How a flood can damage your home, and your health

If you experience a flood, the first instinct is to just get in there and start cleaning it up. However, sometimes it’s best to let the pros take over, or you could be risking your health.

Having your home flooded is an incredibly traumatic experience. Whether it’s a burst pipe or floodwaters, it’s something that can damage all your property and your home itself. In New Zealand, you’re lucky that water borne diseases such as cholera won’t happen, nor do you have to worry about malaria and dengue. But you still need to treat flood waters with caution.

Three types of floodwaters

There are three types of water that can flood your home.

Clean water: This is the kind of water you’d get flooding your home from a burst pipe, a toilet holding tank, or rainwater. These are safe for you to clean up yourself generally and present no significant health threat from the immediate presence of water.

Greywater: This is wastewater that isn’t contaminated with sewage. If you leave clean water for a few days, then it becomes greywater. This can be cleaned up by you, but it needs to be attended to promptly.

Blackwater: This is water that’s been contaminated with human waste, or other biological materials that are unclean. Greywater, if not cleaned up, can degrade to blackwater within a few days. This is where bacteria hangs out, and the kind of flooding that can cause huge damage and in general will need a professional to sort it out.

What are the problems caused by flooding?

As well as the obvious, there are also risks to your health and long term property damage.

Sewage contamination: This is a very real risk from a flood. The water that flows through your home could be contaminated with sewage, although at the very least, it’s filthy. This increases the risk of illness, such as diarrhoea and vomiting, if you and your family come into contact with the water.

Skin problems: There are a number of fungal and bacterial skin infections that are commonly reported from people who come into contact with flood waters. This can be traumatic in those with diabetes. Also, if there are chemicals in the water, these can burn and damage skin.

Damage to walls, ceilings and floors: Water is sneaky. It can drip in over a long time, from a tiny leak in the ceiling, causing huge damage, one drop at a time. Or, it can be improperly dried out following a flood, and continue to sit in timber furniture, wall linings or floorboards. This causes timber to rot away, swell, and require substantial repairs later. It can damage your foundations, framing, and everything it comes into contact with, more so if it is left untreated and unresolved for long periods of time.

Mould, fungi and mildew: particularly if your home has had a flood with dirt and debris from outside coming in, mould and mildew can form if not properly dried out. Black mould in particular can cause a huge range of health problems.

Asthma: WHO says that a large proportion of the world’s 300 million children with asthma can be attributed to mould and dampness inside. If you or your family members have asthma, floodwaters dried out poorly can exacerbate or trigger asthma attacks.

Depression: Studies have linked damp homes and depression. While more studies are required, there is evidence to suggest dampness and mould are associated with depression.

Respiratory illness: In particular, black mould (Stachybotrys chartarum​) can grow toxic spores. These spores are linked to sneezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and even lung bleeds.

Inappropriate use of cleaning chemicals: There are two types of problems here. One, is that a certain type of cleaner is used may not be appropriate for the job. This means the bacteria may not be killed, or the chemicals could leach into things and become toxic. The other common problem is people mixing chemicals that should not be mixed. While common ones, like bleach and ammonia, people know not to mix, there are other combinations that can cause toxic fumes and damage to possessions.

When to contact the professionals

If you have had a flood, there can be a huge risk in cleaning up yourself. Not just to your home and property, but to your health too. If adequate precautions aren’t taken, especially if the flooding is from blackwater, there is short and long term health risks.

Get the professionals in to ensure there’s no harm to you and your family, but also to ensure the clean-up is done correctly. This could mean disposal of gib boards, insulation, carpets and other soft furnishings—the trained professional knows what can be saved, and what can’t be. This means your home will be safe and stable for many years to come. Contact us at Tech Clean to book a flood clean-up. We are available 24/7 for emergencies, and ensure the floodwaters are cleaned correctly, stopping further damage from occurring.

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