Acting Quickly to Safegaurd
Time is of the Essence!
Toxic mold is a threat that public health officials stress is particularly of concern to residents of areas affected by hurricanes, and the region hit by Hurricane Sandy was dealt the unfortunate one-two punch of the severe weather event and massive, widespread flooding.
As we reported last week, the toxic mold risk after Sandy given the scope and range of the disaster looms particularly large — and experts from the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) have spoken to what lies ahead for many residents in the region battered by the storm.
Toxic mold is an often undetectable issue that poses a strong risk of resultant illness after exposure, and the presence of spores is linked to a range of respiratory, immunological and skin conditions that often present as chronic and seemingly without cause.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the CDC examined the health threats posed by toxic mold in her wake. The report predicted that those in areas hit by hurricanes and flooding “will have exposure to a wide variety of hazardous substances distributed by or contained within the floodwater.”
In many Sandy-stricken areas in the Northeast, public health officials and residents alike are beginning to see the toxic mold issue arise in affected structures.
John Mezzina is vice president of Synatech, a company that specializes in the removal of toxic mold, lead and asbestos in the New York metro area. Mezzina, who says treatment of wet and flooded spaces can cost more than $2,000, explains that even seemingly clean dwellings and buildings can pose a silent risk:
“Mold doesn’t always smell … You may not even see it if it’s inside the walls. As those colonies are growing, sporilation is occurring, which means they’re literally shooting out microscopic spores into the air.”
Mezzina told the New York Daily News that he believes the threat of toxic mold is heavily underestimated publicly, and even believes that overall, it poses far bigger public health risks than asbestos:
“Asbestos, to me, is far less dangerous to the general public than mold … Mold can have immediate and severe effects.”
Dr. Ginger Chew, a toxic mold specialist at the CDC, also predicts a lengthy battle with dangerous mold spores in the region, explaining:
“We’re going to have mold competing against each other … Mold can grow overnight.”
Toxic mold is not just a concern for experts and public health officials, however — residents affected by Sandy are also worried that the silent menace is quietly poisoning homes and workplaces damaged in the storm and flooding.
Marty Novitsky of Sheepshead Bay was active in many local rescue efforts in the area after Sandy hit, and was without power for three weeks in her wake. But the lifelong Brooklyn resident says that most of all, the toxic mold threat has caused him stress as the ravages of the storm are slowly set to rights:
“I am afraid for everyone because they don’t know what is happening right in front of their faces. I am scared for my life, too … Who knows what even a few months or a few years could do. What if in a few years I get lung cancer and find out it was from the mold? I can’t even sleep about it.”
Toxic mold is a safety threat for everyone, but experts caution that the elderly and those with compromised immune systems (such as chemotherapy patients) are at the highest risk of severe illness or death due to mold exposure.