Santa Barbara- S County

Health and safety tips for residents and volunteers digging through Montecito mud

'Health concerns will be around for a long time'

MONTECITO, Calif. - Residents and volunteers working in the mud impacted areas of Montecito are urged not to wear flip flops, tank top and shorts, despite forecasted summer-like temperatures. 

A number of potential health hazards has local health experts on notice.

Santa Barbara County's Public Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean said dangerous black mold spreading throughout homes damaged with wet mud is one hazard; dust stirred up from tons of drying mud is another major concern.

"It is an irritant to the lungs," Dean said. "It can make asthma symptoms worse." 

Dean said another health concern is the possibility of the soil containing the fungus Coccidioides, which causes Valley fever. 

Residents and volunteers digging through feet of mud are urged to wear the appropriate clothing. 

"Use the right protection for the job," Dean said. "Wear boots, wear gloves, long pants, long sleeves. Wear an N95 mask if they're in a dusty area or if they're in a home that has mold growing." 

Dean also warns people not to be complacent about eating and drinking during mud removal and clean-up which can increase the risk of ingesting bacteria.

"These health concerns will be around for a long time," Dean said. "The enormous task for recovery will take months if not years so people whose homes were impacted with mold growing need to continue to protect their health." 

Dean said volunteers doing beach clean-up should wear closed-toed shoes, gloves and avoid the 400 foot buffer zones marked with orange fencing near sites where debris is actively flowing into the ocean.

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