. "7 Research to Address Gaps in Environmental Health Assessments During Disasters." Environmental Public Health Impacts of Disasters: Hurricane Katrina, Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007.
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Environmental Public Health Impacts of Disasters: Hurricane Katrina - Workshop Summary
effects, identifies those at highest risk, tracks trends, and guides prevention strategies. As an emerging technology, it can help during a disaster not only by identifying individuals at highest risk and by racking trends, but also, most importantly, by reassuring the public. In the case of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, this could have provided a tool to reassure workers that they were adequately protected while they were exposed to potentially hazardous situations. Biomonitoring should be part of the research agenda to move the field forward, asserted Burke. Although it is currently widespread in the research lab, the field has not fully developed its practical capacity. This is one area for future development.
During the workshop, Burke noted that many speakers discussed the need to consider how to assess exposure and its potential health implications. The traditional way is to compare the levels with standard benchmarks. During a disaster in which there may be hundreds of exposures, this may not always be possible. One way to address the problems is to look at their potential health end points. Considerable research exists on various end points that were found in the floodwaters. From this, scientists can build the evidence base to move forward with research, but in order to understand the long-term health effects, it is important to know that we are looking for the right end points. Thus, Burke suggested that more discussion needs to occur in this area by asking if the regulatory monitoring lists are the chemical exposures that communities need to know about
It is time to move the field forward by listening to the practitioners and communities; developing surveillance as a foundation for research, risk assessment, and prevention; and encouraging translation and communication of research into practice. This approach is not only about Hurricane Katrina, but also creates a pathway to address basic environmental public health.
and whether these are the tools that are most effective in informing practitioners to move toward prevention. Looking at the same pollutants—many of them now banned—without considering the evolving hazards (e.g., pharmaceuticals, newer persistent compounds) may be a bit of “looking for keys under the lamppost.” The data on these compounds have not been developed, and scientists don’t know their health effects. Burke concluded that it is time to move the field forward by listening to practitioners and communities; developing surveillance as a foundation for research, risk assessment, and prevention; and encouraging translation and communication of research into practice. Finally, he noted that this approach is not only about Hurricane Katrina, but also creates a pathway to address basic environmental public health.