Canadian Underwriter

Homeowners, businesses in U.S. warned of mould dangers in wake of Sandy

March 6, 2013   by Canadian Underwriter

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Warming temperatures are expected to shed light on what the president of H&H Environment Construction and Consulting Inc. calls one the most pernicious issues residents of homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy will face – mould infiltration.

Flooded homes

Warming temperatures will reveal the hidden effects and extent of New York and New Jersey’s post-Superstorm Sandy mould problem, the company reported in a statement last week.

The reprieve offered by colder weather and lower humidity in wintertime is expected to end with the spring fast approaching, noted the company, which provides mould testing and removal services in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

 “Stachybotrys, also known as toxic black mould, seems to be much more prevalent in sheetrock and drywall areas throughout the basement,” Kevin Hinchey, president and CEO of H&H Environment Construction and Consulting, reported in the company statement. “However, we are finding stachybotrys in other areas of the home where water intrusion has exceeded to the first and second levels due to the extreme flooding,” Hinchey added.

Noting that the major flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy along with the mould can have devastating effects on health, it is important to have leave inspection and eradication of mould to those with training, notes a statement from Five Boro Mould Specialist.

“A lot of ‘cleanups’ were done by helpful neighbours and well-meaning volunteers who had the best intentions yet were not aware of the damage mould could cause in the future if preventative measures weren’t taken,” noted the H&H Environment Construction and Consulting statement.

Mould can colonize and multiply in as little as 24 to 48 hours, which is why there is a high risk for millions of homes to be infested with mould, the company added.

Mould can grow on, among other things, ceiling tiles, wood products, paint, wallpaper, carpeting, sheetrock, clothing and furniture. “Aside from the obvious visible signs of mould, crawlspaces, attics, behind wallboards, and paneling are at a higher risk because it’s not as obvious,” the company noted.

In early February, a New York City (NYC) congressional delegation urged the U.S. federal government to aid in remediation of mould related to Hurricane Sandy. The 12-member delegation raised serious concerns about the need for more aggressive – and better co-ordinated – mould abatement in parts of NYC flooded by Hurricane Sandy.

In a joint letter to Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, delegation members officially requested federal oversight and aid with assessment, removal and remediation of mould, in co-ordination with property owners and local agencies.

On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of New York home and small business owners whose property was devastated, the letter noted that three months after Sandy’s devastation, thousands of homes and buildings throughout NYC still have dangerously high levels of mould, often rendering dwellings uninhabitable.

“The extensive disaster-related damage to their homes and businesses has resulted in the potential for exposure to hazardous mould,” the letter stated.

“Environmental contamination has not been adequately addressed, and could lead to serious health concerns, such as allergic reactions, asthma, other lung-related illnesses as well as compromised immune systems and lower resilience to illness,” the delegation argued. “The longer this problem remains ignored by the federal government, the higher the risk of danger and expense to the health of our constituents and communities.”

Delegation members noted that homeowners and small business owners require assistance with, but not limited to, the following:

  • the assessment of mould contamination, and reimbursement for all costs related to remediation;
  • removal of contaminated wall board, drywall, gypsum board, plaster (or similar wall finishes), books and paper, carpet and backing or floor finishes, ceiling tiles, cellulose insulation, fibreglass insulation, hard surfaces, porous flooring) linoleum, ceramic tile and vinyl), window drapes, and ceilings or permanent light fixtures; and
  • co-ordinated remediation of common spaces, and of contaminated heating and ventilation systems (including ductwork), plumbing, and air conditioning systems, or other mechanical equipment.

The letter noted it is the delegation’s understanding that mould remediation is an eligible expense, at least in certain circumstances, for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).