Health

Houston residents’ chemical exposure increased post-Hurricane Harvey, study finds

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Researchers at Oregon State University used silicone wristbands to measure Houston residents’ exposure to hazardous chemicals after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Wristbands recorded exposure to 162 different chemicals, including pesticides, flame retardants, industrial compounds, phthalates and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Researchers followed up with study participants a year after Harvey to assess baseline so they could assess the effects of the storm. On average, 75% of the chemicals detected at both time points were found in the highest concentrations immediately after hurricanebut the human-based hypothesis is already growing.

“Houston is one of our most industrialized cities,” said co-author Kim Anderson, chair of OSU’s Department of Environmental Biology and co-author of the study. “When we looked at a year after the storm, we saw that many areas that were close to industrial areas – areas that were affected economically – had higher levels of chemicals from when the storm came in.”

Silicone gloves absorb chemicals from the air and contact with the skin, making them a useful tool. Anderson used them in similar studies in Africa, Europe and South America.

Many of the chemicals documented in the Houston study have not yet been thoroughly tested to determine their health effects, the researchers said. But some heavier polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have been found to be carcinogenic, and phthalate exposure can harm reproductive health.

The survey team got to work almost immediately after Harvey made landfall, getting approval to take samples within a week and distribute handouts for the survey to 173 residents within three weeks.

“At this point, the flooding is still happening. I think that’s a big strength of this study,” said lead author Diana Rohlman, a professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “From a public health perspective, that’s the information people want: ‘I’m flooded, I’m cleaning my house; what am I exposed to now?'”

This quick response is important, she said, as responses to past disasters have been delayed up to six months pending test approval, such as the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The group also conducted a small pilot survey of 27 residents in the first 10 days after Harvey hit. These 27 samples have the highest concentration of chemicals of any study conducted by the researchers anywhere in the world, Anderson said.

A major concern in Houston is the number of Superfund sites that were damaged by flooding after Harvey. Superfund sites are areas with enough contamination that the Environmental Protection Agency deems to require federal action.

A 2020 report by the Shriver Center on Poverty Law found that 70% of Superfund sites nationwide are within miles of federal housing projects, highlighting the burden of pollution placed on low-income communities. strong, mostly communities of color.

The state of Oregon has nine Superfund sites in total; Houston has 41. Of those, 13 flooded during the storm, but the total impact of the flooding is unknown, researchers said.

“There’s this pocket of pollutants that have accumulated in the water, but they’re also in more than five feet of rain, which can be a diluting factor,” Anderson said.

In the first few days of the storm, 89 factories reported “intentional releases,” Rohlman said. Some factories in Houston closed as a result of the storm, which reduced their emissions, but the state of Texas also granted emergency exemptions from clean air requirements for factories, so some could pollute more. said researchers.

In addition to the chemicals released storm damageThe wristbands also recorded many chemicals used in common household cleaners, which residents were exposed to while cleaning their homes after the flood.

Until more research is done on individual chemicals documented in the study, Rohlman said they can’t provide specific safety information other than to recommend wearing gloves and a mask when cleaning up flooded areas. conquest.

The study was published in International Journal of Environmental and Public Health Research. Additional authors on the Houston study are Samantha Samon, Lane Tidwell and Peter Hoffman at OSU and Abiodun Oluyomi at Baylor College of Medicine.


Wrist samples show similar chemical exposures across three continents


Additional information:
Samantha M. Samon et al, Chemical Addiction to Hurricane Harvey in Longitudinal Stations Using Silicone Fire, International Journal of Environmental and Public Health Research (2022). DOI: 10.3390/ijerph19116670

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Oregon State University

hint: Houston residents’ chemical exposure rises after Hurricane Harvey, study finds (2022, July 18) