204932 Impacts of Cyclonic Storms on Environmental Health along the Gulf Coast: A Community-Driven Initiative to Characterize Risk from Storm-Surge Sediment After Hurricane Ike

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 12:30 PM

Jonathan B. Ward, PhD , Director: NIEHS Center in Environmental Toxicology / Sealy Center for Environmental Health & Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX
Alexandra Nolen, MPH, PhD , Interim Director: Institute for Elimination of Health Disparities; Associate Director: UTMB PAHO / WHO Training Center, University of Texas Medical Branch @ Galveston TX, Galveston, TX
Sharon Croisant, MS, PhD , Associate Professor: Department of Pediatrics (CEIID); Director: NIEHS COEC, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX
Wilma Subra, MS , President & CEO, Subra Company, New Iberia, LA
John Sullivan, MA , NIEHS Center in Environmental Toxicology / Public Forum & Toxics Assistance Division, University of Texas Medical Branch @ Galveston TX, Galveston, TX
Maribel Martinez, MPH , Institute for Elimination of Health Disparities, University of Texas Medical Branch @ Galveston TX, Galveston, TX
Matthew Stanford, BA , Director: Quality of Life Center / St. Vincent's House (Galveston), St. Vincent's House, Galveston, TX
September 12th 2008, Hurricane Ike struck Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula with strong Category 2 winds and surge floods from 9 -15 feet. A Galveston CBO, St. Vincent's House, raised concerns regarding the safety of sludge sediment deposited on the Island by Ike's surge because of Galveston's proximity to heavy industry and petrochemical complexes. A community-based coalition emerged to test sediment for toxins including: heavy metals, dioxins, furans, polychlorinated biphenyls, asbestos, sulfur compounds, diesel range organics, and semi-volatile organics. Areas vulnerable to toxins from Galveston Bay, the Galveston Industrial Channel, and the Houston Ship Channel were chosen as sampling sites.

CBO and UTMB personnel were trained in EPA sampling protocols and collected targeted sediment samples. No actionable levels of toxins were found, however, heavy metal levels exceeded EPA residential screening levels for six of the eight sites and dioxin was elevated at one site.

Results raised concern given Galveston's pre-storm lead burden. Additional concerns include health disparities, disproportionate damage to housing in low-income neighborhoods of color, exposure of vulnerable populations, and cumulative risk impacts on populations taxed by multiple post-disaster issues.

Environmental health recommendations include: public awareness campaigns to address actual risk and citizen risk perceptions, monitoring illness related to sediment exposure, minimizing exposure of vulnerable populations, additional testing for dioxins and furans focused on sensitive land use areas, affordable sediment disposal, coordination of City services to reduce exposure, and development of comprehensive disaster planning strategies and outreach education to reduce potential exposure related to future tropical weather events.

Learning Objectives:
Explain the relationship of hurricane storm-surge patterns to potentially toxic community hazards and exposure pathways. Identify health effects associated with exposure to heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants, semi-volatiles and diesel grade organics Describe the step-by-step process of collecting environmental samples following EPA-approved collection protocols List stressors impacting coastal communities during post-hurricane recovery Discuss how risk management factors influence the efficacy of risk communications efforts

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a toxicologist, Director of the NIEHS Center at UTMB and the lead scientific investigator for this project
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.