For people affected by Cyclone Gabrielle who are now at the recovery stage, flooded homes should be aired out as soon as possible to prevent harmful build-up of mould.
NIWA Principal Scientist for Air Quality Dr Guy Coulson says that water damaged buildings can develop mould quickly if not dried out properly.
“It's horrific seeing the images from across the North Island of Cyclone Gabrielle’s destruction. We know that people already have lots to worry about, but we wanted to send out the message that flooded properties are breeding grounds for mould, which can take hold in as little as 48 hours.
“As communities begin the clean-up, we advise that the best thing to do is open all doors and windows to let outside air circulate for as long as possible, using a fan if necessary and ideally until everything is dry. This should be done as soon as the water has receded and if safe to do so. This is the same advice for keeping the air in your house healthy in all cases, such as when using gas cookers and helping prevent the spread of Covid,” said Dr Coulson.
This guidance follows the devastating floods across New Zealand’s North Island, which has so far killed 7 people, left thousands displaced, and caused extensive destruction to roads and property.
Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ says that mould in houses can be a health hazard.
“For some people, mould can trigger respiratory symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath. Ongoing exposure or exposure to large quantities of mould can cause asthma or worsen existing respiratory conditions.
“The Foundation advises anyone with a respiratory condition, or anyone who is experiencing respiratory symptoms, to keep out of mouldy and flood-damaged homes if possible, and not remove the mould themselves or be present while it is being removed. If you can’t avoid exposure, then wear eye protection and a respirator mask or a disposable tight-fitting dust mask. Do not use a fabric face mask, as these do not protect against mould.”