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As the floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey begin to recede, many will return to their homes to assess damage and start the long process to clean up and rebuild. This raises questions about potential health risks that may be lurking in the standing water and muddy sludge left behind, as well as within water-damaged walls, floors and furniture. Experts at Baylor College of Medicine have compiled an overview of precautions to take and what to look out for when returning to homes that experienced flooding.
"A few key things to keep in mind when returning to your home after a flood are personal protection, stability of the structure and developing an action plan for cleanup, including safe cleaning techniques and proper disposal of waste," said Dr. Rebecca Bruhl, assistant professor of medicine-general medicine and associate director of the Environmental Health Service at Baylor. "It's important to appropriately protect yourself whenever you enter a flood-damaged or moldy building by wearing an N95 face mask, hat, heavy rubber gloves, goggles, clothing with long sleeves and pant legs, closed-toed shoes with rubber soles and disposable shoe covers. Also, be sure to cover any open wounds with a watertight bandage."
Exposures - Pathogens - Mold - Bacteria - Contaminants
Protecting yourself will help limit exposures to potentially dangerous pathogens such as mold and bacteria, as well as other likely contaminants such as industrial chemicals, pesticides, arsenic and lead. Avoid direct contact with any standing water or flood debris in or around your home, wash all clothing worn during clean-up activities separately in hot water with detergent, and thoroughly wash after clean-up activities and before eating.
"Additionally, individuals with asthma or other respiratory conditions or weakened immune systems should not help with clean-up activities," Bruhl said.
Home - Time - Wait - Home - Return
Before returning to a flooded home for the first time, wait until it is safe to get to your home, and return only...
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