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How to Prevent Toxin Exposure After Natural Disasters

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
January 09, 2013; 9:00 AM

In the wake of a natural disaster, it's important to be aware of conditions that could put you in harm's way. Though most people often think of mold as the most toxic byproduct of natural disasters such as flash flooding and hurricanes, there are several environmental hazards to watch out for too.

Asbestos:
Found in vinyl flooring, paints, building foundations and other household items, asbestos fibers can be quite problematic post-natural disaster. During a natural disaster and after, these fibers may be shaken loose and inhaled. Overexposure can cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, so the Environmental Protection Agency recommends hiring a professional contractor for abatement. It is important to know that asbestos fibers are too small to be seen by the naked eye.

Here's a look at easy ways to keep your home and office free of germs and bacteria.

Water Pollution:
If water becomes contaminated as a result of natural disasters, it is important to take every precaution to prevent the spread of infectious disease. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, any food that has come into contact with water should be disposed of. Use bottled water until your water supply has been cleared, or boil your water. Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. Anything that has come into contact with flood waters should be disinfected.

Mold:
According to the CDC, mold which covers more than 10 square feet should be removed by a professional. However, smaller areas can be cleaned using a solution of one cup of bleach added to one gallon of water. Anyone with a sensitivity to mold, allergy to mold, or asthma should avoid these areas.

Insects:
When flood water becomes stagnant, it runs the risk of attracting mosquitos which can transmit the West Nile Virus. Be sure to wear insect repellent when working in such areas.

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