ST. PAUL, Minn. – Cleaning up from a hurricane is often a long and painful process. The effects can continue long after the storm is gone. One of those hazards that can continue to grow and affect structures as well as your health is mold. Mold can often result from the flooding and standing water that is part of the wretched aftermath of a hurricane.
In fact, some molds release spores and a musty odor. Molds are known to cause a variety of health effects, including respiratory problems as well as inflammatory and immune system responses. Mold can especially adversely affect those with asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, severe allergies, immune suppression, or other chronic inflammatory lung diseases.
Along with the other personal protective equipment you may be using to protect yourself while you sift through the rubble and flooded areas after a hurricane, choosing the right respiratory personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect yourself from mold, that might be growing in these areas, is an important decision. Please also check our technical bulletin on mold remediation for updated guidance, including a link to information pertaining to schools and commercial buildings.
PPE Recommendations to Consider for Small Areas Where Mold Might Be Present
When cleaning up moldy areas less than 100 square feet, NIOSH approved N95 filtering facepiece respirators or half masks with replaceable 100 level particulate filters (N100, R100 or P100) may be used in conjunction with disposable coveralls, gloves and goggles. For more information, please see our FAQ on potential hazards and respiratory protection after a flood or a hurricane.
PPE Recommendations to Consider for Larger Areas Where Mold May Be Growing
For areas greater than 100 square feet, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires that professionals be called to conduct the remediation. (For more information on EPA guidelines, visit www.epa.gov). Full facepiece respirators with 100 level particulate filters may be used. The full facepiece may also be used as part of a powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) system. In addition, appropriate gloves, disposable coveralls, full body clothing, headgear, and foot coverings are recommended.
It is very important to read and follow the donning instructions carefully for any respiration protection you select and to conduct a user seal check every time the respirator is put on. A good fit can only be obtained if the face is clean-shaven in the area where the respirator seals against the face.
The use of NIOSH-certified respirators in workplace environments must be accompanied by a full respiratory protection program as specified in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134. Important components of a respiratory protection program include written standard operating procedures, medical evaluation, user training, respirator cleaning and maintenance, and properly fitting the respirator to the user.
To learn more or order respirators or other PPE to help you with your cleanup efforts, please read our Technical Data Bulletin on this subject and contact us today at 1-800-243-4630 to speak with our technical safety specialists.
Publisher’s Note: This article has been updated to include additional, relevant links.