Flooding From Tropical Storm Debby Creates Health Concerns

The Health Aspects of Floodwaters

As the rains from tropical storm Debby continued to pound western and central Florida on Monday (June 25, 2012) the Tampa Bay Times published a story reminding residents about the health dangers of floodwaters. It’s not something many of us tend to think about, given the fact that rain is a natural event. We simply assume that floodwaters are as clean as the rain itself. But that’s not exactly true.

Floodwaters present a whole host of dangers to human health regardless of whether they run through the streets, are confined to within a couple hundred yards of a creek or river, or inundate homes. In addition, it doesn’t take 3 to 4 feet of water to cause a problem; just a couple inches off runoff can be an issue.

Contaminants in the Water

According to the Times the main health risk with floodwaters comes from the contaminants in those waters. Remember that flooding “levels the playing field” so to speak, by allowing things otherwise isolated on land to mix and be spread across wide areas. Flood waters contain bacteria and viruses, pesticides and fertilizers, gasoline, oil, animal feces, sewage runoff, and more. In addition, moving floodwaters may also carry debris under the surface; debris that could cause severe wounds if stood on or are struck by it.

When floodwaters get into your home they carry all of these things with them. That’s one of the reasons why a home must be cleaned and disinfected before any repairs can begin. Without proper disinfection a home could be a potential nightmare to its residents for years to come. Hiring a flood restoration company to do the work for you is your best bet in ensuring your home has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Personal Health Tips

The Times lists nearly a dozen tips to help you protect your health after a flood. Here are some of the most important ones:

• Keep Wounds Clean – If you have any open wounds exposed to floodwaters be sure to clean them with antiseptic and apply an antibiotic ointment.
• Shower and Change Clothes – As soon as is reasonably possible, shower and put on clean clothes if you’ve been forced to wade or swim through floodwaters.
• Disinfect Personal Items – Any personal items exposed to floodwaters you intend to keep should be disinfected with a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach and a gallon of clean water. The Times recommends not attempting to salvage baby bottles and nipples, wooden cutting boards, and wooden dishes and utensils.
• Laundry – Wash all of your laundry in hot, soapy water; don’t wear any clothing exposed to floodwaters until it’s been washed.
• Be Careful of Mosquitoes – Floodwaters are a boon to the mosquito population. For the weeks and months that follow a flood you should be careful to use mosquito repellent and proper clothing during the early morning and evening hours. Call an exterminator if you believe mosquitoes have laid eggs in your home.

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