Floods are one of Mother Nature’s most common – and most devastating – threats.
For those of us in the Scottsdale AZ area, water damage is an unfortunate but occasional part of our lives. The occasional hundred year storm, the floodplain landscape, and other circumstances have conspired to make it so.
That means that water damage Scottsdale experts are sorely needed; AZ Floodmasters came into being and became one of the nation’s foremost restoration companies to answer precisely that need.
In other articles on our site, we have addressed some of the chief concerns of the average homeowner. Most of those have to do with the financial side of your worries – what water damage restoration looks like in practice, how much it costs, and what the enterprising DIYer can do to keep those costs at a minimum.
In this article, we’re trying something else.
It says something about our economy – about what a struggle things have been for so many of us – that many residential and commercial customers seem more concerned about the bottom line than about their own health and safety.
That’s not to say we think you guys are being cavalier about such things, but it’s almost never the first question you’re asking – and maybe it should be.
Here’s what we mean: water damage does more than destroy the integrity of your drywall. Water restoration companies do more than pump out water and turn on some fancy fans.
It’s all more complex than it seems. There are some very real health hazards that accompany natural disasters like floods, and restoration companies (at least good ones) can help you with those as well.
We’ve seen the risks of bad water in Flint, Michigan. We’ve seen the flood fallout caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and Hurricane Irma in Florida and the Caribbean.
And no one is ignoring safety concerns.
We just worry that people aren’t informed enough.
In the early stages of a natural disaster, immediate safety is the most precious commodity. We’re not the nation’s leading experts on that, but we all know the basics from FEMA and the organizations that lead safety operations during times of crises.
Evacuate. Preserve food and water. Keep your most important documents and photos somewhere easy to access – just in case.
But it’s not just a damaged home you’ll be coming back to. When the waters recede enough to come back and start assessing the situation, you’re often returning to potentially uninhabitable spaces. Living conditions can be extremely poor following a flood, and here’s the kicker:
That’s true even when you can’t see it.
That’s right. You can come into a house that looks almost the same as when you left it, minus some water stains, and still be in an environment that could be harmful to you. Stagnant pooling water in lower floors, bacteria, mold, toxins in the environment could have immediate and delayed consequences.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the health hazards associated with flood, storm, and water damage, and what AZ Floodmasters can do to help.
… Let’s dive in.
- Mold, mold, mold.
Mold loves a damp environment. Mold loves humidity. Mold loves darkness and moisture. Unfortunately, following a flood or water damage, that’s precisely what mold will find. From minor irritation to the eyes and throat to pressing respiratory distress, mold is a dangerous foe.
It’s also not one you should fight alone.
Since a partially closed environment full of moisture and humidity is a breeding ground for mold and dust mites, the most immediate concern is probably for those with allergic reactions.
Molds such as Aspergillus, Stachybotrys, Penicillium, and other mold species are typically found in buildings having suffered water damage. The spore counts are generally very high, as well.
Part of what restoration companies do in the early stages is perform an environmental assessment using instruments designed to detect mold.
Bronchial Asthma, Conjunctivitis, Allergic Fungal Sinusitis, hives, and other potential risks for those with allergies.
Those without allergies may still find themselves at risk for pneumonia or pulmonary fibrosis due to the immune system’s response to those molds. And even if you have no reaction history of any kind, mold and fungal enzymes can cause a reaction that feels like an allergic reaction, or give you hay fever.
Most of us have heard of “black mold,” I’m sure. The aforementioned Stachybotrys is the scientific name for that widely feared fungus. While it’s gotten a bit of Hollywood “hype” over the years, it is dangerous.
It’s not precisely “toxic,” though. It’s toxigenic. That means it isn’t itself toxic, but it can, in certain circumstances, create toxins, presenting a real danger, particularly to people sensitive to respiratory or allergic distress.
If you or someone else who resides or works in a building that has been hit with water damage is immunocompromised by something like COPD, mold drastically increases their risk of an opportunistic fungal infection.
What you can do: Mold remediation is part of a water damage restoration job. If your home has been flooded, make that part of the conversation when you call us. If you’re not sure, you can have an inspection performed. It’s not worth risking your health or the health of anyone else who might be present in the building.
- Toxins in the Environment
Older homes often used building materials that have since been deemed unsafe. Two great examples of that are asbestos and lead paint. Those may be present in your home.
You may even know it, because, as most contractors would say, they’re relatively “safe” unless they’re damage. An asbestos tile on the floor isn’t a serious health concern so long as it is whole.
But guess what?
A flood is going to damage those things in a big way. So will the storm that causes the flood. Suddenly, this old-fashioned nuisance that you didn’t have to think much about has become a very serious concern, and must be address.
Asbestos was used in buildings for decades because it’s naturally fire-resistant. That means it was used as insulation, shingles, tiles, siding, and it was present in many furnaces.
If your home was built before the 1970s, there’s a good chance you’ve got some, unless you’ve already had it abated. Unfortunately, asbestos has one very serious downside …
… It causes mesothelioma and a host of respiratory issues.
