Biohazard Remediation: When to Make the Call

Written by Doug Bonderud
Updated September 10, 2013
Biohazard tape
Consider hiring a biohazard cleaning crew to remove animal infestations or toxic waste. (Photo by Daniel O'Neil)

Biohazard remediation professionals specialize in the safe removal of biohazardous waste, often from the scene of a crime, animal infestation or accident.

There are some things you can't clean up alone.

While no one likes to think of their own home as a biohazard, in extreme circumstances it may be emotionally traumatizing or physically unwise to tackle a cleaning job by yourself. In these cases, you need to consider hiring a biohazard remediation company; specialists trained to remove sources of contamination and return a home to a safe state.

Not sure why you'd ever need to make this kind of call? Here are three situations that might require a biohazard cleaner.

Animal infestation

You might discover this while doing a home renovation, or after a disaster like a fire or flood. It could be anything, such as a family of raccoons in your attic or a colony of mice living under your floorboards or in your ceiling. If enough animals are present or if they've lived in the space long enough, you may have a biohazard, which is defined as the presence of any biological substance which poses a threat to human or animal health. In this case, the animals will have deposited feces and possibly blood throughout the structure of your home, in addition to the bodies of deceased pack members. Cleaning up this kind of mess yourself puts you at risk for contracting a serious illness, such as hookworm or cryptosporidiosis.

Hoarding

As recent reality television programs delight in showing viewers, hoarding items in a home is not uncommon. If you or someone you know is a hoarder, you may need to assist in removing excess items from the home, which can be a major health hazard. Often, this is because hoarders neglect basic cleanliness in their homes, allowing sinks and toilets to become clogged and filthy. Garbage cans are never emptied, carpets are never vacuumed and food spills are never cleaned up. The result is a hazardous environment, one which you may not be able to fully clean on your own. Attempts to do so may spot-clean affected areas, but without the right products and experience you may not able to completely remediate the home.

Sewer backup

If the sewer line from your home to the municipal system backs up or overflows, you may want to call in a biohazard company. Waste matter in sewer lines -- everything from feces to urine to soiled toilet paper -- has the potential to carry disease, and when sewer water comes in contact with carpet or drywall the result is a sponge-like effect, where liquid and microorganisms are sucked up and trapped. Wading into this sewer water puts you at serious risk, and removing just the carpet or drywall may not address subfloor, framing or even foundation issues.

Tips for hiring biohazard pros

If you need to hire a biohazard remediation company, make sure to call one that follows proper procedure and has highly trained staff. Ensure they follow the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) guidelines for dealing with bloodborne pathogens, and ask if staff members are certified in Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER), also offered by OSHA.

Ask what kind of work they've done in the past, and how long they've been in business. When they come to do an estimate, ask specific questions about their plan for remediation, and don't be put off by technical language. A reputable pro should be able to explain what products are being used, cleaning procedures and how long it will take.