Floods and Lung Disease

There are many hazards to our personal safety consider when a flood strikes – drowning, being swept away by raging flood water or trapped in a sinking vehicle – there are too many fears to list. In previous posts we have discussed the dangers of returning to a flooded house, such as the high potential for electric shocks, gas leaks or coming into contact with raw sewage.

The American Lung Association this week has started a campaign to highlight another danger of flooding; lung disease. In their special press release earlier this month, the American Lung Association said:

Flood waters and water damage from this emergency will pose special problems for the thousands of people with existing lung disease and may increase the likelihood of the development of lung disease.

Flood water in homes and buildings is likely to be a breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria and viruses which may put people at risk of lung disease. What many people don’t expect during a flood is that there will be a possibility of a sewage leak, which of course will leave huge amounts of toxins in the flood water.

Even once the flood waters have receded, the toxins may well remain . Mold on the walls of a previously flooded home for example, is also likely to pose a threat of lung disease. Damp in buildings actually aids the growth of micro-organisms that can spread disease. As the ALA says:

Damp buildings and furnishings promote the growth of micro-organisms, dust mites, cockroaches and mold, which can aggravate asthma and allergies and may cause the development of asthma, wheeze, cough and hypersensitivity pneumonitis in susceptible persons.

There are many contaminants to deal with during a flood, and those involved in any clean up operation are likely to come into contact with all sorts of bacteria and toxins. Care must be made to wear the proper protective clothing at all times. The physical stress of suffering from flooding and the ensuing clean up can also make people vulnerable to disease.

And remember that much of your household items – furniture and especially electrical goods – may have to be thrown out since they are too dangerous to use again (the electrical items) or contaminated with bacteria from flood waters. Just because the furniture has dried out doesn’t mean the bacteria has gone.

Sadly, even the help offered during a flood can also bring disease. Shared temporary accommodation, for example, may actually increase the spread of infectious diseases such as influenza, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

For a full run-down of the risks of flooding to health, especially lung disease, plus how best to approach any post-flood clean-up operation, see the article from the American Lung Association here.

2 thoughts on “Floods and Lung Disease

  1. Interesting post. I see from the post on Somalia floods they are suffering from water borne diseases such as cholera etc.

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