Flooding: Health Considerations

Stay safe while addressing a flood in your home. Below is some important health information, along with tips and considerations to keep in mind while you are managing clean up and repairs.

First and foremost, wear appropriate personal protective equipment, wash hands frequently with soap and clean water and protect open sores with waterproof coverings.

Potential Health Risks

Contaminated flood waters can pose a risk to your health

Ingestion of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and other germs found in sewage can cause gastrointestinal (GI) illness. Ingestion occurs from eating contaminated foods, drinking contaminated water or accidentally touching your mouth with contaminated hands. Vomiting and diarrhea are common symptoms of GI illness.

Skin contact with contaminated flood water can cause skin rashes and infection in open sores.

Indoor air quality

During clean up and over time, indoor air quality can be affected, such as:
• Dust created during clean-up activities can become airborne. Close off the flooded areas during clean up and repair to prevent dust spreading to other rooms in the house. Also, keep rooms well ventilated while working.
• Use of cleaners and disinfectants can release vapours. Keep rooms well ventilated. Wear protective clothing such as gloves and masks and keep children away from the area when using these cleaning solutions.
• Mould can grow on wet building materials and belongings. Discard contaminated items and dry remaining items as quickly as possible (i.e. within 48 hours).

Mould

• Moulds are found both outdoors and in homes and buildings, and can grow on practically anything that collects dust and holds moisture.
• Excessive dampness and mould growth on building materials and belongings can pose potential health risks. • Most types of mould are not a health concern for healthy individuals, but some individuals may experience respiratory symptoms such as asthma, sore throat and allergy-like symptoms.
• Indoor air testing for mould is generally not recommended as results can be difficult to interpret.

Health effects related to mould depend on:
• the type of mould
• the amount of mould
• the production of certain substances by the mould
• the degree of exposure
• the health condition of the person exposed

Some people who may be more at risk of having health effects when exposed to mould include:
• pregnant women
• infants
• the elderly
• those with existing health problems such as respiratory disease or a weakened immune system