Is Floodwater Toxic?


3 min read ยท Jan 5, 2022

The health risks of being exposed to floodwater are significant. At Neptune Flood, we want you to be aware of floodwater and it’s health risks, such as what may be in the water that you are walking in, as well as drinking. The longer you are exposed to the floodwaters, you stand at higher risk of the following effects.

Health Risks of Floodwater

Floodwater often becomes contaminated with sewage, chemicals, bacteria, parasites, and fuel. If exposed to these hazardous substances for an extended period, you are at risk of serious health issues including:

  • Skin infections.
  • Eye issues such as conjunctivitis (pink eye), eye pain, inflammation of the mucous membranes in the eyes, and infections.
  • Respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and lung infections.
  • Infectious diseases or other diseases like typhoid fever and dysentery (sometimes known as “gut-rot”).
  • In some cases, exposure to contaminated floodwater can lead to nausea and vomiting.
  • If you eat or drink anything that has been contaminated by the water caused by flooding, you are vulnerable to diarrhea.
  • Exposure to contaminated floodwater due to hurricanes, typhoons, and other damage or disaster caused by storms could lead you to have heart problems such as pulmonary edema.

Floodwater has many health hazards that lead to severe illness and diseases. The diseases include acute appendicitis, bowel obstruction, ear inflammation (otitis media), hearing impairment (acoustic neuroma), kidney failure, peritonitis, and pneumonia.

Open wounds that have come in contact with the waters can become infected. You can protect yourself and your family by following these steps:

  • If you have an open wound, avoid exposure to the waters.
  • A clean and open wound should be covered with a waterproof bandage.
  • Wash wounds with soap and clean water to keep them as clean as possible.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if a wound is red, has swelling, or is draining.

Can Floodwater Harm Animals?

Water from flooding may contain animals, insects, and reptiles that have been displaced. When walking through water, you should be alert and, if possible, avoid contact. You can also get diseases from animals coming into contact with floodwaters. Like humans, these animals are likely to become infected by the contaminants in the water. Then, you’re exposed to them when you touch an animal or eat contaminated food.
Food and Water Issues

The floodwater can become contaminated with chemicals, bacteria, chemicals, and other contaminants that cause serious health issues. Stay away from food affected by flooding or from drinking the water as you make get food poisoning from bacteria in the water. Drinking bad water or eating contaminated food could also lead to gastrointestinal diseases.

Before the disaster, you should have bottled water on hand as an emergency supply. Water with germs can sometimes be made safe to drink through boiling and disinfecting. However, if the water has been exposed to hazardous chemicals, it will still not be safe to drink.

Beware of Drowning Risks

Water after flooding contains potential drowning risks for everyone, even the best of swimmers. Moving swiftly, water can also be deadly. Standing water that is shallow can also be a dangerous hazard for small children.

Vehicles can be swept away and do not provide protection from flooded waters; they can also easily stall out.
Environmental Issues

Chemicals from materials in floodwater can cause health problems such as acid rain, air pollution, landslides, cesspool explosion, or an explosion from fuel storage tanks. Also,
because floodwaters may have moved containers of chemicals or solvents from their usual storage areas, you should be aware of potential hazards.
Electrical Hazards

Downed wires can be dangerous and should be avoided. Power should be turned off if water has been near electrical circuits and equipment. Do not turn it back on until electrical equipment and circuits have been inspected by a qualified electrician.

Be careful of any electrical fires that could potentially happen.

Contact Neptune for More Advice

These are some of the hazards and risks to think about after a flooding event. Always be prepared for any flooding disaster or emergency with flood insurance from Neptune Flood. We specialize in flood insurance, flood protection, and flood claims handling. With knowledge of avoiding risks and insurance from Neptune Flood, you can be prepared if any flooding does happen.

Content updated January 2022