How To Help Louisiana Flood Victims

After historic floods ravaged parts of southern Louisiana over the weekend and left thousands evacuated, waters are beginning to recede and cleanup efforts are underway. Many organizations are lending a helping hand with food, supplies and cleanup efforts. There are many ways you can support victims as they pick up the pieces and begin again.

Here are a few organizations that need your help as residents recover from what the American Red Cross calls the worst disaster since Hurricane Sandy.

American Red Cross

The Louisiana branch of the American Red Cross is providing meals and dozens of shelters for residents needing a safe place to sleep. A detailed listing of the organization’s efforts, facilities and needs can be found here and you can contribute financially by either visiting here or by texting the word LAFLOODS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is working from its Baton Rouge facility to help those evacuated during the flood. The organization has sent extra personnel to the area to provide mobile feeding units, hygiene kits and to help in cleanup efforts. You can volunteer or donate money to the Salvation Army’s Gulf Coast fund.

The United Way

Donations for flood relief can be made through the United Way of Southeast Louisiana website. They are also seeking volunteers.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans & Acadiana

This organization is seeking financial support as they distribute thousands of pounds of food, water and supplies to flood victims.

Convoy of Hope

This faith-based, nonprofit organization is providing food, water, equipment and relief supplies to southern Louisiana. You can donate here and specify that you would like your donation to go to the Louisiana August 2016 flood relief efforts.

Operation Blessing International

Operation Blessing International is another faith-based, nonprofit that has already deployed volunteers to help in cleanup efforts and reconstruction. For more on their relief efforts in Louisiana, you can find information here. If you’re interested in volunteering, email volunteer@OB.org and to offer financial support, you can donate here.

LSU Fund

Louisiana State University’s Zeta Phi Beta sorority has a GoFundMe site, which is aiming to raise $10,000 and disburse it to students impacted by the flooding.

Save the Children

This organization that serves children and their families around the world is providing support to help with emergency assistance in flooding areas. To support their efforts, you can donate to the Gulf Coast Floods Children’s Relief Fund.

Animal Shelters

There are several animal shelters in the area that are seeking donations, volunteers and foster parents for hundreds of rescued pets, including Companion Animal Alliance, as well as a GoFundMe site for Denham Springs Animal Shelter.

Drop Off Items

If you live in the area, there are a number of places where you can drop off items like diapers, pillows, bedding, toiletries, clothing, car seats, mattresses, food, gift cards, stuffed animals, pet food and water bottles. See a full list of locations accepting donations here.

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Proper Humidity Levels

Too often, homeowners can’t figure out how they got mold in their home when they never had a leak.  Humidity is never considered and many do not know the important role it plays in having a healthy indoor air environment.  In fact, when we see homes with leaks versus homes with high levels of humidity, the humid home usually will have a worse mold issue that is more widespread, than a leak which can be contained to that section. Humidity levels in a home should be between 35% to 50%.  Mold can thrive when humidity levels reach 60% and above, so keeping your levels below that will insure that mold can not grow.  Proper ventilation in attics and bathrooms will also help control humidity, as will a commercial grade dehumidifier in your basement.

An easy way to test for humidity is to purchase a hygrometer. Make sure to follow provided instructions for your model on how to calibrate the machine, and then set it up in a place away from sunlight or drafts for it to take a measurement.  These instruments can be purchased online and at most box stores and are fairly inexpensive.  Having such a device can help you stay on top of humidity levels and maintain a safe and healthy home.

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How Molds Affect Humans

After pollens, molds are the leading cause of outdoor airborne allergies, which can recur year-round. Some of the most common symptoms of those sensitive to molds include nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, cold and flu-like symptoms, rashes, conjunctivitis, inability to concentrate, and fatigue. Mold exposure has also been associated with asthma onset. Symptoms usually disappear when the mold is removed. However, under certain conditions, exposure to mold can cause serious health problems. Some people with chronic illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, for example, may develop mold infections in their lungs. Also, some people exposed to large amounts of mold at work, such as farmers working with moldy hay, may develop even more severe reactions, including fever and shortness of breath. Some molds are toxic, producing chemicals called “mycotoxins,” which in large doses may affect human health, usually by causing allergy-like symptoms such as watery eyes or eye irritation, runny nose and sneezing or nasal congestion, wheezing and difficulty breathing, aggravation of asthma, coughing, itching, or rashes.
Other health problems that have been linked to mold exposure involve the odors produced by mold “volatiles” during the degradation of substrates. These have been discovered to irritate mucous membranes, and they have been associated with a number of symptoms from headaches and nausea to fatigue in individuals exposed to them. For those suffering from multiple chemical sensitivities, the simple presence of these microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) can trigger a reaction just as strong and serious as exposure to chemical VOCs. Fungi or microorganisms related to them may cause other health problems similar to allergy. Some kinds of Aspergillus especially may cause several different illnesses, including both infections and allergy. These fungi may lodge in the airways or a distant part of the lung and grow until they form a compact sphere known as a “fungus ball.” In people with lung damage or serious underlying illnesses, Aspergillus may grasp the opportunity to invade and actually infect the lungs or the whole body.

