

If there is mold growth in your home, you should clean up the mold and fix any water problem, such as leaks in roofs, walls, or plumbing. Controlling moisture in your home is the most critical factor for preventing mold growth.

To remove mold growth from hard surfaces use commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Use a stiff brush on rough surface materials such as concrete.

If you choose to use bleach to remove mold:

If you plan to be inside the building for a while or you plan to clean up mold, you should buy an N95 mask at your local home supply store and wear it while in the building. Make certain that you follow instructions on the package for fitting the mask tightly to your face. If you go back into the building for a short time and are not cleaning up mold, you do not need to wear an N95 mask.

Other Mold Resources

Ready: Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed.Social Media at CDC Emergency

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