Author: Tina Encarnacion

“Hurricanes and mold: The health concerns; reducing personal risk; and rebuilding with resiliency” – A UConn Health Workshop

Picture from Hurricanes and Mold Workshop April 27, 2015 at UCONN Avery Point - Image taken by Peg Van Patten, CT Sea Grant
Paula Schenck (left) and Cristina Mullin (right) trying on N95 respirators at a previous UCONN Health Workshop on April 27, 2015 at UCONN Avery Point. Image taken by Peg Van Patten, CT Sea Grant.

Date: Thursday, July 23, 2015

Time: 1:00 PM – 4:30 PM

Location: Savin Rock Conference Center, 6 Rock Street, West Haven, CT 06516


Som​e people who helped with clean up after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy reported developing breathing difficulties. Our current work ​at the UCONN Health Center ​is focused on better understanding this problem and providing education so hurricane response and rebuilding workers and home occupants  will improve their preparation and reduce exposures from respiratory exposures.

The training  on July 23 focused on how individuals can protect themselves and others from biological exposures that affect respiratory illness when working in flooded buildings, and how to rebuild buildings more resilient to future storms.

Three professionals from diverse, but complementary perspectives presented at the workshop. They are: Bill Turner, MS, PE, LEED AP, founder of Turner Building Science, LLC and a national expert on the dynamics of moisture in buildings; Paul Bureau MS, CIH expert consultant on Occupational Safety and Health, teaches at the University of Connecticut and has managed healthy and safety for major corporations; and Paula Schenck MPH , the director of indoor environment and health programs at UCONN Health and has held national workshops on mold and moisture in the environment for health providers and public health professionals.


Who attended:

  • Public health, environment, and housing professionals
  • Hurricane response and recovery workers, construction workers
  • Volunteers and home occupants in areas affected by flooding
  • Individuals working on resiliency and healthy homes programs
  • Hurricane and disaster responders and planners

Learning Objectives:

  • Health concerns associated with mold exposure
  • How to protect yourself and others when exposed to mold damage caused by severe weather
  • How to rebuild resilient buildings that support the health of the community


View the workshop agenda and presentation materials here

“A Round Table discussion on Building Capacity in Disasters” – 2015 National COSH Conference on Worker Safety and Health

Members of the UCONN Health Center’s – Recovery from Catastrophic Weather Hurricane Sandy Project Team attended/presented at the 2015 National Conference on Worker Safety and Health hosted by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH). National COSH is a federation of local and statewide “COSH” groups – Committees/Coalitions on Occupational Safety and Health. COSH groups are private, non-profit coalitions of labor unions, worker centers, health and safety professionals, community-based organizations, and others interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety. COSH organizations around the U.S. are committed to promoting worker health and safety through training, organizing, and advocacy.


UCONN Guide For Your Safety
This is one of the tools that was handed out at the conference! After the Storm – Mold and Moisture Cleanup: A Guide for Your Safety

Hurricane Sandy Project team members – Mike Fitts and Pamela Puchalski (ConnectiCOSH), and Paula Schenck (UCONN Health Center- PI) attended the conference.  Mike and Paula presented during WORKSHOP SESSION 1 – A Round Table discussion on Building Capacity in Disasters. Conference attendees who participated in the Round Table discussion included individuals involved in COSH health and safety programs, and other “in the field” health & safety advocates. The team circulated through 3 tables and delivered important messages on how to be prepared and protected from bioaerosol exposure when doing hurricane clean up. They also highlighted and solicited feedback on risk communication strategy and tools developed under a project – Recovery from catastrophic weather: mold exposure and health-related training [funded under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Hurricane Sandy Cooperative Agreement 1U01OH010627-01. This description is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH]. The project is designed to increase knowledge and protective behavior related to mold mitigation and health effects within emergency and recovery respondents in states affected by Hurricane Sandy.







