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Cost and Effectiveness of Mold Remediation Procedures in Three New Orleans Homes Flooded by Hurricane Katrina

Wilson, J*; Chew, G; Morley, R*

ISEE/ISEA 2006 Conference Abstracts Supplement: Poster Abstracts: Abstracts

*National Center for Healthy Housing, Columbia, MD. Columbia University, New York, NY.


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Hurricane Katrina, at the end of August 2006, caused the breach of several levees surrounding the City of New Orleans and left over seventy-five percent of New Orleans under water. A storm surge from Hurricane Rita, several weeks later, re-flooded many areas of the City. Residents returning to their homes are finding extensive contamination from mold and other toxic materials that have been left behind from the flood waters. Exposures to mold spores and other contaminants present serious health risks to homeowners and to the people who are working to restore the houses. The purpose of this study is to assess the cost and effectiveness of mold remediation procedures in three homes in the Gentilly area of New Orleans that sustained varying levels of flood damage from Hurricane's Katrina and Rita.

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A national panel of experts convened to develop the remediation protocols based on scientific research and best practice. The final protocols included debris removal, cleaning, HEPA vacuuming, treatment of wall cavities with a borate solution, and moisture removal. The project team collected baseline samples for culturable mold and total mold spores using Petri dishes and low- and high-flow sampling pumps, respectively. Samples were also taken during the remediation process and immediately following the clean up procedures.

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The samples indicated that mold levels were 100 times outdoor levels during remediation work. Home #1, which underwent a less extensive cleaning procedure and was not allowed to dry completely, continued to be a host for mold at elevated levels (>10,000 CFU/m3) Following revised protocols effectively reduced mold levels in Home #2 to non-detectable levels post-treatment. The cost of this decontamination process after all possessions and furnishings are removed from the home is between $3.40 to $4.10 per square foot of floor area or $4,400 for an average 1,200 foot home.

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The drying process and cleaning of all surfaces in a home, including upper walls and ceilings, is critical to the success of mold clean-up. The findings also highlight the importance of appropriate personal protection equipment for homeowners and workers during possession removal and during mold remediation and support the idea that successful mold remediation procedures in moderately damaged homes can be performed in a cost-effective way.

Copyright © 2006 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.