Experts warn of dangers from mold growth

Friday, June 1, 2007

Southwest Nebraskans with water damaged homes from the recent storms need to be on the lookout for mold growth, said Mary K. Warner, Extension Educator. If homeowners have discovered dampness or water in their basements or experienced other types of water leaks from the driving rain, they may have ideal conditions for mold growth in their home.

Mold spores are everywhere, but what determines where they actually settle and start growing is the presence of moisture and organic food sources, such as wood and paper, states Shirley Niemeyer, Extension housing and environment specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Porous materials, such as carpets and pads, insulation, ceiling tile and wall board that are not quickly dried within 24 to 48 hours may need to be tossed, she said. Wet wall, ceiling and floor cavities should be opened up to dry completely. Concrete also needs to be dried. Niemeyer recommends first removing as much moisture as possible. Wet floors need to be wet vacuumed and dried out as soon as possible or hire a professional for extensive water entry. Air conditioning and dehumidification can help dry the surfaces and materials. Additional air circulation also helps, she said.

It may take weeks before some materials are dried out and can be replaced, Niemeyer said. Covering up damp structures and cavities too soon can lead to mold growth. Moisture meters, which are available through some plumbing, heating and cooling businesses, can help determine the moisture content of wood and other materials. "It's better to be cautious now and take extra prevention steps than to deal with a mold problem later on," Niemeyer said.

For further information contact your local University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension office. In McCook call Mary K. Warner, Extension Educator at 345-3390 or toll free at 877-674-6947. Additional resources can be found by visiting the EDEN Extension Disaster Education Network at http://eden.lsu.edu or the Environmental Protection Agency's website at www.epa.gov/mold or The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at www.cdc.gov.

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