[OPINION] Addressing Mold In Homes Is An Important Part Of Recovering Safely

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By Mary E. O’Dowd, MPH

As New Jerseyans continue to rebuild and recover from Superstorm Sandy, mold and its remediation have become a challenging issue for many residents and communities. It can cause property damage and be a health concern when it grows inside homes and is not properly dealt with. Exposure to mold can cause coughing or wheezing as well as irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and skin.

To help homeowners ensure that their residences are cleaned and remediated properly, the New Jersey Department of Health created and released a pamphlet entitled Mold: Guidelines for New Jersey Residents.

This pamphlet can help residents identify mold in their homes. If a problem is identified during a visual inspection, a plan to correct the moisture problem will need to be developed and implemented. For smaller areas affected by mold growth, such as less than 10 square feet, homeowners may be able to do the work themselves. But for larger areas, a qualified contractor with experience in mold or environmental contamination may be needed. It’s important for those performing remediation work to be protected with gloves, a respirator, protective clothing and goggles.

The mold brochure includes important questions to ask when hiring a mold consultant or contractor and two checklists, one focused on inspection services and the other covering remediation. It also includes consumer tips such as asking what kind of sampling will be done; getting several estimates and having a contractor make a visual inspection of the mold rather than give an estimate over the phone.

Residents can receive copies of the pamphlet by visiting nj.gov/health/er/hurricane_recovery_resources.shtml or calling (609) 826-4950. Residents can also call the same number to speak with the Department’s Environmental and Occupation Health Assessment Program staff about questions they may have regarding mold inspection or removal.

For residents who are interested in learning more, the Department is collaborating with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) School of Public Health to offer free training classes for homeowners and volunteers. This course provides mold awareness and general safety procedures for homeowners and volunteers when dealing with post hurricane and flood clean-up issues. Those who participate in the class will learn about safe work practices, personal protective equipment, respiratory protection and best practices for remediation. There will be 25 opportunities to participate in classes held across the state for homeowners. The class schedule can be found on the Department’s Sandy Recovery Resources webpage at nj.gov/health/er/hurricane_recovery_resources.shtml.

Residents can also call their local health departments for guidance on recovery issues. To find a local health department, residents can view a directory on the Department’s website at http://nj.gov/health/lh/directory/lhdselectcounty.shtml.

Repairing a home after one of the most devastating storms to ever strike our state can be overwhelming.

My hope is that residents who suffered flooding as a result of Sandy will use this pamphlet as a resource to guide them as they address mold in their homes as well as take advantage of this free training, which will provide critical education on remediating safely. Tremendous progress has been made in rebuilding our state and the Department’s goal is to ensure that our residents’ health is protected during this time of recovery.

Mary O’Dowd is the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health.


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