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Heavy rain, leaky pipes can create mold-friendly conditions

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

If some of the more than 15 inches of rainfall our state has had this year made its way inside your home and wasn't quickly removed, you could have conditions ripe for a mold problem.

"Across the Southeast, mold caused by flooding can trigger health problems in sensitive individuals," said Gina Peek, a housing program assistant with the University of Georgia Extension Service.

"Mold is ubiquitous in the environment, and it is extremely difficult to remove all molds from an indoor environment," Peek said. "But you can control moisture to aid in the elimination of mold growth."

Follow these steps

If you suspect you have a mold problem caused by flooding, UGA experts recommend: First, locate and repair the source of the moisture, be it a leaky pipe or roof. Next, determine whether mold is in fact present.

"If you see blackish or greenish stains on areas that were water-damaged or notice a musty smell," she said. "you very likely have mold contamination."

Peek says there's no real need for expensive mold tests. Just remove the source of the moisture, then proceed with clean-up. Remove or thoroughly clean any area that is mold stained.

Make sure to wear a respirator and protective clothing, such as a long-sleeves shirt and gloves, when working to remove mold. And, keep children or allergy-sensitive family members away from the area or out of the house entirely during mold clean-up.

Throw away severely contaminated porous materials such as carpets, damaged sheetrock and furniture.

Clean well or remove

Wood and tile surfaces can be scrubbed with a soap and water solution. Be sure to rinse surfaces well with clean water.

Insulation in walls and ventilation systems should be checked and removed if evidence of mold is found.

"Remember, people can react to mold, even if it's in wall cavities," Peek said.

Aside from weather-related moisture, don't forget to control the daily moisture that can also create indoor mold.

To fight mold daily, eliminate moisture sources such as dripping faucets, leaking pipes, puddles of water and wet bathmats. Use a squeegee after bathing to remove water from shower walls and bathtubs.

Peek also recommends making sure there is adequate ventilation while cooking and bathing to reduce moisture build-up.

(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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