Thursday, February 5th, 2009
A study conducted at the Louisiana State University (LSU) reveals that those homes which were flooded in the Hurricane Katrina disaster may contain dangerous levels of contaminants, including toxins from aerosols and released in gas and vapor form, reports ScienceDaily. Because of this, reports the team, there is a concern that Katrina’s first responders, area residents, and others exposed to the flooded, toxic homes could suffer long-lasting and dangerously serious health risks. The team noted that these results are applicable to other flooding events, as well.
Three members of the LSU’s Department of Chemical Engineering—Nicholas Ashley, Louis Thibodeaux, and Kalliat Valsaraj, created a contaminants model that included an explanation of how inhalable toxins could contaminate without there having to be any direct contact with the contamination source, said Science Daily. Up until now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies have looked at outdoor sediment, said Ashley, who added, “We proposed that the material that gets inside the flooded homes could be different, and possibly more highly contaminated, than that deposited outside. It turns out that we were right.”
Thibodeaux, a Jesse Coates Professor of Chemical Engineering, added, “As researchers from Louisiana, impacted by a major natural disaster, we felt obligated to understand the environmental chemodynamic effects in the state and develop mathematical means of forecasting concentration levels in future occurrences. This research was undertaken to fully explore what likely pathways of exposure a major catastrophe such as Hurricane Katrina might take in the future,” quoted Science Daily.
“This is an excellent and important study by one of the top research teams in the nation. It will help us better prepare first responders for the additional risks that may be posed by such events,” said Domenico Grasso. Grasso is editor-in-chief and dean and professor in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Vermont-Burlington, reported ScienceDaily.
Times of the Internet pointed out that in addition to the dangerous gases and aerosols, the researchers noted that Katrina-flood homes may also contain dangerous levels of mold, adding that the toxins could have exposed those at risk to dangerous levels of the contaminants without any direct skin contact.
The team analyzed at and described the various types of volatile and semi-volatile organic pollutants that might be involved in the Hurricane Katrina contamination, including hazardous chemicals occurring such as those which can be inhaled, those present in mold, and those released from spores, said Times of the Internet.
According to Times of the Internet, the team found that these recently identified toxins, which are present in the air and can contaminate by inhalation, present dangerous health risks to anyone who is just merely standing within or walking through a contaminated home and breathing normally. These contaminates present a health hazard without any skin contact, with mold festering on and sediment covering surfaces in the affected homes.
The study is scheduled to be published in the April issue of the journal Environmental Engineering Science.