United States            Office of Public Affairs   Office ph. 202-5i4-4355
Environmental Protection  Washington D,C, 20460
Agency                (1703A)
         EPA and Federal Partners Warn of Potential

    Environmental Health Hazards When Returning to

      Homes and  Businesses after Hurricane  Katrina

Cleanup activities related to returning to homes and businesses after Hurricane Katrina can pose
significant health and environmental challenges. People may be exposed to potentially life-threatening
hazards posed by leaking natural gas lines, and carbon monoxide poisoning from using un-vented fuel-
burning equipment indoors. During a flood cleanup, failure to remove contaminated materials and to
reduce moisture and humidity may present serious long-term health risks from micro-organisms, such as
bacteria and mold.

When citizens are authorized by local authorities to return to their homes and businesses, federal
authorities urge people to take the following precautions:

Be Aware of Possible Combustible or Explosive Gases - Many natural gas and other fuel lines were
broken during Hurricane Katrina and highly explosive gas vapors may still be present in many buildings.
In addition, methane and other explosive gases may accumulate from decaying materials.

Open all windows when entering a building. If you smell gas or hear the sound of escaping gas:

      Don't smoke, light matches, operate electrical switches, use either cell or conventional
       telephones, or create any other source of ignition.

      Leave the building immediately; leaving the door open and any windows that may already be

      Notify emergency authorities. Don't return to the building until you are told by authorities that it is
       safe to do so.

Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that is
produced when any fuel is burned and that can kill you at high levels.

      Do not use fuel-burning devices such  as gasoline-powered generators, gasoline-powered
       pressure washers, camp stoves and lanterns, or charcoal grills in homes, garages, or any other
       confined space such as attics or crawl spaces, or within 10 ft. of windows, doors or other air
       intakes. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home. Have
       vents and chimneys checked to assure that debris does not block or impede the exhaust from
       water heaters and gas furnaces.

      If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air right away. The CO
       from generators can readily lead to full incapacitation and death.

Avoid Problems from Mold, Bacteria and Insects - Standing water is a breeding ground for a wide
range of micro-organisms and insects, such as mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can spread diseases like West
Nile Virus. Micro-organisms, including bacteria and mold, can become airborne and be inhaled. Where
floodwater is highly contaminated, as it is in many areas of the Gulf Coast, infectious disease is of

      Remove standing water as quickly as  possible.

       Remove wet materials and discard those that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried, ideally
       within 48 hours. While smooth, hard surface materials such as metal and plastics can often be
       cleaned effectively, virtually all building contents made of paper, cloth, wood and other absorbent
       materials that have been wet for longer than 48 hours may need to be discarded as they will likely
       remain a source of mold growth.

       Dry out the building. The heavily contaminated flood waters resulting from Hurricane Katrina
       contain micro-organisms and other contaminants that can penetrate deep into soaked, porous
       materials and later be released into air or water. Completely drying out a building that has been
       immersed in contaminated flood waters will take time and may require the extensive removal of
       ceiling, wall, insulation, flooring and other materials as well as, in some cases, extensive
       disinfection. The growth of micro-organisms will continue as long as materials remain wet and
       humidity is high. If a house or building is not dried out properly, a musty odor, signifying growth of
       micro-organisms, can remain long after the flood. When fumes are not a concern and if electricity
       is available and safe, closing windows and running a dehumidifier or window air conditioner can
       be an effective way to remove moisture if the damage is moderate.

       Reduce your exposure to air and water contaminants. Every effort should be made to limit contact
       with flood water. This includes the breathing of water vapors or mists formed from  the
       contaminated water; this may occur when water is pumped or sprayed. If removing materials or
       furnishings already contaminated with mold or when cleaning significant areas of mold
       contamination or generally disinfecting areas soiled by flood waters, federal authorities
       recommend limiting your exposure to airborne mold spores by wearing gloves, goggles, and
       wearing an N-95 respirator, if available, or a dust mask.

