The next battle in the huge cleanup of south Louisiana will be waged against mold.
As floodwaters recede, residents are tearing out soggy flooring and drywall to prevent the growth of mold.
The fungus mostly affects people with allergies and asthma and those with compromised immune systems, said Dr. Kenny Cole, of Baton Rouge General Medical Center, but living with mold long-term is dangerous.
"It’s much, much better to remove everything, get it wiped out early," said Cole, a lead physician for the health care system. "Remove any and all possibilities of mold spores and all that just to make sure this doesn’t become a long-term issue."
While many healthy people will not have a negative reaction to mold exposure, Cole said many people in south Louisiana live with untreated asthma and allergies.
Mold triggers an allergic response in many people that can result in symptoms that include runny nose and sneezing. For those with asthma, living with mold can cause asthma attacks. People with compromised immune systems — those who have undergone bone marrow transplantation or those who have had certain types of chemotherapy — can be affected my mold, as well.
If you have asthma and allergies, Cole recommends using an N95 respirator mask while cleaning your home after the flood.
To avoid mold growth in your home, the LSU AgCenter recommends taking the following actions:
- Remove wet carpeting, carpet pads and wet draperies and upholstery as soon as possible.
- Cut into the drywall and remove the wet insulation beneath.
- Use heaters, air conditioners and fans to speed the drying of subfloors, slabs and wall studs.
- Use a moisture meter to ensure the moisture content of studs and joists drops below 20 percent moisture before covering with new paneling, drywall or flooring.
- Clean with nonphosphate detergents such as Simple Green. Phosphate residue encourages mold growth.