How to get rid of the fungus among us from the hurricane

BY HEATHER DUBIN |  Mold removal might top your spring cleaning to-do list if your home or business was flooded by Hurricane Sandy.

With warmer temperatures on the horizon, Graffiti Community Ministries, a Baptist church on E. Seventh St., held a mold-awareness and cleanup seminar on Monday night March 4. Put together by the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, and the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the event drew about 15 people, who learned how to identify mold, and safely get rid of it.

“If you can’t see it, go by smell,” said Andrew McCartor, a regional program director for Blacksmith Institute, who specializes in environmental health training and led the session. He instructed locals to follow their nose to a “musty, like an old towel, distinct dank earthy smell,” to find the culprit, which could be hidden between pieces of material. “Mold can eat glue,” he added. A telltale visual is a fuzzy material or discolored walls and ceilings.

Mold buries its roots into materials, and once it grows stems, spores are released from the seedpod.

“That’s what we are worried about,” said McCartor. While mold only thrives in damp conditions, if it’s in a basement, and a door opens to a living room, the spores will travel upstairs.

Its adverse effects include: breathing difficulties, cold symptoms, a cough, or wheezing. Pets are equally susceptible.

“Dead and dry mold is just as dangerous as live growing spores,” McCartor explained. “It’s a health hazard to you.” The bottom line — get the mold out.

To do this, McCartor outlined a five-step process. First, “muck-out,” or remove everything from the flooded area that isn’t stone, concrete or part of the structure. Next, gut: Take away any wet or damaged building materials, like drywall and paneling. Then, clean all mold and mud, top to bottom. Follow by drying with dehumidifiers in the middle of the room, elevated if possible, and windows closed. Use fans to blow air out to create a low-pressure situation. Finally, rebuild.

He discussed how to use safety equipment for cleanup — such as an N95 respirator, a protective suit, gloves, brushes, soap, towels and safety glasses — and attendees received a free bag filled with these items.

“Tape up your suit if it’s too big so you won’t rub up against mold,” he noted. “And take off the suit in the basement or outside when you’re done.” Clear plastic sheeting in doorways prevents contamination, reduces air flow and lowers spore count. Also, use a HEPA vacuum.

Locals were advised to use soap and warm water on mold instead of biocides.

“It’s good enough,” McCartor said. “You don’t have to kill it, you have to just remove it.”

A mold seminar offered at the church on Nov. 5, led by Hurricane Katrina recovery workers, recommended ShockWave, an E.P.A.-registered disinfectant, for removal.

However, McCartor explained, “There were health concerns about untrained people using it [biocides] incorrectly and hurting themselves.”

If you use a contractor for the cleanup, do your research.

“There is no certification for contractors dealing with hurricane removal here,” McCartor pointed out. See if the contractor has worked in your neighborhood, if clients were happy, and ask for a detailed plan. Use a moisture meter, a handheld device to gauge the moisture of materials and surfaces.

There will be 15 to 20 training sessions for New York area neighborhoods that were flooded. A community disaster relief, muck-out and mold-training seminar will be held at the Graffiti Church on Mon., March 18, at 7 p.m.

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9 Responses to How to get rid of the fungus among us from the hurricane

  1. Hi Heather,
    What an absolutely terrific service to the residents suffering the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Hopefully, the attendee count will rise as the additional training sessions are rolled out to the residents so desperately in need of assistance.
    More awareness is definitely needed to assist these people. The health concerns and exposure risks that many have lived with are very real and sadly will continue to be so for many more months to come.
    Mr. Andrew McCartor's "five step mold remediation" program for removing mold and basic restoration is spot on. And, I like that his plan is narrowly focused, to the point and easy to digest and execute.
    Great Read Heather and Best,

  2. Good to see someone offering sensible advice for mold removal for homeowners. Not all homeowners are capable or equipped to do this kind of work, but that's what professionals are for.

  3. Great post, Great content. I am regularly to blogging and i genuinely appreciate your content. I agree with you about the write-up. I’m going to bookmark your web-site and keep checking for new info. Thank you for this impressive share. runescape high

  4. My garden is suffering from fungus. Good thing that I read this post. All the tips here would be useful and surely this is effective.

  5. Thanks for the advice on mold removal.I really appreciate it.

  6. Man, mold is the bane of my life. Thanks for the handy tips.

  7. You have shared a great and very informative post about mold. They are very dangerous and should be removed immediately before they cause any allergies to you.

  8. I thought the new taxes were to pay for this !

  9. Fungus is dangerous for your families health. Even through standard damp in the home without a natural disaster. Every home owner should be wary about the health issues damp and fungi can have families.

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