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Did floodwaters slosh into your Miami or Broward home? A toxic invader could be next

Miami Herald - 6/13/2024

It’s hard to keep rising street flooding out of your home or business. A leaky window or roof. A passage under the front door or the sliding glass.

Once the water goes down and you’ve dried the place up, a toxic invader can move in.


Mold can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Exposure can cause asthma attacks, eye and skin irritation and allergic reactions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those who are immunocompromised can even get severe infections from mold exposure.

You may have to deal with mold after storms.

Here’s what to know about navigating a home with mold damage:

Toxic exposure

How to protect yourself: The water from a storm or flood can bring sewage and chemicals into your home or business, exposing you to viruses, bacteria and parasites. If you’re entering a flooded home, be ready to protect yourself. The CDC recommends wearing goggles, gloves, waterproof boots, an N95 respirator, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants while inside a damaged home.

Hazards:Before entering, make sure officials say it is safe, with no structural or electrical hazards.

Document damage:When inside, photograph your home and belongings and contact your insurance company.

Cleaning up

DIY or a professional:You can start cleanup — or hire a mold inspection or remediation professional. The first thing you should do, the CDC says, is drain standing water and remove wet items.

Drying out:Start drying your home as quickly as possible, removing water from floors and carpets using a wet vac. Drying your home prevents further mold damage. If you don’t dry everything within two days, you will likely have growth, according to the CDC. Just because you can’t see or smell mold doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The fungi can hide under carpets and walls.

Air flow:Make sure to let air flow around your home by opening all doors, windows, closets, cabinets and attics as you work. You should also remove drawers, wipe them clean and stack them to dry. Leave doors and windows open when you leave your home.

Tarps:The CDC recommends you seal off moldy areas with plastic tarps until they’re completely cleaned. Items that can’t be disinfected and dried should be thrown away.

Cleaning solutions:Use water and detergent, but never mix cleaning products together. Some combinations, such as bleach and ammonia, can create toxic vapors.

Painting: Avoid painting or caulking over mold as it is not an effective measure at preventing the fungi from growing.

Hiring a professional

Mold experts: Dealing with mold can be difficult. That’s why it’s best to hire a licensed remediation expert or industrial hygienist, said Zachary Greer, vice president of 911 Restoration in Sunrise.

Taking samples:Mold remediators, mold assessors and industrial hygienists identify mold spores by taking air quality and swab samples, to develop a plan for the home, Greer said.

Containment:The first thing remediation professionals do, Greer said, is contain the mold areas to prevent spread. “Spores are invisible to the naked eye, so sometimes it’s hard to see if or when cross contamination is happening,” he said.

Removal:These professionals then remove damaged drywall and run a negative air pressure machine, which runs air through five filters to purify it, Greer said. This helps stop the spread of the fungi, which becomes airborne as walls and flooring are removed.

Ozone machines:Though used by many homeowners cleaning up mold, ozone machines should not be used as an air filtration system, Greer said. They’re used more for odor control. “If you kill the smell, then now you really don’t know if you have a real problem there because everything smells fine,” Greer said. “Getting rid of the smell almost counteracts proper remediation protocols because now I really have no idea what’s going on in the property.”

DIY: Alex LeBeau, chair of the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s indoor environmental quality committee, also recommends homeowners stay away from mold remediation DIY projects. A homeowner without experience may not know how to contain the mold or properly remedy the situation. “You may be releasing mold spores into the rest of the house where it was not impacted,” LeBeau said. “That’s where not only the issue for additional growth comes in, but the potential for health impact.”

Industrial hygiene: Hiring an industrial hygienist will give the homeowner a better idea of how the mold started, he said. A hygienist may even map the moisture in the home and run thermal imaging to find points of origin, such as cracks in the home’s foundation or roof leaks. Hygienists, LeBeau said, also sample the mold to send the swabs to a lab before prescribing what needs to be done to fix the problem — and protect the home in the future. After remediation, they may even run tests to ensure it’s free of mold.


Staying in the home: If you need to stay in the damaged home as you clean up, the CDC suggests you seal off a clean room to sleep. Leave your shoes and other items outside the room and always shower and wash your hair before going to bed — although it’s best to avoid showering in a home with a mold problem. You should also open a window for fresh air, but make sure it’s away from moldy debris piles. If possible, try to reduce your exposure to the fungi by spending time outdoors and visiting public places.

A/C use:Avoid turning on the air conditioner until the home is inspected because it can increase dampness and spread mold into different rooms.

Remediation professionals:If you still see or smell mold after cleaning up, contact a mold remediation professional. The problem may not be entirely fixed.

More information on cleanup

Read the CDC’s guidance on mold remediation.

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