New Orleans Area Environmental Quality Test Results
Health Advisory for New Orleans Area Residents
Due to high levels of mold, other air quality issues and contaminants in sediment, NRDC advises that children, the elderly, and people with serious allergies, asthma, heart conditions or compromised immune systems avoid previously flooded areas of the city at this time. We recommend the following short-term precautionary steps for people returning to New Orleans and surrounding areas.
- Do not bring young children into flooded areas, where they might touch sediment and put their fingers in their mouths.
- Avoid activities that stir up dust, such as sweeping and shoveling. Dried dirt and mud in and around your house may contain harmful toxic chemicals. If you do want to clean up the sediment, wet it down slightly before sweeping or shoveling it up, and be sure to wear protective clothing and a respirator.
- Wear an N95 respirator when entering homes or dusty areas in previously flooded areas of the city. These respirators will prevent inhalation of mold spores and particulate air pollution (a bandanna or dust mask will not) and can be purchased from a hardware store or building supply store for less than $10.
- Wear a Tyvek protective suit, nitrile gloves and boot covers if you are working inside a previously flooded building or outside cleaning up sediment. A head-to-toe protective suit can be purchased from a hardware or building supply store for about $40. Wearing protective gear keeps contaminants off your hands, clothing and footwear.
- When you are finished working inside a flooded building, immediately discard your Tyvek suit, gloves and boot covers. These are single-use items. Do not wear them in your car or bring them home. A respirator, however, can be re-used if the interior is kept clean.
- Wash well once you are out of the contaminated area and have access to clean water.
- Avoid eating or smoking in contaminated areas.
- Drink bottled water. Tap water in most of the city is contaminated and unsafe to drink. Boiling water only removes bacteria, but not other contaminants such as metals and toxics. To avoid dehydration, bring plenty of bottled water.
- Keep non-contaminated areas clean. If you remove contaminated items from your house but want to keep them, seal them in a plastic bag and do not mix them with non-contaminated items. Avoid tracking dirt or dust into your car or back to other clean areas.
- If your home was flooded, get rid of porous materials that may be contaminated with mold. Mold levels are extremely high in flooded homes and mold will continue to grow in these materials. Take out carpets and other porous flooring material and remove drywall down to the studs -- simply cleaning mold off the surface of walls will not solve the problem.
- Throw away moldy wood, soft plastic or cloth, or anything made from these materials that came into contact with the floodwater. These porous items cannot be safely cleaned. Hard items, such as metal, hard plastic or ceramic, can be cleaned with soap and water, or with a diluted bleach solution (one part bleach to ten parts water).
- Thoroughly air out your home. It is very important to get your home as dry as possible to keep more mold from growing, especially once you have cleared out affected belongings and removed any flooring and drywall that came in contact with floodwaters. It may also be helpful to run a dehumidifier to help reduce moisture in the air.
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