Public Advocate Bill de Blasio today announced a 4-point plan to fight the spread of mold in thousands of homes and businesses inundated by Hurricane Sandy. Mold has contributed to a growing public health crisis in neighborhoods across the city, resulting in respiratory problems like the infamous “Rockaway Cough.” However, FEMA does not reimburse homeowners for mold remediation, nor can homeowners receive complete mold removal through the City’s Rapid Repair program. With thousands of homeowners unable to prevent the spread of mold in their homes, de Blasio is calling for a major City-backed initiative to secure FEMA financing for mold remediation, inspect and re-inspect homes for mold, create an information hotline and monitor the long-term health of New Yorkers affected by the storm.
“Mold doesn’t stay in one place. What starts in the basement can leave a whole house uninhabitable,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “Thousands of New Yorkers’ homes are literally making them sick. We need to get ahead of this problem now. If we wait, this crisis will keep getting worse and even more of our neighbors will find themselves without a safe place to live.”
Extensive flooding significantly increases the likelihood of mold contamination in buildings. According to the Center for Disease Control, half of homes in New Orleans were contaminated with mold after Hurricane Katrina. The CDC warns that buildings that have been wet for more than 48 hours will support extensive mold growth. Exposure to mold can cause nose and throat irritation, worsening of asthma, and severe respiratory distress.
De Blasio’s 4-point plan to address mold after Hurricane Sandy:
- Secure FEMA reimbursement for mold clean-up. FEMA does not currently reimburse homeowners for mold removal. De Blasio is calling on the Mayor to specifically request FEMA aid for mold remediation.
- Create a hotline for mold-related inquiries. Callers to 3-1-1 reporting mold are directed to a Health Department fact sheet for answers. De Blasio is calling on the City to establish a special hotline staffed by mold and public health experts to answer questions and enable homeowners to request a City inspection of their property.
- Expand mold inspections. Dispatch a licensed a mold specialist at a homeowner’s request to assess the need for mold remediation and direct homeowners how find a licensed specialist, if needed, to resolve the problem. Automatic re-inspections should verify successful mold removal.
- Establish a Health Monitoring Network. A health surveillance network where individuals who have faced respiratory issues resulting from Hurricane Sandy can sign up for long-term health monitoring and information. Additionally, the Health Department should create a reporting system to monitor cases of respiratory illness at hospitals and medical practices.