Hurricane Irma: Now What?

Hurricane Irma: Now What?

Last month Hurricane Irma battered the Caribbean, the whole state of Florida and parts of the southern United States. A Category 4 hurricane at landfall, Irma had sustained winds of 130 MPH with roof-ripping gusts and driving rain. The rain water and storm surge created severe flooding in parts of southern Florida. Attention is warranted to avoid biological and a-biological pollutants in order to make occupiable spaces safe from a health and hygiene point of view.

Tampa, FL– Hurricane Irma ripped through the Caribbean and the island chain of the Florida Keys before making landfall at Marco Island. Millions of Floridians were evacuated ahead of the storm and more than 585 shelters housed more than 200,000 individuals across the state. After the storm passed, residents returning home found devastation. This included loss of power, damaged roofs, uprooted trees and debris scattered everywhere. Flooding from rain and storm surge took toll on both the exterior and interior of buildings. Several schools, businesses and other public and private buildings were closed due to the prevailing conditions. The receding waters pose health risks to individuals residing in the path of the storm. Flood water and its residual cleanup is toxic because it may contain several harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, molds, protozoa, and viruses. Waters that breach their environmental or man-made systems become a mixture of everything they engulf. As the polluted waters recede and cleanup begins there are several environmental factors to consider.

Even when a building structure has been recovered from flooding related water damage, public health issues can still occur. Though everything may appear visually cleaned up, the interstitial side of the building’s structure might yet be teeming with chemical and microbial propagules. Discoloration of interior walls and other places are a primary indicator that microbial remediation is needed. If the discoloration is in multiple places, it is of even more concern as the interstitial sides could be 100 times greater than what is visibly seen. There is little medical or scientific doubt that this is hazardous to the health of building occupants.

Possible constituents to consider in a post flooding environmental assessment may include:

• E. coli
• Total Coli-forms
• Total Fungal
• Total Bacteria
• Chemicals
• Salmonella
• Listeria

Professional evaluation, testing, and laboratory analysis is often needed to better ascertain the extent of the potential damage, ongoing conditions, and health risks that may be lurking in an affected building. Non-culture and culture analysis provided by a qualified laboratory reveals not only the identity of indoor contaminates but also their concentration. The outcome of these laboratory results are useful in determining the potential cause and source of the contaminates. They can also be helpful in an effective remediation if needed.

You can contact Dr. Rajiv Sahay from the Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory at 1-800-422-7873 Ext. 304 for more information.

About Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab)
The Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab) (established in 1992) at Pure Air Control Services (PACS) is an environmental lab offering complete and comprehensive indoor environmental microbiology laboratory services. They include: microbiology, aerobiology, chemistry, allergen assays and microscopy designed to meet all your indoor air needs. EDLab supports IAQ investigations by assisting with strategic sampling plan development and supplying media collection equipment while performing a wide range of environmental analyses.

For more information on EDLab at Pure Air Services, Inc. please contact Dr. Rajiv Sahay, CIAQP, FIAS, at (800) 422-7873 x 304, or visit

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