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Mold Prevention in the Wake of Hurricane Isabel

Release Date: 9/22/2003
Contact Information: Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

PHILADELPHIA – In our recent fight with Hurricane Isabel we battled with buckets, vacs and mops. Now that the waters have receded, what’s left behind could be enough to make you sick.

You may notice musty odors in areas that were once flooded. These odors can be a sign of rapidly growing microorganisms. Wet or moist rugs, floors, furniture, walls and other materials are a breeding ground for viruses, bacteria, fungi and mold that can trigger allergic reactions long after the waters recede.

To help alleviate your problems, take steps to dry out your home as quickly and thoroughly as you can, before the mold takes over. Remaining excess moisture can cause indoor airborne health risks when molds and mildews release allergens. These biological pollutants can cause health problems. Symptoms include sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath. Also, high humidity in the home can foster the growth of dust mites, a major cause of allergic reactions and asthma.

Wet materials should be discarded. Throwing away some items may be difficult, especially those with sentimental value. However, keeping items soaked with water may be unhealthy. As a rule, discard materials that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried because they can be a breeding ground for toxic microbes. Musty items can pose a health risk even if they appear dry because microorganisms can still be releasing toxins.

Cleaning up after a flood means thoroughly washing and disinfecting walls, rugs, floors, and closets. In most cases, you can use common household cleaning products and disinfectants. Be careful to use them properly because many of them also contain toxic substances.

Read and follow label instructions carefully, and provide fresh air by opening windows and doors. If it’s safe for you to use electricity and your home is dry, use fans both during and after using cleaning agents.

Be patient. Drying out can take several weeks. The growth of microorganisms will continue as long as humidity is high. If the house is not dried out properly, a musty odor, signifying growth of microorganisms, can remain long after the flood.

For more information on flood clean-up and mold issues, access EPA’s website: and, or contact:

Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse
P.O. Box 37133
Washington, D.C. 20013-7133
Phone: 800-438-4318
E-mail at:

Flood cleanup may require the services of a professional contractor. For more information, access EPA’s website:

Radio Editor's Note: An EPA audio file containing three short sound bites on this topic is available in mp3. See our new radio news webpage