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Environmental Public Health Impacts of Disasters: Hurricane Katrina - Workshop Summary
able. These decisions need to be made to ensure that the recovery is responsive to the needs of the community and to protect the health of workers and the public.
Another issue related to 9/11 was a dust plume that developed after the event. To determine the exposures, researchers reconstructed the event to understand how the plume may have affected workers’ and residents’ health. Modeling helped to decide where the second or tertiary cleanup needed to be done and ensured that everyone was taken into account. For example, workers and people at ground zero were the most affected. As a follow-up, the EPA’s Council of Environmental Quality Expert Technical Panel on the World Trade Center is planning a series of samplings to be done in Brooklyn, which was not initially captured.
With both 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, a number of people were exposed to material in an environmental medium,
With both 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, a number of people were exposed to material in an environmental medium.
noted Lioy. The primary difference, however, was that with advance warning about the approaching hurricane, many potentially affected people were evacuated prior to landfall. The individuals who stayed behind were housed in the Superdome or on higher floors of buildings, which confined them in a small space and magnified rather than eliminated the problem of survival; it also increased the potential for infection and disease.
One of the lessons learned from 9/11 was that some exposures could not be measured because of the unexpected nature of the event and the lack of available trained personnel. The potential exposures could not be measured, and thus respiratory illnesses could only be estimated. The dust after 9/11 was very unusual. It was a complex mixture of toxins that individually may not have been harmful; however, synergistically they may prove to be problematic. A similar situation could appear in the post-Katrina region once the sediment dries and becomes dust. There might be multiple toxins and biological materials that act individually or synergistically to produce adverse health outcomes. It is therefore very important to characterize these toxins and materials well and ensure that when people go back to their homes and workplaces, they know what they may be exposed to so that they can protect themselves.
Air quality and water quality need to be monitored in the region affected by Hurricane Katrina, and it is important to focus on the right chemicals. Even though ozone is an important pollutant, measuring it as a primary air pollutant is ineffectual in terms of rehabitation. After 9/11, EPA measured many air pollutants, and it was satisfying to see the air quality improve as time went on, said Lioy. This trend is very important for populations who are thought to be at risk. In response to Hurricane Katrina, we need to ensure that the quality of the water