Addressing Mold, Bacteria, Lead Dust, and Asbestos

After a weather emergency it is important to dry out your home quickly to avoid mold and bacteria. Discard water damaged items. Disinfect surfaces and materials with unscented bleach and water. Never mix household cleaners and wash hands after cleaning. Call 800-458-1158 if you need advice about lead dust or asbestos.

Avoid Bacteria and Mold

Bacteria and mold can grow quickly after a flood because the high humidity and moist materials provide the ideal environment. Contact with air or water containing mold and bacteria can become a health hazard in your home and may make you sick.

The quicker you can dry things out, the better; preferably within 2-3 days. If the home is not dried out properly, a musty odor, which signifies the growth of bacteria and mold, can remain long after the flood.

Active mold growth can be directly observed or smelled so there is no need for testing. All mold can be a health hazard so there is no need to know what type of mold is growing in your home. Get more information from Mold and Your Home: What You Need to Know.

Get Rid of Water-damaged Items

Water-soaked items grow mold and bacteria. Remove and discard water-damaged items and materials and dry out your home quickly and thoroughly. This includes items that cannot be easily cleaned in a washing machine, even those with sentimental value. In general, do not try to save wet items that absorbed water, such as:

  • Carpet, padding, and rugs
  • Computers, air conditioning units, and appliances with fans housed in moldy rooms
  • Papers and books
  • Fiberboard and insulation
  • Disposable heating or cooling filters

Most hard and non-porous surfaces and materials can be cleaned.

Promptly Clean Soaked Items

  • Wash walls, floors, closets, shelves, and any hard surfaces with soap and water. Then disinfect with a mixture of 1 cup of liquid unscented chlorine bleach in 5 gallons of water.
  • Wash linens and clothing in hot water and dry larger items outdoors in the sun.
  • Clean heating and air conditioning ducts that have been flooded.
  • Bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, or using fans.
  • Cleaners, disinfectants, and sanitizers contain substances that could be irritating to your skin or respiratory system, or could cause other problems. Read and follow label instructions. Health effects can be caused by improper use.

Never Mix Household Cleaners and Wash Your Hands

Check labels for warnings and directions. Mixing certain products like those containing ammonia and chlorine can produce dangerous, toxic fumes.

Remember to always wash your hands with soap and water after cleaning, especially before preparing or eating food. If you do not have clean running water, use hand sanitizer or water that has been boiled and cooled, or otherwise disinfected, before preparing or eating food. Get more information from What Homeowners Need to Know about Fuel Oil Spills and Flooding.

Lead Dust and Asbestos

If you are concerned about lead or asbestos, you can contact the NYS Department of Health for advice at 518-402-7530 or 800-458-1158 before you remove walls, floors, ceilings, and piping. You might come in contact with lead or asbestos from old paint, plaster, or pipe wrap. When disturbed, lead dust or asbestos fibers can spread around your home.

Older homes may contain layers of lead-based paint. The lead dust can be released during remodeling and can pose a risk to children and adults. Asbestos was used in building materials because it is strong and heat resistant. However, long-term exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma (cancer of the chest and abdominal lining).