Weeks after Harvey, homeowners are experiencing an aftershock. The floods may have dried but the moisture is coming back in the form of mold. A woman who developed health problems after living with mold following Rita is sharing her story to help Harvey victims.
Tina Dunham has lived through several hurricanes. Harvey forced the woman out of her Vidor home. It isn't the first time she's been displaced. Dunham has had to start over more than once. Rita was the root of her troubles. Dunham says she didn't realize that once the storm in 2005 passed, another wave of problems was on the way.
"I kind of knew what it was but ... I thought I'd get better," said Dunham. "I thought well, I'll just keep cleaning this and it'll be ok."
After Hurricane Rita, Dunham immediately started repairing the water damage to her home. In a matter of days, she developed a cough. Even after the repairs, her cough never got better and more symptoms popped up.
"Most of the time you feel poisoned," said Dunham. "You don't know how to describe it to anyone. The inflammation it brings is indescribable. It affects your vision."
Years and several doctor visits later, she finally came to terms with the fact that living with mold growing in the walls was the source of her struggle. Dunham believes she didn't discard enough of the porous materials in the water damaged home. Now she's sharing her story and begging her neighbors to take this seriously.
"I'm not an expert. It's what I've been through and what I learned the hard way."
Dunham is not alone in raising awareness.
"There's a lot of misinformation going around about mold remediation and what kills mold and what doesn't kill mold," said Eric Klein.
He is a volunteer with Can-Do. Klein is going door to door in Rose City and helping homeowners with the repair process.
The Ford family is one of many he's met along the way.
"If we can get the mold killed and gone it's a matter of just building it back up again," said Helen Ford.
Some of the buildings on the Ford property appear to be a total loss and could be demolished.
They stay out of the areas already riddled with mold.
Mold risks are real.
FEMA explains that "children, immune-compromised patients, pregnant women, people with respiratory conditions and the elderly ... appear to be at higher risks for adverse health effects from mold."
While air filters won't protect you from mold risks they can help you breathe easier, especially during demo.
Dunham suggests duct taping a 20x20 air filter to the back of a box fan to help catch debris.
A lot of homeowners are calling in the professionals to help clear out areas where mold can thrive.
12News reached out to ServPro. Their crews were too busy for an interview but the company's website answers a lot of questions about the mold remediation process.
They say to be wary of companies claiming total mold "removal."
ServPro reminds Southeast Texans that:
• Mold is present almost everywhere, indoors and outdoors.
• Mold spores can enter your home through windows, doors, or AC systems -- or even hitch a ride indoors on your clothing or on a pet.
• Before mold remediation can begin, any sources of water or moisture must be addressed. Otherwise, the mold may return.
• Even higher-than-normal indoor humidity can support mold growth. Keep indoor humidity below 45 percent.
If you think there's mold in your home or business, ServPro suggests staying out of affected areas and turning off HVAC systems and fans.
As for what NOT to do, ServPro suggests:
• Don't touch or disturb the mold.
• Don't blow air across any surfaces with visible or suspected mold growth.
• Don't attempt to dry the area yourself.
• Don't spray bleach or other disinfectants on the mold.
Dunham also warns against the common thought that bleach will kill anything.
"Yeah, on hard surfaces, metal, glass, formica, tile, yes, you can clean it, remove it, it's gone. so it's dead. but anything it can absorb in [throw it out]."
FEMA agrees saying, "porous materials such as drywall, carpeting, paper, ceiling tiles and furniture made out of composite material ...should be discarded."
Dunham says she's still fighting to regain her health. She's also faced ridicule from neighbors who didn't believe the health complications were due to the mold. She encourages all Southeast Texans to do their homework, ask lots of questions and to reach out for support if they need help surviving this Harvey aftershock.
"Knowledge is power," said Dunham.
She started a Facebook page where Southeast Texans can share their experiences fighting mold. You can join in by posting a remediation company review, info about which products seem to work or even helpful articles. To request joining the group search "Texas Indoor Mold Harvey Aftermath" on Facebook.
Dunham says sharing her story often brings up a debate between the difference between indoor and outdoor mold. She's willing to share articles explaining more about the science behind mold growth. You can contact her through the mold Facebook group.
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