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After you have experienced a flood and are beginning to clean your home or office, future indoor air pollution may seem to be the least of your worries. However, if flood cleanup is not completed correctly, you may face serious long-term health risks.

The primary pollutants result from microorganism growth in wet materials. Viruses, bacteria and mold can cause disease, trigger allergies, and damage materials long after the flood is gone.

The first step in avoiding indoor air pollution resulting from flood damage is to limit microbial growth. Remove all standing water as quickly as possible. Standing water is a breeding ground for microorganisms. If floodwaters contained sewage or animal carcasses, then you should also be concerned about infectious diseases.

After standing water is removed, dry out your home as much as possible. High humidity and moisture supplies microorganisms with an ideal environment for explosive growth. Long term moisture will also foster the growth of dust mites. The drying out process could take several weeks. Be alert to musty odors, which signal microorganism growth.

Materials in your home that are wet and cannot be cleaned and dried within 48 hours should be discarded, regardless of their sentimental value. The best way to avoid future indoor air pollution problems is to remove and replace all flood-damaged building materials.

Cleanup activities will almost certainly involve the use of cleaners and disinfectants. These products contain toxic substances, so read and follow label directions carefully. Make assured indoor spaces are adequately ventilated while using these products. If electricity can be used safely, use fans.

If you need to use combustion devices like gas-powered generators, camp stoves and lanterns, or charcoal devices, only use them outdoors. If used indoors, lethal carbon monoxide levels may result.

During the cleanup, drying out and rebuilding process, be alert to possible indoor air pollution problems from airborne asbestos and lead dust. These highly toxic materials may be present in older homes. If you suspect the presence of these substances in your home, find out more information and get help from qualified contractors.