Avoid Problems from the Use of Cleaners, Disinfectants, and Pesticides - Disinfectants, sanitizers,
and other pesticides can contain toxic and potentially hazardous substances.

       Mixing certain types of household cleaners and disinfectants can produce toxic fumes and result
       in injury and even death. Do not mix them or use them in combination.

       Read and follow all label instructions carefully.

       Provide fresh air by opening windows and doors. Remain in a room no longer than necessary.
       Allow adequate time for the area to air out.

       If there is no standing water in the building and  it is safe to use electricity, use fans both during
       and  after the use of disinfecting, cleaning, and sanitizing products. Be sure that before using any
       electrical appliances, that they are properly grounded, and where possible, connected to a ground
       break equipped electrical source.

       Keep all  household products locked, out of sight and  out of reach of children. Use  child-resistant
       packaging properly by closing the container securely after each use. Keep items in original
       containers. Call 1-800-222-1222 immediately in cast of  poisoning.

EPA Urges Avoiding Problems from Airborne Asbestos and Lead Dust - Elevated concentrations of
airborne asbestos can occur if asbestos-containing  materials present in many older homes are disturbed.
Pipe or other insulation, ceiling tiles, exterior siding, roof shingles and sprayed on-soundproofing are just
some of the  materials found in older buildings that may contain asbestos. Buildings constructed before
1970 are more likely to contain asbestos. Airborne asbestos can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a
cancer of the chest and abdominal linings. Lead is a highly toxic metal which produces a range of
adverse health effects, particularly in young children. Many homes built before 1978 may contain lead-
based paint. Disturbance or removal of materials containing lead-based paint may result in elevated
concentrations of lead dust in the air.

       If you know or suspect that your home  contains asbestos or lead-based paint and  any of these
       materials have been damaged or will otherwise be disturbed during cleanup, seek the assistance
       of public health authorities and try to obtain help from specially trained contractors, if available.

       If possible, removed materials should be handled while still wet or damp, double bagged and
       properly labeled as to contents.

       In handling materials that are believed to be contaminated with asbestos or lead, EPA
       recommends that, at a minimum, you wear gloves, goggles, and most importantly, OSHA-
       approved respiratory protection, if available.

       While still wearing a mask, wash hands and clothing after handling such materials.

       If at all possible, avoid activities that will generate dust, such as sweeping or vacuuming debris
       that may contain asbestos or lead.

       Take precautions before your contractor or you begin remodeling or renovations that disturb
       surfaces that may contain lead-based paint (such as scraping off paint or tearing out walls):

       Have the area tested for lead-based paint.

       Do not use a belt-sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper, or dry sandpaper to remove lead-
       based paint.  These actions create large amounts of lead dust and potentially harmful fumes.

       Temporarily  move your family (especially children  and pregnant women) out of the apartment or
       house until the work is done and the area is properly cleaned. If you can't move your family,  at
       least completely seal off the work area.

Properly Dispose of Waste - Caution must be exercised to assure that all waste  materials are removed
and disposed of properly. Open burning of materials by individuals should be avoided.  Improperly
controlled burning of materials not only represents significant fire hazards but can  also produce additional
hazards from the vapors, smoke, and residue that are produced from the burning.

For those who have access to the internet, here are links to additional information:

       For more detailed information and guidance on mold prevention and cleanup, visit: or call IAQINFO at 800-438-4318.

       EPA recommends that those dealing with extensive flood damage obtain and follow the detailed
       guidance in the American Red Cross/FEMA publications Repairing Your Flooded Home:
       httpV/,1082,0 570  ,00.html

       For more information on safe management of asbestos, visit:

       For more information on safe management of lead-based paint, visit:

       Federal Emergency Management Agency's Flood  website -
       CDC Hurricanes Health and Safety:

       National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health - Storm and Flood Cleanup
       U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and
       Prevention's  (CDC) Emergency Preparedness and Response web page, "Protect Yourself from
       Mold" -