From the authors of MOLD: The War Within

Don’t Let a Hurricane Destroy Your Health

01 Aug Don’t Let a Hurricane Destroy Your Health

In post-disaster areas, one thing you can always count on is a lot of chaos, and in times of chaotic turmoil, people are in survival mode for days and weeks, if not months. Successfully surviving a natural disaster includes not just getting through the initial disaster itself and the immediate aftermath—but it also means suffering no long-term health effects from toxic exposures.

A pound of prevention is worth your health

Having been ill from toxic mold and chemical exposures from Hurricane Katrina, I now herald the message of exposure prevention. Having fully recovered from the resultant mold- and chemical-related illnesses, I speak from hard-earned experience. It is much easier to take steps to avoid exposures to floodwaters and water-damaged building materials that could potentially harm health than it is to recover once exposures to this complex environment have already negatively impacted health. 

It may not seem like it at the time when you are in the middle of dealing with the fallout from a natural disaster, but taking precautions to avoid toxic exposures is worth every bit of short-term inconvenience it will cost you. Taking appropriate preventative steps can literally be health-preserving and even lifesaving, not to mention much less expensive in the long run. 

The value of 20/20 hindsight

Until you have become ill from mold and toxic exposures, it is hard to understand how quickly it can happen and how difficult it is to treat. If you suspect you may already be suffering from past mold exposure, discuss the treatment options detailed in my book MOLD: The War Within with your doctor. Our naturopath altered our diet and prescribed natural treatment options after pharmaceutical options made us worse. There were several different natural treatment components (some foods and some supplements), including raw noni juice which is a food that is considered a health food supplement. (For more info on pasteurized and raw noni juice, see

What happened to my family and me doesn’t have to happen to you and your family. Let the knowledge we learned the hard way benefit you the easy way.  

High-risk group alert

My first word of warning goes out to people the CDC considers at high risk when it comes to mold and chemical exposures. Do not return to the disaster area until your living and work environments are confirmed to be in good condition, and free of water damage, mold, and toxins.

The CDC’s high-risk groups for mold include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Infants and children
  • Elderly people
  • Pregnant women
  • People with respiratory conditions, such as allergies or asthma
  • People who are immune-compromised or who have weakened immune systems
  • People who have undergone recent major surgeries
  • People who take immune-suppressing medication, including oral or nasal steroids

Steps to minimize exposures

My second word of caution goes out to everyone else—non-high-risk people. Just because you do not fall into one of the CDC’s high-risk groups does not mean mold, mycotoxins (mold poisons), and other disaster area toxins will not negatively affect your health.

Take steps to minimize risk to your health:  

  • Wear proper personal protection (PPE) equipment when in a wet or moldy building and an outdoor area with elevated levels of airborne debris. Understand that tear-out and remediation activities increase the level of mold and mycotoxins in the air. PPE includes masks (minimally an N95, but an N100 is better), gloves, goggles, and disposable coveralls. 
  • Remove personal belongings and building materials that have become wet before they become moldy, if possible. Keep your eye on the clock. Structural mold can develop within the first 24-48 hours. 
  • Dry the structure out with fans and dehumidifiers, if possible.
  • Call a certified mold remediator (CMR). CMRs are professionally trained and have the proper equipment, PPE, and team to address hurricane-size structural mold damage.  

To locate a CMR in your area, visit For more information on structural mold, the health effects of mold and mycotoxins, and treatment options to discuss with your doctor, please see my book MOLD: The War Within. It will give you hope for a full recovery.     

Copyright 2020 Lee Ann Billings