As homeowners in the city continue to clean up and rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, NY1's Erin Billups takes a look at the impact mold can have on those unprotected or ill-suited for exposure and filed the following report.
Hurricane Sandy put the ocean in Joe Cosenza's Staten Island home. Three days after the storm, Cosenza says his walls looked like moldy bread. Immediately, his asthma flared up.
"My chest, my eyes were burning, my nose would burn, I was coughing, wheezing," recalls Cosenza.
In Mr. Cosenza's house, the mold was easy to spot, but that's not always the case.
"An actively growing mold culture has millions of spores, and these spores are seeds that want to repopulate, and they are microscopic," says Jack Caravanos, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Program Director at CUNY School of Public Health.
Caravanos says if the mold is not cleaned up properly and you've got asthma, allergies, or your immune system is compromised, mold can trigger attacks. For healthier folks who are exposed to mold without protection, there are consequences as well.
"It's possible that a heavy mold spore loading can actually cause an allergy or create an allergic response," says Caravanos.
Through a city grant, CUNY's School of Public Health and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey will give 70 training sessions around the city on how to properly remove mold from homes as Sandy cleanup continues.
"If you don't address this issue, there's a possible health consequence, but number two, it's literally destroying your home," says Caravanos.
During the training sessions, homeowners are given protective gear and equipment to properly remove mold.
For those like Cosenza with health issues, Caravanos says it's best to get outside help. The nonprofit Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation came in and cleaned up Cosenza's home for free.
"I can actually walk in here again, it's great," notes Cosenza.
Tunnels to Towers made sure Cosenza's house was completely dry before letting him back in, which Caravanos says is the key.
"Do not rebuild unless someone comes and takes a moisture reading and tells you you're dry," recommends Caravanos.
For more information about mold removal, visit nyc.gov/html/cau/html/home/home.shtml.
To reach the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation, visit www.tunneltotowersrun.org.