251978 Addressing seasonal river flooding in the Midwest: Communicating risk from mold and toxics to promote safe recovery

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 11:10 AM

Edith A. Parker, DrPH , Department of Community and Behavioral Health, The University of Iowa, College of Public Health, Iowa City, IA
Increasingly, the U.S. Midwest has experienced flooding events of historic degree due to high fall soil moisture levels, higher winter snow falls and extreme spring and early summer rain events. Evaluation of 112 years of Iowa data shows these changes are the result of a changing climate, suggesting that Midwestern communities will increasingly face disasters arising from extreme rain events. Based on the experience of the NIEHS-funded University of Iowa Environmental Health Sciences Research Center (EHSRC), this presentation examines methods for communicating environmental health risks from seasonal flooding. The EHSRC has played a substantial role in the regional and national response to disasters, especially floods. The EHSRC responded to the major Midwest floods of 1993 and to flooding in Mississippi and Louisiana associated with Hurricane Katrina by providing science-based technical information on the health hazards of entering, cleaning, and renovating flooded homes and buildings. With this experience, the EHSRC was prepared for an efficient response to the Iowa flood of 2008 which affected 33 buildings at the University of Iowa causing nearly $1 billion damage and flooded 10 square miles and 5,390 homes in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The EHSRC response included 1) risk communication, including distribution of previously prepared Fact Sheets on mold hazards; the creation of a video on mold hazards which was widely distributed through the media and also posted on YouTube (Mold Hazards in Flooded Buildings); and delivery of scientifically sound information to the media, 2) provision of personal protective equipment and respirator fit testing, and 3) Risk characterization including analysis of air and surface samples for chemical and biological contaminants. EHSRC researchers contributed chapters to a 250 page book describing the anatomy of the flood and at the request of the Iowa Legislature prepared a monograph on Climate Change Impacts on Iowa.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Environmental health sciences
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify three effective methods of risk communication for seasonal flooding.

Keywords: Risk Communication, Emergency

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I am the director of the Community Outreach and Engagement component of the University of Iowa Environmental Health Research Science Center and thus am involved in risk communication around seasonal flooding events in the communities we serve.
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.