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Three Health Hazards Flood Water Can Bring Into Your Home

by Ryan Wright

When returning home after a hurricane or other natural disaster that's flooded your neighborhood, the first step you should take is checking your house for hazards before entering. If you notice changes to the foundation of the house (such as cracks or shifting) or if the roof and walls appear to be sagging, leaning, or otherwise obviously damaged, you'll need to make an appointment with a building inspector to determine whether it's safe before you can enter. If the house appears safe, make sure electricity and gas are completely turned off before going in. But in addition to causing structural, electrical, and gas concerns, the floodwaters that entered your house can carry with them several other types of hazards that you'll need to watch out for. Use personal protective equipment and good safety practices to protect yourself from these four hazards when you enter a recently flooded house. 

1. Mold and mildew

Although mold is more likely to cause health problems over time, it can also trigger an immediate reaction if you currently have a mold allergy or if you are susceptible to asthma. High mold concentrations can also cause cold-like symptoms when the spores irritate your mucous membranes.  

2. Parasites and bacteria

Flood waters can sweep up fecal matter from farm animals (in feedlots and barnyards) or even from septic tanks or the sewage system. This means that both parasites from human or animal hosts and those found in nearby bodies of water, such as Giardia, could be present. And did you know that a flooded house provides a great opportunity for some bacteria to thrive and multiply? These may then infect you and cause illness, or they may simply produce potent toxins as they grow. 

3. Chemicals such as pesticides

In addition to sweeping up sewage, flood water also assimilates pesticides from nearby crops and can even absorb weedkillers from the roadside. Fertilizers are probably present in the floodwater as well, whether you live in the city or in an agricultural area.  

As you can see, it's not just water that invades your home during a flood, but a toxic brew of pathogens, chemicals, and spores that can damage your health in a variety of ways. For this reason, you should wear as much personal protective equipment as possible when you enter the damaged home. You should also consider hiring a professional damage remediation crew rather than exposing yourself to these health threats by performing the cleanup yourself. Contact water damage repair specialists for more information.