Tuesday- June 2, 2015

Workshop Session 1:

5. Building Capacity in Disasters

MODERATOR: Patricia Strizak [MassCOSH]

“Recovery from Catastrophic Weather: Mold Exposure and Health-Related Training”

Paula Schenck [UCONN Health Center] & Mike Fitts [ConnectiCOSH]


See Page 3 of the Full Agenda:

“A Learning Session on Tools and Methods from Hurricane Sandy Recovery Research” – 2015 NACCHO Preparedness Summit

prepardness summitPaula Schenck together with Sandy Science Group investigators from Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh presented a learning session –Tools and Methods from Hurricane Sandy Recovery Research– at the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) 2015 Preparedness Summit, April 14-17 2015. These three Hurricane Sandy recovery research teams shared tools and methods with preparedness professionals and looked to participants’ insights to further refine and improve the tools. The presentations included continuity of public health operations, health and safety related to mold exposure, and a matching primary care needs to provider capacity.

“Preventing Respiratory Disease Associated with Severe Weather Response” – December 2014 NECOEM Annual Conference

NECOEM/MaAOHN Annual Conference
December 4 & 5, 2014
Newton, MA


This 2014 conference was presented by the New England College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the Massachusetts Association of Occupational Health Nurses; the focus was on, “Innovations and Challenges in Occupational and Environmental Health”.


As part of the Center for Indoor Environments and Health, “Recovery from Catastrophic Weather: Hurricane Sandy Mold Exposure and Health-Related Training” study, the project team went to the NECOEM/MaAOHN conference and presented their poster titled, “Preventing respiratory disease associated with severe weather response“.

Publication1Download the poster PDF here

Why should you be concerned about exposure to mold when severe wet weather has flooded buildings and things smell moldy?

sandy pic


UConn Health’s Center for Indoor Environments and Health in Farmington, CT

By: Paula Schenck (

Living things need food, water, and a comfortable temperature to grow. Mold, the common name for fungi, can find food in almost anything organic in buildings; and because there are so many types of mold that thrive in a broad range of temperature, mold needs only water to begin growing. Many materials –wallboard, fabrics themselves (clothes, curtains) and those that trap dust (carpet) are a grand meal for mold. Even some well-constructed buildings that haven’t had moisture concerns in the past become wet from wind-driven rain and flood waters in severe storms. Once you note mold inside, what does that mean to you? Mold in indoor environments indicates moisture is available for biological growth. Studies have shown that with more water, you should be more concerned about the possibility for severe respiratory illness. Even after flood waters subside, water/moisture is left in materials and encourages life to grow-mold and bacteria. Some workers who are repeatedly called upon to respond to flooding events are at more risk with each additional event. When you see mold on walls or “mildew” as part of fabrics, and/or smell that musty tell-tale odor, you are at risk for illnesses associated with moisture. Mold may be: 1) a direct factor influencing illness, 2) an indicator of other biological agents and bioaerosols that grow in conditions of excessive moisture, or 3) acting on building materials to release chemicals and dusts that could affect your breathing health. There is much confusion about mold and health with equal measures of uncertainty and concern over indoor exposure to “toxic mold”. However with responsible information from sources such as World Health Organization’s 2009 report and EPA’s internet site on Mold Resources, it is clear that it is important to recognize the hazard from mold exposure (toxic or not)! Not everyone has the same level of health risk –children, the elderly, and those with breathing conditions or immune disorders are likely vulnerable-, but others are also of concern. So it is important for everyone to: 1) recognize the mold growing inside as a hazard; 2) protect yourself and others by either avoiding the environment or by using the right clothes and equipment when you are responding to storm events or cleaning up after the event; and 3) plan well and use methods in re-building your homes that recognize the risk from moisture intrusion, so that the buildings will better withstand the next storm—and contribute to a resilient community.


In the fall 2013, the Center for Indoor Environments and Health began work on – Recovery from catastrophic weather: mold exposure and health-related training (funded under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Hurricane Sandy Cooperative Agreement 1U01OH010627-01. This blog is solely the responsibility of Paula Schenck and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH) – Through this project a UCONN team is working to provide information about mold, health and how to reduce consequences from mold exposure for emergency and recovery respondents and communities affected by Hurricane Sandy.