flood water fungi

Fungi Hazards in Floodwater clean-ups

As one of the wettest winters on record, cleaning up after the effects of floodwater has been almost a monthly activity in some parts of the UK.  But as floodwaters recede and clean-up efforts commence, there’s a hidden danger lurking amidst the devastation – fungi. Flood conditions create the perfect breeding ground for various types of fungi, some of which pose serious health risks. Clean-up workers are particularly vulnerable to exposure to airborne fungi and its spores, commonly found in mouldy building materials, decaying organic matter, and other fungus-contaminated debris.

Facts about Fungi.

Excessive moisture or water accumulation indoors can encourage the growth of fungi that is already present.

Some fungi have the potential to cause adverse health effects, such as allergic responses and asthma attacks. Those who are sensitive to moulds may exhibit symptoms of an allergic reaction (nasal stuffiness, eye irritation and wheezing) upon exposure.

Repeated or prolonged contact with flood waters can lead to a fungal skin infection. However, these can be minimised by washing the skin with warm, soapy water and keeping it as dry as possible.

Understanding the health hazard caused by fungi.

Before diving into the strategies for protection, let’s understand the risks associated with fungi exposure:

Respiratory Issues. Airborne fungal particles can be inhaled, leading to respiratory problems ranging from mild irritation to severe allergic reactions and asthma attacks.

Skin Infections. Prolonged contact with flood waters can result in fungal skin infections, which, although treatable, can be uncomfortable and distressing.

Recognising Symptoms.

If you experience severe allergic reactions, skin irritation, or flu-like symptoms after exposure to fungi, it’s crucial to seek medical attention promptly. Identifying and addressing symptoms early can prevent complications and ensure a speedy recovery.

Essential Tips for Protection.

For workers involved in flood clean-up, here are some vital tips to minimize the risk of fungal exposure:

Respiratory Protection.

Wear a respirator when working with mouldy or damp materials to avoid inhaling harmful fungal particles.

Proper Disposal.

Discard all water-damaged materials and visibly contaminated items to prevent further exposure.

Surface Cleaning.

Clean surfaces with warm, soapy water followed by a disinfectant solution to remove mould. Avoid mixing bleach with other cleaning products.

Personal Hygiene.

After working with mould-contaminated materials, thoroughly wash your body, including hair, scalp, and nails, to remove any residual fungi.

Safe Consumption. Only consume food and beverages from sources confirmed to be safe, such as bottled or boiled water, until the local water supply is declared safe.

Specific Measures for Flooded Buildings and Homes

When dealing with flooded structures, additional precautions are necessary:

  1. Protective Gear: Wear a respirator, gloves, and eye protection at all times during clean-up activities.
  2. Material Disposal: Remove and seal wet building materials and furnishings in impermeable bags or containers to prevent further contamination.
  3. Cleaning Protocol: Clean and disinfect surfaces using appropriate detergents or biocides, ensuring thorough removal of cleaners before using air handling units.

Special Considerations for Rural or Agricultural Settings

For workers in rural or agricultural areas, specific precautions should be taken:

  1. Ventilation: Ventilate enclosed spaces like silos before entry to reduce fungal exposure.
  2. Respiratory Protection: Always wear a respirator when handling mouldy animal feed or working in enclosed structures to minimise inhalation risks.

By implementing these strategies and precautions, clean-up workers can significantly reduce the risk of fungal exposure and safeguard their health amidst challenging flood recovery efforts. Remember, prioritising safety is paramount in any clean-up operation, especially when dealing with hidden hazards like fungi.

Flood conditions contribute to the growth and transmission of many kinds of fungi, some of which can cause illness. Clean-up workers are at an increased risk of exposure to airborne fungi and its spores common in mouldy building materials, decaying vegetable matter, rotting waste material and other fungus-contaminated debris. This fungal material is carried into the respiratory tract when it is airborne, and particles are inhaled.

There are many types of fungi, including mildew, moulds, rusts and yeasts. Most of these are harmless, but some can cause respiratory or other disorders when you inhale or come in contact with them. The recommendations listed below offer strategies for workers renovating flooded buildings, homes and other structures to protect against the hazards of handling building materials visibly contaminated with fungi.

Developing Symptoms?

If you experience a severe allergic reaction, skin irritation or severe flu-like symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately. A health care professional can determine whether medication or other remedies are necessary.

For more information about the dangers of fungi in flood water please contact the Mann Broadbent Team on 01905 612336 or alternatively email enquiry@mannbroadbent.co.uk.