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Cleanup in storm surge aftermath can pose health risks for lungs

Southwest Florida residents assess damage in the wake of Hurricane Ian's storm surge.

A pulmonologist warns about chemicals, oil, gas and other dangerous substances in floodwaters created by Hurricane Ian.

A Broward County pulmonologist warns that storm surge aftermath may present health problems and that people need to protect themselves while cleaning up from Hurricane Ian.

"Chemicals, oil, gas and other dangerous substances found in floodwaters can pose health risks to the entire area residents. Standing water and dampness is a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and mold. These can become airborne and inhaled, putting people at risk for lung disease," says Dr. Sunil Kumar, with the American Lung Association,

Prevention is essential, he adds. Start cleaning up as soon as possible, and wear protective clothing like gloves, rubber boots and well-fitted N-95 masks. Turn off electricity and gas before you enter the building to clean up. And, he says, don’t automatically reach for the bleach bottle.

"If you see any mold, please use soap and water for cleaning. Our tendency is to go run and get bleach to clean these areas. But if it’s inside a room and you use bleach, that could make it difficult to breathe. So soap and water is more than enough to do it," says Dr. Kumar.

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