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Health advocates urge mold testing for Sandy-damaged homes

Americorps crew member William Burks, a volunteer from

Americorps crew member William Burks, a volunteer from St. Louis, MO, cleans mold from a home in Oceanside that was affected by superstorm Sandy on Jan. 10, 2013. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Long Island health advocates are urging residents to test their homes for mold, nearly two years after they may have been damaged by superstorm Sandy.

According to a survey of residents affected by Sandy, 57 percent are still living in the same home flooded by the storm surge, according to the New York Committee for Occupational Health and Safety.

The organization and Long Island Jobs with Justice have completed a report that suggests most homeowners have not sought out proper mold removal services. The survey will be released Monday afternoon with Nassau County Legislators David Denenberg (D-Merrick) and Laura Curran (D-Baldwin).

"The report shows a lot of people don't know how to do mold remediation," NYCOSH executive director Charlene Obernauer said. "We want to raise awareness of how dangerous mold can be and that it's important to get rid of it when it is there."

Health advocates have not conducted testing in Sandy-damaged homes, but officials recommend residents test their homes or have a professional service do so. Moisture meters can be bought online or at hardware stores.

A moisture level of 20 percent or higher indicates mold is in the home and should be removed by a professional contractor, Obernauer said.

The survey also showed that 67 percent of residents who sustained flooding tried to remove the mold with bleach, Obernauer said. Bleach does not kill mold or prevent its growth. Using soap and water is more effective, she said.

NYCOSH recommended replacing anything in the home that has absorbed water, ranging from flooring to kitchen cabinets or drywall. Floodwaters carry thousands of strains of bacteria and mold, which can lead to asthma or other respiratory conditions, Obernauer said.

"Not everyone said mold had grown back, but just because they didn't see it doesn't mean it isn't there," Obernauer said.

Homeowners are also at risk if they continued to live in their home while Sandy-related repairs were being completed, according to the study. Home repairs can expose harmful dust or asbestos, Obernauer said.

For more information, residents can contact Community Development Corporation of Long Island at 631-471-1215 or NYCOSH at 212-227-6440.

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