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Guest Column

Helpful Ideas from the NJ Health Department

Lou Perri

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 • 9:24am

As New Jersey recovers and rebuilds from Hurricane Sandy, many New Jersey residents are working to repair their homes and businesses. It is important to know that mold, materials containing asbestos and lead-based paint may all be potential hazards in storm-damaged homes and buildings. Home and business owners, workers and volunteers conducting clean-up or remediation work should protect themselves by wearing protective equipment including gloves, masks, protective eye wear and boots and getting a tetanus booster before starting repairs. If a home or business was flooded during Hurricane Sandy, mold may be present.

Identifying mold in a home or business should always begin with a thorough visual inspection. The inspection may be focused on specific areas where moisture has been seen, where flooding or water damage has occurred or in common areas known for mold growth such as basements, attics and crawl spaces. Stained or discolored areas of walls and ceilings that continue to increase in size or change colors can be signs of mold growth. A strong musty smell is also an indicator of mold growth.  

To remove mold, clean all hard surfaces with a detergent and water solution. Wash hands after touching anything that has touched flood water. Household items such as carpeting and upholstered furniture that were not cleaned and dried can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home. Exposure to mold can cause nasal and throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation. People with mold allergies may have more severe reactions. Immune-compromised people and individuals with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may get serious infections in their lungs when they are exposed to mold.

It is also important to be aware that buildings and homes may contain asbestos since it was a common building material. Consequently, anyone who is removing walls or other parts of homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy should be cautious and determine if asbestos is present prior to removal. The home or business owner should first determine if the house or building contains asbestos by contracting with a professional asbestos inspector certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to conduct an inspection and take samples of any suspected asbestos-containing material. Anyone hired to remove asbestos must be licensed by the Department of Labor. Extensive training is required, including how to use personal protection equipment. While a homeowner is not required to be licensed, we strongly recommend that only licensed professionals remove asbestos.  

Additionally, if a home or building was built prior to 1978, it is important to test the paint before doing any renovation or remodeling of painted surfaces. If lead is detected, take all necessary precautions to ensure that lead-painted building components are removed in a safe manner. Protect your family and home - set up safely, control the dust, and clean up completely. For tips on protecting yourself from lead dust while doing repairs visit http://www.epa.gov/lead/rrp/do-it-yourselfers.html. It is important to note that any contractors hired to conduct renovation work in homes built before 1978, must have received lead-safe training and are certified by the USEPA.

The Department has developed a brochure for volunteers, community organizations, and home and businesses owners on how to identify mold and asbestos: and steps that can be taken to protect against these health hazards. The flyer is available at: http://www.state.nj.us/health/er/documents/prepare_before_cleanup_flyer.pdf   Homeowners or businesses with questions about mold, asbestos, or lead should contact the Department's Consumer, Environmental and Occupational Health Service Office at 609-826-4920 or 4950. The Department of Health has safety and health related information to assist homeowners and volunteers in their clean-up efforts. These documents are available on our website at http://www.nj.gov/health/er/hurricane_recovery_resources.shtml.  

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has important health and safety information on their website. Their information can be found at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/cleanup/facts.asp.  

 The Guest Column is our readers' opportunity to write about a given issue or topic in an in-depth and educational manner.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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