Lead is no better. It was commonly used in paints before the 1970s, until it was discovered that it adversely affected the mental and physical development of children exposed to it, and was poisonous in large amounts.
When water damage hits your home, both of those toxins are going to get tossed into the atmosphere. The cleanup process itself could even cause this – though restoration companies are typically aware of this risk and will proceed with all appropriate caution.
That’s why you need the help of the pros in water damage restoration Scottsdale – to help keep you from overlooking a health risk that could impact you and others for decades.
- Floodwater and stagnation
Floodwater carries all sorts of stuff with it. Literally anything it has touched could be carrying a serious diarrheal disease like dysentery. There’s also a significant risk of other gastrointestinal issues, as well as Hepatitis A, cholera, and more.
You don’t have to drink floodwater or something it has contaminated for these issues to be a risk, by the way. It’s enough to have a miniscule cut anywhere on your person and have the water get into your system that way.
Don’t panic, though.
The Center for Disease Control and lots of other experts have come up with a few ways to stay safe from contact with floodwater and other black water.
- Handwash or use sanitizer often, and as immediately as possible, after contact with floodwater.
- Keep yourself and all children away from floodwater insofar as possible.
- Disinfect everything that can be disinfected, and discard what cannot be safely. Nonporous surfaces can generally be made safe.
- Throw away all food that isn’t in a sealed metal container. Plastic is not a guarantee of contaminant safety. This includes, unfortunately, bottled water.
- If you’re in a flood watch, move those items and anything important to an upper floor so they’re less likely to be exposed to contact with floodwater.
Floodwater can also carry chemicals and pollutants released from overtaxed or overflowing municipal supplies, oil refineries, and chemical plants. Hurricane Harvey set nearly a million pounds of air pollutants free in Texas, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, an advocacy group.
During a flood or hurricane event, these plants have no choice but to shut down to avoid even larger disasters, but smog, petrochemicals, and other cancer-causing chemicals (including polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs) are potentially released during storm and flood disasters.
Stagnant water presents the same dangers as floodwater. It’s all what used to be called “black water,” meaning that ingestion or exposure will likely cause serious illness and could cause death.
Allowing a professional to lead the cleanup is the surest way to make sure it’s done right, and make certain that you, your loved ones, and anyone else inhabiting or working in the water damaged property will be safe.
Obviously, sewage overflow is a major concern during a flooding event. Only certified professionals can perform raw sewage cleanup, and for good reason: according to the EPA, sewage causes about seven million illnesses a year.
Ingestion isn’t the only cause, either; like floodwater, just touching raw sewage is dangerous. Here are just a few of the potential negative effects:
- Viral: Gastroenteritis, Hepatitis A, Poliomyelitis, Rotavirus, Adenovirus. Symptoms you could face include diarrhea, vomiting, pain, cramping, jaundice, fever, and fatigue, all of which could be life-threatening.
- Bacterial: Campylobacteriosis, E. coli, Leptospirosis, Salmonellosis, Bacillary Dysentery. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, pain, nausea, fever, headaches, chills, rash, body aches, and vicious cramps.
- Parasitic: Cryptosporidiosis, Giardiasis. As if bacteria and viruses weren’t enough, there are parasites present in raw sewage that can also cause horrific diarrhea and fever. Those are also the two most common water-borne diseases in the entire United States. We’re not talking about something rare here.
- Staying Safe During a Flood or Storm Event
We’ve gone over lots of safety measures that apply to specific things, but let’s talk about general safety measures as well. If you’re in an area that may flood, you may want to keep certain items on standby, including:
- Protective gear: rubber boots, face masks, rubber gloves, face masks, respirators, and even hip waders are advisable, as they will help you avoid contact or exposure to floodwater and the contaminants in the environment.
Additionally, there are actions you’ll want to take or avoid:
- Contact the professionals – like the water damage Scottsdale team at AZ Floodmasters – as soon as possible after disaster strikes. Every moment counts when it comes to water restoration and mitigation. Speed is paramount when attempting to return a damaged property to pre-loss condition.
- Don’t be cavalier or take unnecessary risks. Observing personal caution is the best way to ensure that others around you do the same, especially children who don’t understand the dangers.
- Don’t cut corners. Water damage restoration can be an expensive undertaking, as we’ve discussed elsewhere, but it is not something that can be taken lightly.
We’re not the environmental safety experts, though. Reach out to local law enforcement and emergency personnel during a disaster. Once you’re able, call AZ Floodmasters – Scottsdale’s water damage restoration professionals – and we’ll help you stay safe during the difficult cleaning and rebuilding process.
AZ Floodmasters has been cleaning up flood and storm damage and water damage for ten years. Our teams also handle fire and smoke cleanup, mold remediation, sewage, deodorization, and hoarder removal for all residential and commercial owners in the area.
We are a family owned company, covering Scottsdale and all of Maricopa and Pinal Counties, offering 24-hour emergency response. Let us help you stay safe while your property is sanitized and restored to its former glory. Call us today at (602) 726-9759