Experts Warn Contaminated Floodwater Could Be Harvey's Next Threat

Experts say floodwater left by Harvey — or any natural disaster — is often contaminated with chemicals, toxic waste and sewage.
Posted at 3:06 PM, Aug 29, 2017

Since making landfall Friday as a Category 4 hurricane, Harvey has dumped over 4 feet of rain on parts of southeast Texas. And more rain is in the forecast for Texas and nearby states. 

Experts warn the floodwater left by Harvey — or any natural disaster — can pose a health risk because it's often contaminated with chemicals, toxic waste and sewage. 

The water can also carry harmful bacteria, which can lead to nausea, fever or muscle aches if it's accidentally ingested.   

If you have to go out into floodwater, health experts suggest wearing protective clothing and covering wounds or cuts to lower the risk of infection. 

Pants, long sleeves and insect repellent will help protect against bug bites, since mosquitoes breed in standing water. 

Once the flooding subsides, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who can return to their homes should still take precautions. 

Homeowners should clean and disinfect household surfaces, walls and floors. Any food that came in contact with floodwater should be thrown out. And if residents suspect their water system was contaminated, they should either boil water before using it or use bottled water. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also recommends disposing of any medications that may have come in contact with contaminated water. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price already declared public health emergencies in both Texas and Louisiana in response to Harvey.