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Health Risks and Water Disaster Cleanup

Dealing with a water disaster and/or flood disaster and it’s?repercussions can be tricky. A water damaged home can be expensive to fix and very time consuming. It’s important to do the cleanup correctly by hiring experienced restoration professionals. Plus, there are major health risks to be aware of regarding a water disaster cleanup.

Dirty Water

Not all flood water is the same. There are categories of water such as clean water, grey water and black water. It’s important to know which type of water you are dealing with. The water can carry germs, viruses, diseases, and dangerous contaminants. A person is specifically vulnerable if they have any cuts and punctures on the skin. It’s recommended that tetanus shots are current before exposing yourself to any flooded areas and that you wear the necessary protective gear.

Categories of Flood Water:

Clean Water: Examples of a clean water disaster are sink overflows, appliance malfunctions, broken water supply lines, etc. More than likely, clean water does not pose a substantial health threat.

Grey Water: Examples of grey water are toilet bowls overflowing, sump pump failures, water discharge from washing machines, etc. Grey water carries micro organisms and nutrients of micro organisms that are dangerous and can make you sick when exposed to it.

Black Water: Examples of black water are sewage water, seawater, water from rivers or streams, etc. Oftentimes, grey water that has been allowed to remained stagnant can move to a category 3 water (black water). Black water carries harmful bacteria and fungi, that can cause severe sickness and death.


Mold is perhaps one of the most complicated things when dealing with water damage cleanup. It spreads quickly and can be difficult to detect. The rule-of-thumb is if you get a musty or earthy smell, most likely mold is present. Also, do an eye test and look for?discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth on the surface of building materials or furnishings. Read our blog Getting Rid of Mold to learn more.

Health Risks

  • Wheezing
  • Watery and itchy eyes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rashes
  • Sore throat
  • Chronic cough
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Flu-like aches and pains
  • Sinus problems
  • Nasal blockage
  • Frequent sneezing

Structural Damage

Water can do major structural damage to a building from the shifting of the foundation to a partial or complete collapse of the structure. Therefore, do not enter a water damaged building unless experienced professionals/authorities say it’s safe to do so. It’s necessary to have an experienced contractor inspect the building’s structure to determine how bad the damage is and assess a plan for restoration.

Lead Dust

Homes built before 1978 may have paint that contains lead in it. The paint can flake and peel as the building dries and lead dust can become a problem during cleanup. The dust can get in the air, rest on clothes, get on hands, etc. The danger of lead poisoning is by the time a person shows symptoms, their body had already been poisoned. Even worse, sometimes there are no symptoms at all. Learn more on the dangers of lead by reading our blog Lead-Based Paint.


  • High blood pressure
  • Memory loss
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain, numbness, tingling in hands and feet
  • Abdominal pain

Electrical Shocks

Before entering a water damaged building, the electricity should be turned off at the breaker. An experienced electrician/contractor should inspect the wiring behind the walls, damaged electrical devices and so forth. An electrical shock can kill and extra precautions should be taken.