Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published April 30, 2009, 08:02 PM

Mold is a growing problem in flood-damaged homes

MOORHEAD – If your home was affected in the recent flooding it could be harboring mold.

By: Federal Emergency Management Agency,

MOORHEAD – If your home was affected in the recent flooding it could be harboring mold.

Mold can be a major problem after flooding and proper cleanup is critical to ensure that it does not affect you or your family’s health, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Carefully clean and completely dry any areas of the home that have gotten wet from floodwaters. This will help prevent structural damage and adverse health effects from mold. Some areas may need weeks or even months to dry out completely.

As a special service, the University of Minnesota Extension Service in Clay County recently received a few moisture meters for residents to borrow. The handheld devices have two probes that are pressed to the material like wood, drywall or flooring to read moisture content. Meters are available first-come-first served and can be reserved by calling (210) 299-5020. A returnable $100 deposit is required.

Mold, health concerns

Mold growth is a common occurrence in flood-damaged homes and damp environments. Mold could become a problem in your home if there is enough moisture available to allow mold to thrive and multiply. Dampness in basements, walls, carpets and wood provides an environment for mold to flourish.

Mold is made up of simple microscopic organisms that are found virtually everywhere. It can often be seen in the form of discoloration, ranging from white to orange and from green to brown and black. Mold also gives off a musty or earthy smell. The state of Minnesota recommends that residents investigate – don’t test – if you see discolorations and/or smell the “mustiness” you should simply treat the area.

Exposure to mold can cause health problems. Infants, children, immune-compromised patients, pregnant women, individuals with existing respiratory conditions, (allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity, and asthma) and the elderly appear to be at higher risks for adverse health effects from mold.

Health symptoms known to be associated with exposure to mold include nose and throat irritation, wheeze, cough, asthma attacks in individuals who have asthma, and lower respiratory tract infections (in children). People with pre-existing respiratory conditions may also be susceptible to more serious lung infections.

Mold prevention tips

There is no practical way for you to eliminate all of the molds and mold spores in the indoor environment. But there are many ways to help control moisture and mold growth in your home. The basic rule is, if you can see or smell mold, take steps to eliminate the excess moisture, and to cleanup and remove the mold. It is important to quickly identify and correct any moisture sources before health problems develop.

Stop the water

– Fix leaks in pipes, and any damp area around tubs and sinks, so mold spores don’t have a growing environment.

– Rebuild or retrofit with water-resistant building materials such as tile, stone, deep-sealed concrete, galvanized or stainless steel hardware, indoor/outdoor carpeting, waterproof wallboard, water-resistant glues and so on.

– Prevent seepage of water from outdoors into your house. It’s important to have rainwater from gutters or the roof drain away from the house. Ground around the house needs to slope away to keep basement and crawl space dry.

– Cover dirt in crawl spaces with plastic to prevent moisture from coming from the ground. Ventilate the area as much as possible.

Keep it clean

– Clean fabrics, such as curtains and upholstery, often and keep them dry, because soil promotes mold growth.

– Store clean fabric items in well-ventilated areas.

– Consider having air ducts cleaned professionally if you suspect mold exists on the inside surface of the duct or if duct insulation has been wet.

Keep it dry

– Reduce the moisture in the air with dehumidifiers, fans and open windows or air conditioners, especially in hot weather. Do not use fans if mold may already exist; a fan will spread the mold spores.

– Try to keep the humidity in your home below 40 percent.

– In moisture-prone areas, choose carpets of man-made fibers.

– Reduce potential for condensation on cold surfaces by insulating.

Disinfect it

– Routinely check potential problem spots like the basement, bathroom and laundry for moldy odors.

– Disinfect often with a 10 percent solution of bleach - about ½-1/4 cup of bleach to a gallon of water.

Minnesota Department of Health provides a comprehensive description of how to deal with mold during a disaster. It also has links to other helpful sites. For more information, connect to

Valuable information is also available from the Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Information Center Web site Home Energy Guide: Techniques, Tactics and Tips —

A helpful brochure on the FEMA Web site is titled Dealing With Mold & Mildew In Your Flood-Damaged Home at

FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery and mitigation, to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards, including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.