In some individuals, exposure to these fungi can also lead to asthma or to an illness known as “allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.” This latter condition, which occurs occasionally in people with asthma, is characterized by wheezing, low-grade fever, and coughing up of brown-flecked masses or mucous plugs. Skin testing, blood tests, x-rays, and examination of the sputum for fungi can help establish the diagnosis. Corticosteroid drugs are usually effective in treating this reaction; immunotherapy (allergy shots) is not helpful. The occurrence of allergic aspergillosis suggests that other fungi might cause similar respiratory conditions. Inhalation of spores from fungus-like bacteria, called “actinomycetes,” and from mold can cause a lung disease called “hypersensitivity pneumonitis.” This condition is often associated with specific occupations. For example, farmer’s lung disease results from inhaling spores growing in moldy hay and grains in silos. Occasionally, “hypersensitivity pneumonitis” develops in people who live or work where an air conditioning or a humidifying unit that is contaminated with these spores emits them.

The symptoms of “hypersensitivity pneumonitis” may resemble those of a bacterial or viral infection such as the flu. Bouts of chills, fever, weakness, muscle pains, cough, and shortness of breath develop 4 to 8 hours after exposure to the offending organism. The symptoms gradually disappear when the source of exposure is removed and the area properly ventilated. If it is not removed, workers having to be in those contaminated areas must wear a protective mask with a filter capable of removing spores or change jobs. If “hypersensitivity pneumonitis” is allowed to progress, it can lead to serious heart and lung problems. Also, air with a high concentration of fungal spores of a number of different types of molds may contain toxins that, when breathed over a long period of time, may result in a kind of poisoning. Stachybotrys atra, a mold that is commonly found on wet cellulose products (for example, drywall) and is causing growing concern among physicians, is one of these molds. In one recent study, it was linked to lung bleeding in infants. This mold has also been linked to sudden infant death syndrome and to central nervous system symptoms such as personality changes, sleep disorders, and memory loss.

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Water Damage Dangers

The amount of damage water can cause is amazing, and often underestimated by homeowners. Excess moisture is bad enough, but when a home is flooded or hit with a plumbing disaster (like a burst pipe), the situation can quickly get out of hand. There’s a reason why these incidents are among the most expensive problems a homeowner can face. Contaminated water not only creates immediate structural problems, it can leave serious biological threats behind after it has been removed.

Floods, sewage backflows, and other sources of contaminated fluid usually cause the worst damage. Dirty water is filled with all kinds of deadly substances, ranging from chemical residues to animal feces to parasites. Bacteria, viruses and fungi grow explosively in contaminated fluid, and severe health risks, like salmonella and hepatitis, are common in flood waters.

This problem is compounded by the composition of most homes, which are filled with organic materials. Drywall, wood and the matter that is trapped in carpet fibers are just a few examples, and they can give pathogens room to grow. Within 48 hours, mold may begin creeping behind the walls and releasing spores, and any organic materials that have been soaked through by contaminated fluid will usually have to be destroyed.

That’s why restoration firms, in addition to surveying the home for structural problems, will dry the home quickly and apply antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal agents to all surfaces that had contact with the water. This ensures the family can return to a safe home, and not one harboring a collection of deadly pathogens.

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Are Carpet Repair Kits Reliable?

For simple patch up jobs, a carpet repair kit may seem like a good choice to a homeowner, but as with anything else, buyers beware. Over the counter or as-seen-on-TV products often lure people with exaggerated claims, failing to mention the problems with do-it-yourself techniques. Do-it-yourself carpet patching uses inferior materials and equipment to produce a seal, and a professional can be more precise and fix any other problems that might be affecting the flooring.

A carpet repair kit uses a patching process that is similar to what professionals employ, but the quality doesn’t’ compare. During patching, a small piece of carpet is cut out of the closet or utility room and placed where the damaged flooring was. Sealing the patch in place requires a heat activated adhesive and an iron. The problem with do-it-yourself products is that the adhesive is inferior and the iron used in the process is typically a flat iron. Together, these materials are not capable of producing the same secure seal that a professional can get with an industrial glue gun and seam iron. As a result, homeowners who eschew professional assistance will have a patch that is poorly secured. Any heavy foot traffic or active play time with the family dog will quickly rip the seal up and cause the flooring to bunch.

Skilled professionals can also remove odors, stains or other structural issues with the carpeting so a homeowner can resolve several problems at once with professional help.

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Inspect Even When Renting

For many people, renting a house or apartment isn’t because they can’t afford to purchase one, but rather the comfort in knowing they can leave when their lease is up and repairs are not their responsibility.  With that being said, many never consider inspecting the apartment prior to signing a lease.  But insuring the apartment’s utilities function properly and everything is in working order can save you the hassle of going back and forth with your landlord.  And you should also check if the apartment has been affected by water damage and mold.  Mold inspections are quite affordable, ranging from $300 to $400 for air sampling and will be key for telling you whether or not the dwelling is safe.  Many calls are fielded by us each week with tenants suspecting or knowing they have mold issues and having no success with their landlord for the proper repairs.  By performing a mold inspection prior to the lease, this whole mess can be avoided.  You can also ask the landlord to supply you with one or maybe even work out a deal to pay half each.  If a landlord is confident their apartment is safe, then they should have no problem having the dwelling checked.  It’s easier to spend the upfront costs for proper inspections prior to moving into a new rental, rather than dealing with what could turn out to an issue lasting months and even ending up in court.

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