Floods Health Risk


Floods Health Risk

Floods and mould lead to health risk for asthma

The National Asthma Council Australia is advising people with asthma who live in areas hit by flooding and heavy rains in Queensland and New South Wales to be extra cautious when starting the clean-up of their homes.

Any flood-affected residents and volunteer cleaners will face difficult conditions including mould that could trigger asthma and allergy symptoms.

National Asthma Council Australia spokesperson, Professor Sheryl Van Nunen, said the recent rain, high humidity and warm temperatures provide excellent conditions for the growth and spread of toxic mould that can be damaging to health.

"When mould is present, small particles called spores are released in the air, which can trigger asthma and allergy symptoms. The symptoms can include nose, eye and skin irritation, coughing, sneezing or wheezing and severe reactions in some people.

"Reducing the amount of moisture as soon as possible is the best way to control mould growth, so do a thorough clean and open all the doors and windows to dry out the area as quickly as possible. If you can, use fans or dehumidifiers to speed up the process," she said.

Professor Van Nunen said it is important to eliminate the source of mould growth, as well as cleaning visible mould, to stop it from regrowing.

"Unfortunately, bleach will remove visible mould but won't kill the spores underneath and it may also irritate sensitive noses.

"We recommend that everything that has been touched by floodwaters will need to go and this includes soft furnishings like carpets, floor underlays, mattresses, cushions and couches.

"Depending on the extent of the flooding, some residents may be able to remove visible mould on hardwood furnishings by cleaning with naturally fermented white vinegar solution or other mould-reduction cleaners.

"However, even if you have thoroughly cleaned your home you can still have problems with mould. It can grow in places we don't even think to look - walls, clothes, books and toys, so anything that has touched floodwater should ideally be removed and discarded safely," she said.

The National Asthma Council Australia has issued the following mould prevention checklist:

• Dry or remove wet carpets and furnishings as soon as you can
• Be ruthless with the clean out, if possible – hidden damp can cause ongoing problems
• Consider using a dehumidifier to help dry out the space
• Remove any visible mould by cleaning with naturally fermented white vinegar solution
• Keep an eye out for mould in the unflooded areas of the house
• If you have concerns about asthma for yourself or a family member, see your health professional.

For more information on asthma and allergies, visit the National Asthma Council Australia website.


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