236876 Protecting Public Health during Chemical Emergencies: Responding to Petrochemical Accidents from the Ground Up

Monday, October 31, 2011: 5:12 PM

Anna Hrybyk, MPH , Louisiana Bucket Brigade, New Orleans, LA
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) is an environmental health and justice organization that since 2000 has been working with communities affected by industrial pollution, predominantly low-income African American communities. Louisiana is a unique region that faces frequent environmental health emergencies because of its vulnerability to severe weather but also because it is home to 150 petrochemical plants on shore, 40,000 oil wells off shore and thousands of miles of petroleum piplelines.

LABB's current work addresses the increased, compounded vulnerabilities and risks and environmental health disparities experienced by Gulf Coast communities who live in the pathway of both industry and storms. LABB communicates these risks by empowering affected residents to become citizen scientists through the following tools: • We train community groups to take their own air, water and seafood samples using “the bucket,” a user-friendly EPA approved air sampling device, and other devices developed to capture a wide range of PAHs, hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and VOCs. Community groups use sample results to advocate for public health, precipitate enforcement actions and site air monitors in the community. • Our Refinery Efficiency Initiative uses the petrochemical industry's self reported data on their accidents to educate neighboring communities on the public health risks of chemical exposure and negotiate with regulators/industry on emissions reductions. • The Oil Spill/Chemical Accidents Crisis Maps, an innovative crowd sourcing technology, provides a real-time participatory platform to report the impacts of emergencies like the BP Oil Spill. We have over 3,300 citizen reports to the map since May 2010. • We recruit residents living on the fencelines of hazardous industry to become certified Citizen Emergency Response Trainers (CERT) to improve first response and disaster preparedness for chemical emergencies. • We have conducted over 1,300 Health Impact Surveys in refinery towns and gulf coast communities since 2002.

Learning Areas:
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety
Public health or related education
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
• Demonstrate participatory platforms to document exposure to toxic pollutants, track environmental health indicators for chemical exposures and to communicate health risks. • Assess tools to coordinate a "ground up" response to environmental health emergencies like industrial accidents and oil spills. • Analyze evidence of health impacts from chemical exposures during petrochemical accidents.

Keywords: Disasters, Environmental Justice

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a Masters in Public Health. I have worked extensively in community based disaster preparedness and response around the world. I am the Program Manager for the Refinery Efficiency Initiative which seeks to prevent and increase preparedness for petrochemical accidents in Louisiana.
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.