How to Deal with Exposure to Contaminated Flood Water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cautions the public and all responders about the potential hazards associated with flood waters. Every effort should be made to limit contact with flood water due to potentially elevated levels of contamination associated with raw sewage and other hazardous substances.

If you do contact flood water, you should:

  • Wash your hands before drinking and eating;
  • Wash frequently using soap, especially disinfecting soap;
  • Do not smoke;
  • Limit direct contact with contaminated flood water;
  • Pay attention to any cuts or open wounds and limit exposure to flood water;
  • Pay attention to any unusual symptoms and report them to health care professionals; and
  • Keep vaccinations current

The public and emergency response personnel should follow guidelines from federal, state and local health and safety professionals. Early symptoms from exposure to contaminated flood water may include upset stomach, intestinal problems, headache and other flu-like discomfort. Anyone experiencing these and any other problems should immediately seek medical attention.

Notify response officials immediately if you are aware of oil spills or other potential contamination of flood waters by chemicals, call 1-800-424-8802. EPA Region 1 has a Web site for more information.

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