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Flood Advice from Health Friendly Air

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Damp materials or high humidity environments contribute to preferential conditions for mould growth. Moulds are capable of colonising and persisting on a vast array of surfaces due to their role in nature in the decomposition and nutrient recycling process in the environment. After flooding or water damage has occurred, insufficient remediation of the affected buildings can lead to favourable conditions for mould/fungal growth, both visible and hidden. Floor coverings such as vinyl, laminate and carpets as well as underlying insulation should be replaced where necessary. Where not replaced or left untreated, flooring can act as a favourable substrate for microbial growth. Additionally, any underflooring materials such as chipboard or joists should be replaced without hesitation if damaged, while any modifications such as cracks, heaves or discolouration may be indicative of damage that needs to remediated.

Ensuring that buildings are dried effectively post-flooding may minimise the growth of mould. Air circulation and humidity are critical factors to consider when drying out a flood damaged building. The buildings can be allowed to dry naturally, which can take months. Alternatively, the process may be forced so that it only takes a number of weeks. Using dehumidifiers, fans or heaters can expedite the drying process. Whichever drying route is chosen, it is important that the moisture trapped within the structure of the building is removed effectively. Sometimes the walls may feel dry on the outside but they are still damp internally. Temperature alone will not dry the building as appropriate levels of ventilation are necessary to allow the moisture to evaporate.

The OPW gives comprehensive guidance for remediation following a water damage or flood event, including:
Ensure that brickwork is adequately dried out by maximising ventilation where possible. As drying proceeds the condition of the brickwork should be closely monitored as further evidence of shrinking, cracking and rising damp may be present. Insulation that has become wet should be removed. Interior decor such as wallpaper should be removed to allow improved drying and observation of the integrity of brickwork.Thorough disinfection of windows and glass with all frames and sashes monitored for distortion and swelling.Where wood features do not dry adequately over a period of a few weeks it is possible that decay may take place. Where necessary, these materials should be removed. Even where the wood may have dried out, distortion may become an issue. Close observation for signs of mould growth and prompt remediation is of utmost importance.

Contact Graeme Tarbox if you have any questions on the issues raised in this article: gtarbox@airmidhealthgroup.com or +353 1 633 6820.

References
http://www.flooding.ie
http://www.epa.gov/iedweb00/flood/index.html

Crook, B. and N.C Burton, (2010). Indoor moulds, Sick Building Syndrome and building related illness. Fungal Biology Reviews, 24; 106 – 113.

Zhang, X., Sahlberg, B., Wieslander, G., Janson, C., Gislason, T. and D. Norback, (2012). Dampness and moulds in workplace buildings: Associations with incidence and remission of sick building syndrome (SBS) and biomarkers of inflammation in a 10 year follow-up study. Science of the Total Environment, 430; 75 – 81.

 

About health friendly air™
We are an Irish clinician led group with a multidisciplinary team of medical specialists, occupational hygiene specialists and scientists. We audit and monitor the parameters in indoor air most likely to adversely impact on human health. We offer comprehensive testing for thermal, physical, chemical and gaseous factors and our capacity to monitor for surface and airborne mould contamination is crucially important. Our unique integrated approach is a combination of our occupational hygienists testing and collecting samples with state of the art equipment, advanced laboratory analysis of samples and our health specialists interpreting the results in the context of possible adverse health effects.

health friendly air™ can carry out air quality audits that clearly identify contaminants (specifically mould/fungi) determining their levels ensuring that remediation of the building has been thorough. As some fungal spores, both viable and non-viable, can cause health issues HFA uses a ‘spore trap’ method therefore capturing both. These results will assess the levels of spores within the area sampled and will be an indicator if there is a problem with hidden mould from water damage or flooding.