Flooding threatens IAQ

In late September of 2022, Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc across Western Cuba and the Southeastern United States. The storm reached peak intensity as it approached Florida where it caused billions of dollars in damages. Ian also resulted in the deaths of 126 in the state as well as fatalities in South Carolina and Virginia. The Category 4 Hurricane was the worst to hit the Sunshine State in almost a century. Millions lost power and flooding after the initial storm was a serious threat. Even as rising waters recede, flooding threatens IAQ for folks still recovering from massive storm damage.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) helps communities affected by tropical storms and the resulting flooding that threatens IAQ. This government organization sends Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams (DSAT) into communities to assess their needs and offers resources to help them recover. At the same time, indoor air quality (IAQ) firms provide services to identify risks and address them with cost-effective methods.

Flooding Threatens IAQ 

The initial danger of flooding after hurricanes is concerning enough, but it’s the way that flooding threatens IAQ in the aftermath that is also a concern. The residue after flood water recedes contains bacteria, viruses, and mold. Flooding threatens IAQ due to the presence of bacteria such as E. Coli, Salmonella, Legionella, and Listeria. 

As well as contaminants such as raw sewage, petrochemicals from nearby refineries also pose a serious health risk. Homes and businesses affected by flooding address the threat of exposure by enlisting the help of a qualified IAQ firm. 

After flood waters recede, it’s important to inspect walls and ceilings for damage. Look for discoloration in building materials. Water damage under carpeting also provides an ideal environment for mold and bacteria. For any surface damage you see, the hidden threat of contamination is much greater. For extensive damage, however, it’s important to contact professionals to identify harmful contaminants and address them.

Building Health Check

When flooding threatens IAQ, WTI | Pure Air Control Services has proven systems and methods for mitigation and remediation. For example, our Building Health Check is an affordable yet thorough assessment of indoor environmental conditions. This evaluation uses field and laboratory analysis to test for the presence of mold, bacteria, and other particulates. In addition, the Health Check also offers the following:

  • Risk assessments
  • Pre and Post Mold Clearance
  • Wall and floor moisture analysis
  • Temperature and humidity logging

The health check also includes an HVAC Hygiene Assessment. This evaluation gauges the impact of the HVAC system on indoor air quality based on engineering, environmental and physical conditions. It provides recommendations for improvement thereby creating a healthy environment for building occupants.

Symptoms Resulting from Poor IAQ

As mentioned above, flood waters contain a mix of biological and man-made contaminants. For example, chemicals used in agriculture and manufacturing mix in with sewage and spread as rivers and other waters rise. Once flood waters recede, these contaminants remain. In some cases, these particles go airborne. After entering the respiratory system, particulates trigger allergy and asthma symptoms. Long-term exposure poses more serious health risks as well. 

Symptoms of Poor IAQ include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Burning, itchy, or watery eyes
  • Sinus irritation
  • Headaches
  • Lowered immunity
  • Fatigue

Even after the waters recede and the completion of the initial cleaning, flooding still threatens IAQ. Small cavities within the ceiling and in walls provide an ideal environment for mold and bacteria to grow. The HVAC system and its ductwork also serve as a breeding ground for harmful microbes. Ventilation systems then spread particulates throughout the building where occupants breathe them in. This poses a threat to children in classrooms and patients in medical facilities. It causes illnesses in workers which results in missed days of work and lower productivity. The ways that flooding threatens IAQ become obvious in the days and weeks after hurricanes.

Of course, natural disasters pose a big threat to the health and safety of building occupants. However, it’s not the only threat. Water intrusion after a seasonal rain also presents a risk. Flooding from a burst pipe often causes unseen damage. Any moisture inside the building envelope gives mold and bacteria a chance to grow and spread. Therefore, inspections and remediation are needed to keep building occupants safe.

Learn More About Flooding Impacts IAQ

As the cleanup of the damage caused by Hurricane Ian continues, don’t leave the health of building occupants to chance. Contact an expert in indoor air quality and stop the threat to the health and safety of building occupants. To learn more, contact  WTI – Pure Air Control today.