Hurricane Irma Recovery Challenges Ahead

Hurricane Irma Recovery Challenges Ahead

While those affected by the storm begin to clean up and recover, microbial proliferation can cause public health risks.

Hurricane Irma Damage

Photo: Rob Moore

Hurricane Irma was one of the most powerful hurricanes in a decade. After taking a devastating path through the Caribbean islands and along Cuba, Hurricane Irma made her United States landfall in the Florida Keys as a category 4 hurricane. Then the storm pushed onto the Florida peninsula at Marco Island and finally degraded into a tropical storm as it made its way through Georgia. About 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to evacuate as a matter of public safety, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.

Hurricane Irma left behind widespread power outages, disrupted communication networks and of most concern, caused structural damage, sewage leaks, and flooding. These situations can create massive health and hygiene problems for the public. The recovery efforts will have many challenges ahead.

A rapid microbial proliferation in post hurricane scenarios can be expected due to the deterioration of materials damaged by water intrusion and receding flood waters that are enriched with organic matter. This situation poses serious risks to public health. For identification and determination of biological (and chemical) contaminants in indoor environments, it is encouraged to collect environmental samples for testing. Samples should be collected from air, surface and water sources located around areas of the building affected by the storm. A laboratory analysis of these samples can reveal the entities responsible for initiating adverse health effects.

“Hurricane recovery for indoor environments is very tricky and challenging. Our experience suggests that several elements that can cause infectious diseases are reported from the post hurricane colonization which can trigger both health and hygiene related issues.” says Dr. Rajiv Sahay, Laboratory Director of Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory, “Ignorance of timely intervention or management can lead to community outbreaks.”

One option is Do-It-Yourself (DIY) testing methods, such as an Evalu-aire test kit, that can be used for collecting samples from flooded and water damaged indoor environments to analyze for microorganisms that might be present. These samples can be tested by a laboratory using culture or non-culture based methods. If elevated levels of microorganisms or contaminants are reported, then consult with an indoor environmental professional for more comprehensive evaluation, analysis and remedial recommendations.

Another option is hiring a professional environmental consulting firm straight away to assess the ambient conditions of the structure, interstitial wall cavities, the building’s envelope, the HVAC system, and more to determine the possible cause(s) of health concerns and to provide a specific remedy for effective their removal.

Dr. Sahay can be contacted at 1-800-422-7873 ext. 304 for more information on microbial related indoor environmental concerns, sample collection and laboratory analysis.

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.

About Pure Air Control Services

Pure Air Control Services, Inc. was established in 1984 as a small, mechanical, contracting firm and has since set the industry standard for indoor environmental quality diagnosis, environmental laboratory and remediation. Pure Air Control Services has serviced more than 600 million square feet of indoor environments in over 10,000 facilities. Pure Air’s nationally performed services include: Building Sciences Evaluation; Building Health Check; a CDC ELITE Environmental Microbiology Laboratory; Environmental Project Management; HVAC New Life Restoration and PURE-Steam Coil Cleaning/Mold Remediation Services, among other indoor environmental services.

You can contact the Building Scientists at Pure Air Control Services for a professional evaluation of your building or home at 1-800-422-7873 ext. 802 or for the DIY evalu-aire contact 1-800-422-7873 ext. 404 or visit

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