ROLLING FORK, Miss. (WJTV) – Leaders with the American Lung Association said there could be health risks for those cleaning up the tornado damage in Mississippi.

The association warned that chemicals, oils, sewage, gases, and other substances could potentially build up in impacted areas. If these substances enter the human body, it could cause serious and long-lasting health threats.

Rochelle Thompson, Health Promotions Manager at the American Lung Association, said tornadoes, substantial rain and strong winds can cause areas of standing water. Dampness is a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and mold.

“These can become airborne and inhaled, putting people at risk for lung disease,” she explained.

Thompson said the dangerous substances could lead to various chronic lung diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.

“In fact, mold has been associated with wheezing, coughing, and in some cases, asthma attacks, and some evidence links mold with respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children,” said Thompson.

Thompson and the American Lung Association provided some tips on how to stay protected when cleaning debris:

  • Protect yourself before returning to your building. 
  • Turn off the electricity and gas at the main location during cleanup. 
  • Do not burn debris or waste.
  • Use soap and water for cleaning, especially to scrub mold off hard surfaces. Do not use bleach, which can make it hard to breathe.
  • When in doubt, toss it out! Remove everything that has been soaked by water, including clothing, papers, furnishings, carpet, ceiling tiles and wallboard.
  • Consider hiring professional cleaners. 
  • Keep an eye on symptoms.