Toxic Waste and Mold in the Wake of a Hurricane

Two of the most elusive and dangerous aftereffects of Hurricane Harvey are mold and the possible toxic waste in the water supply. Residents returning to their homes after the floodwaters recede can’t do much about the water quality, beyond using bottled water or following these methods until tap water is safe again. But they can and should take immediate steps to remove the mold from their waterlogged houses.

Mold thrives in warm, damp, and humid environments. Houston area is all three, even without a hurricane.

Exposure can cause the following minor to very serious health issues, so it is imperative to get rid of it or any mildew as soon as possible.

Wheezing, Runny Nose, Itchy Eyes

The mold itself isn’t the problem here. Its reproductive spores are. They carry mycotoxins and cause irritation in the lungs and nasal passages, as well as rashes, for people with allergies or compromised immune systems.

Fever, Pneumonia, Fungal Infection

More serious symptoms of mold reaction can include a fever, upper respiratory inflammation, and an internal fungal infection. People who suffer from asthma or an immunological disorder are more at risk for these symptoms. Treatment involves IV antibiotics.

Mold Treatment and Removal

Frankly, there is no easy way to get rid of mold once it’s taken hold. The most effective removal method is to simply take out the drywall and carpet. Mold spores grow just about anywhere. So removing the source is the best way to ensure it’s really gone.

The EPA has guidelines on at-home mold removal so a homeowner can do it safely. They recommend:

  1. A solution of bleach and water
  2. Using protective gloves and safety goggles
  3. Opening all windows to avoid inhaling the bleach solution

Toxic Waste Water

Houston is the site of several Superfund toxic waste sites. Recent tests have shown chemicals in the water supply. Residents should boil tap water, follow these instructions, or use bottled water until the water is clear. Those residents who use well water should have samples tested to ensure the safety of the groundwater after a hurricane.


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