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Warnings for respiratory infections during Sandy cleanup

November 19, 2012 10:49:48 AM PST
A health concern for homeowners and people helping those impacted by Hurricane Sandy with all the debris, toxic material, or other airborne contaminants in the air.

Now many of those same responders are complaining about symptoms that has have left them wondering if they are suffering from some health effect related to the storm.

It's what some are calling the "Rockaway Cough."

"My friend was here the other day and he had a really bad cough after he was doing the work and I felt bad he wasn't essentially wearing the mask," said Gail Brady.

Gail and her father Charles don't want a cough. They've been wearing masks most of the time as they clean up their damaged Breezy Point beach house.

"We started wearing masks when doing the walls and pulling out insulation, even with the floors you will see a lot of dust and debris flying up," said Brady.

Since Superstorm Sandy some residents and cleanup crews have reported symptoms of coughing and upper respiratory symptoms.

As residents clean out the mess, the concern is indoor air quality

Bill Southern , an Environmental expert and chief investigator for Microecologies says there may be physical ,chemical and biologic hazards in the air.

"We don't want people to breathe the sheet rock dust. Don't want them to breathe cement dust and if mold is being disturbed as they remove sheet rock mold will be in the air," he said.

It can worsen allergies and asthma and potentially create new symptoms

In 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, there was the mysterious Katrina Cough. New Orleans residents reported a 25 percent increase in upper respiratory symptoms.

Health officials are still debating if people simply got more cold and flu viruses or if the air was to blame.

For now prevention is crucial.

The city health department recommends that as you clean leave windows open and wear a mask.

The n95 mask is the best one that's easy to get.

It gives a pretty high percentage of protection against dust and against airborne particles.

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