Thursday, November 01, 2012

Sandy aftermath could expose residents to asbestos, mold, chemicals

Cleaning up after Hurricaine Sandy may soon get more difficult than sifting through ruined possessions, it may also be a health threat.

With so many businesses, factories, homes and other buildings damaged or destroyed, airborne pollutants, chemicals, mold and even asbestos are a real possibility. Homeowners who can't, or choose not to wait for professionals to start the clean-up may run the risk of exposing themselves to a wide range of potentially dangerous pollutants. 
The CDC recommends the following when returning to an affected  home or building:

Reentering Buildings

  • Stay away from damaged buildings or structures until they have been examined and certified as safe by a building inspector or other government authority. You may want to wait to return to buildings during daylight hours, when it is easier to avoid hazards, particularly if the electricity is off and you have no lights.
  • Leave immediately if you hear shifting or unusual noises that signal that the structure may fall or if you smell gas or suspect a leak. If you smell gas, notify emergency authorities and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke, or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to the house until you are told it is safe to do so.
  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.

Carbon Monoxide Exposure

  • Never use generators, pressure washers, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage, or camper—or even outside near an open window, door, or vent. Carbon monoxide—an odorless, colorless gas from these sources that can cause sudden illness and death—can build up indoors and poison the people and animals inside.

General Safety Measures

  • Have at least two fire extinguishers, each with a UL rating of at least 10A, at every cleanup job.
  • Wear hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toe and insole (not just steel shank) for cleanup work.
  • Wear earplugs or protective headphones to reduce risk from equipment noise.
  • Use teams of two or more people to move bulky objects. Avoid lifting any material that weighs more than 50 pounds (per person).
  • When using a chain saw, operate the saw according to the manufacturer's instructions, wear appropriate protective equipment, avoid contact with power lines, be sure that bystanders are at a safe distance, and take extra care in cutting trees or branches that have gotten bent or caught under another object. Use extreme caution to avoid electrical shock when using an electric chain saw. For tips on safely operating a chain saw, see Preventing Chain Saw Injury During Tree Removal.
  • If there has been a backflow of sewage into your house, wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of the affected area.

    Hazardous Materials Issues

  • Call the fire department to inspect or remove chemicals, propane tanks, and other dangerous materials.
  • Wear protective clothing and gear (for example, a respirator if needed) when handling hazardous materials.
  • Wash skin that may have come in contact with hazardous materials.
  • Wear insulated gloves and use caution if you have to remove a car battery. Avoid any acid that may have leaked from a car battery.
Remember that inhalation is a major exposure route for many hazardous substances. Considering wearing N95 face masks for particles along with protective gear covering the body, feet and hands.

Indoor air quality may also be affected for some time as rebuilding and repairs continue over the coming months. Considering using an industrial-grade air cleaner or air purifier with HEPA and deep-bed activated carbon filters for chemicals, gases, odors and particles after returning home or going back to work. ______________________________________________________________

Concerned about indoor air quality? Contact an Air Quality Expert for advice via live chat, email or phone: 1-888-852-8247.


Disclaimer: Follow guidelines provided by FEMA, health and government advisories. Always consult a professional before entering a damaged building or attempting clean-up work. This blog post is provided for general information purposes only and should never replace the advice of government officials or remediation professionals.

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