Agency Expands Services for Hurricane Victims

The American Lung Association is increasing its online and Help Line resources and staff to offer information and support to people affected by Hurricane Katrina.

“Even now our mission of fighting lung disease and promoting lung health is essential,” said John L. Kirkwood, president and CEO of the agency. “All of the victims may face, in the not-too-distant future, the threat of influenza or respiratory infections.”

The Association’s Help Line will increase experts in lung health to respond to increased phone traffic. They are also offering their donors an online outlet to assist the victims of the hurricane. Among the Association staff, Kirkwood announced on Sept. 8th that his agency’s Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund has been established with a goal of raising $100,000.

Lung health risks from the hurricane include water-borne ones such as floor waters and water damage from the Hurricane Katrina emergency that will pose special problems for the thousands of people with existing lung diseases and may increase the likelihood of the development of lung disease. Standing water remaining from any flood is a breeding ground for microorganisms. The greatest health risk for the general public in this emergency may come from water-borne microorganisms and toxins. Damp buildings and furnishings promote the growth of microorganisms, dust mites, cockroaches, and mold, which can aggravate asthma and allergies and may cause the development of asthma, wheeze, cough, and hypersensitivity pneumonia in susceptible persons.

After this emergency, contaminants and microorganisms may be inhaled during clean-up efforts, which also add to lung disease complications. The physical stress of dealing with the flood may also put a strain on people who are already ill or the elderly, providing an opportunity for respiratory infections and other sicknesses to arise. Much of the damaged materials and furnishings in homes and buildings will have to be discarded because of the spread of contaminated water. After the floor or water damage, cleaning up is imperative. Areas with this high level humidity and moist materials provide an ideal environment for the growth of microorganisms, which could result in continued or additional health hazards such as allergic reactions. Coming into contact with air or water that contains these microorganisms can make a person sick.

Long-term high levels of humidity can foster growth of dust mites, which can cause asthma and trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks. Although the clean-up process can take a long time, it is necessary to protect health. There are no accepted standards for airborne biological contaminants, including mold. Air cleaning devices can help remove some indoor air pollution but won’t solve the problems alone.

Beginning its second century, the Association is the leading organization working to prevent lung disease and promote lung health.

For more information, go to lungusa.org.

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