After torrential rain has devastated parts of Northern NSW and Queensland, en masse clean up efforts are now exposing themselves to a new threat: severe mould exposure. MouldMen Director, Gerard Murtagh, recently spoke of his concerns about the growing risk of mould exposure in the aftermath of the floods.
As a fungus, mould thrives in overly damp environments or the aftermath of water damage and severe flooding. As it feeds on moisture-ridden material, mould rapidly grows, releasing toxic airborne spores which, when inhaled, can be dangerous.
Mr Murtagh established MouldMen after being involved in the clean-up of the Brisbane floods in 2011. While clearing debris and cleaning homes, he quickly realised the growing risk of mould exposure as a result of significant moisture levels.
“I realised there was a need for cost-effective mould remediation,” he said.
Now, the devastating effect of flood damage remains the same, especially when coming into contact with mud and mould.
“The pathogens… in that mud are from faeces and dead animals and silt… that can make you very sick.”
As such, those taking part in the clean-up must wear full personal protective equipment. Gloves, gumboots and a mask “ensures you aren’t breathing in…harmful pathogens from muddy water.”
How To Deal With Mould After Floods/Rain
When it’s time to begin cleaning the home after floods, document all flood-damaged belongings, furniture and structures. Take photos, videos, notes and keep receipts for insurance companies so that your claim is as detailed and as accurate as possible. Then, you can begin to discard damaged items out of the house, including carpets, flooring, underlays, mattresses and couches.
“Anything that is a soft furnishing that has been touched by floodwaters needs to go and put out on the street for collection,” Mr Murtagh advises.
Meanwhile, those who have only drained the water, cleaned the floors and re-entered the home will face long-term consequences if it is not completely remediated, Mr Murtagh warns.
Water-damaged plasterboards and walls potentially retain pathogens and dampness that cannot always be dried out. They must be cut and removed at least 50cm above the waterline. While there are some instances where materials are salvageable, water damage restoration is sometimes a necessary step in the mould remediation process.
“This is the safest way for people to go back into their homes knowing they’re not going to be moving into a home that’s full of wall cavities full of pathogens and…mould growth.” Mr Murtagh assured.
- Document the process of cleaning, removing and remediating flood damage: taking photos, videos and keeping receipts for any insurance claims.
- Discard severely water-damaged items including carpets, furniture, flooring and mattresses.
- Assess the level of mould damage around the home: looking for unpleasant odours, mould surfacing on walls, and bulging paint.
- Organise an inspection to discuss mould remediation, structural drying and water damage restoration services.
Is Mould Dangerous?
In small doses, mould is relatively harmless. However, in overly damp conditions or water-damaged areas, mould can spread fast and relentlessly. This is when it becomes a problem – even healthy individuals without underlying conditions are at risk of developing respiratory discomfort and infections.
In fact, WorkSafe QLD cautions that exposure to mould via inhalation, contact or ingestion can cause eye, nose, sinus and skin irritations, allergic reactions and infection. It can also cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a rare disease that can inflame the lungs when inhaling mould spores.
So when it comes to salvaging your belongings, according to Mr Murtagh, the health risk isn’t always worth it.
“The harm that you’re going to do by having these back into your home and potentially sleeping on them, like a mattress, could be devastating to your health.”
5 Expert Tips When You Have Flood Damage
- If there are salvageable items with small amounts of mould growth, you can turn to hot soapy water mixed with an antibacterial disinfectant. Don’t use bleach – it doesn’t kill mould, only discolours it.
- Mould needs moisture to thrive. Make efforts to dry the affected areas as soon as you can and allow air circulation regularly.
- Remove any severely water-damaged items, soft furnishings, floorboards, clothing and personal belongings from the premises for collection.
- When attempting to remove small patches of mould, wear personal protective equipment, including gloves, gumboots and a mask.
- Do not attempt to remove a mould infestation or large patches of mould to avoid breathing in and aggravating toxic spores that can move around the property.
Are You Suffering From Flood Damage?
It costs nothing to have an inspection completed by MouldMen expert technicians. Reach out today and the team will inspect, treat and provide you with a Mould Management and Prevention Plan.