1 Flooding can cause the disruption of water Pools of standing or stagnant water become purification and sewage disposal systems, breeding grounds for mosquitoes, increasing the overflowing of toxic waste sites, and risk of encephalitis, West Nile Virus or other dislodgement of chemicals previously stored mosquito-borne diseases. The presence of wild above ground. Although most floods do not animals in populated areas increases the risk of cause serious outbreaks of infectious disease or diseases caused by animal bites (e.g., rabies) as chemical poisonings, they can cause sickness in well as diseases carried by fleas and ticks. workers and others who come in contact with contaminated floodwater. In addition, flooded Protect Yourself areas may contain electrical or fire hazards After a major flood, it is often difficult to connected with downed power lines. maintain good hygiene during cleanup operations. To avoid waterborne disease, it is Floodwater important to wash your hands with soap and Floodwater often contains infectious clean, running water, especially before work organisms, including intestinal bacteria such as breaks, meal breaks, and at the end of the work E. coli, Salmonella, and Shigella ; Hepatitis A shift. Workers should assume that any water in Virus; and agents of typhoid, paratyphoid and flooded or surrounding areas is not safe unless tetanus. The signs and symptoms experienced the local or state authorities have specifically by the victims of waterborne microorganisms are declared it to be safe. If no safe water supply is similar, even though they are caused by different available for washing, use bottled water, water pathogens. These symptoms include nausea, that has been boiled for at least 10 minutes or vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, muscle chemically disinfected water. (To disinfect water, aches, and fever. Most cases of sickness use 5 drops of liquid household bleach to each associated with flood conditions are brought gallon of water and let sit for at least 30 minutes about by ingesting contaminated food or water. for disinfection to be completed.). Water storage Tetanus, however, can be acquired from containers should be rinsed periodically with a contaminated soil or water entering broken areas household bleach solution. of the skin, such as cuts, abrasions, or puncture If water is suspected of being contaminated wounds. Tetanus is an infectious disease that with hazardous chemicals, cleanup workers may affects the nervous system and causes severe need to wear special chemical protective outer muscle spasms, known as lockjaw. The clothing and goggles. Before entering a symptoms may appear weeks after exposure contaminated area that has been flooded, you and may begin as a headache, but later develop should don plastic or rubber gloves, boots, and into difficulty swallowing or opening the jaw. other protective clothing needed to avoid contact Floodwaters also may be contaminated by with floodwater. agricultural or industrial chemicals or by Decrease the risk of mosquito and other insect hazardous agents present at flooded hazardous bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, waste sites. Flood cleanup crew members who and by using insect repellants. Wash your hands must work near flooded industrial sites also may with soap and water that has been boiled or be exposed to chemically contaminated disinfected before preparing or eating foods, floodwater. Although different chemicals cause after using the bathroom, after participating in different health effects, the signs and symptoms flood cleanup activities, and after handling most frequently associated with chemical articles contaminated by flood waters. In poisoning are headaches, skin rashes, dizziness, addition, children should not be allowed to play nausea, excitability, weakness, and fatigue.
2 ■ in flood waters or with toys that have been in Do not use contaminated water to wash and prepare food, brush your teeth, wash dishes, contact with flood waters. Toys should be or make ice. disinfected. ■ Keep an adequate supply of safe water What to do if Symptoms Develop available for washing and potable water for drinking. If a cleanup worker experiences any of the signs or symptoms listed above, appropriate ■ Be alert for chemically contaminated first-aid treatment and medical advice should be floodwater at industrial sites. sought. If the skin is broken, particularly with a ■ Use extreme caution with potential chemical puncture wound or a wound in contact with and electric hazards, which have great potentially contaminated material, a tetanus potential for fires and explosions. Floods have vaccination may be needed if it has been five the strength to move and/or bury hazardous years or more since the individual’s last tetanus waste and chemical containers far from their shot. normal storage places, creating a risk for those who come into contact with them. Any Tips to Remember chemical hazards, such as a propane tank, ■ Before working in flooded areas, be sure your should be handled by the fire department or tetanus shot is current (given within the last 10 police. years). Wounds that are associated with a ■ If the safety of a food or beverage is flood should be evaluated for risk; a physician questionable, throw it out. may recommend a tetanus immunization. ■ Seek immediate medical care for all animal ■ Consider all water unsafe until local authorities bites. announce that the public water supply is safe. This is one in a series of informational fact sheets highlighting OSHA programs, policies, or standards. It does not impose any new compliance requirements. For a comprehensive list of compliance requirements of OSHA standards or regulations, refer to . This information will be made available to sensory-impaired individuals Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations . www.osha.gov upon request. The voice phone is (202) 693-1999. See also OSHA’s website at 2003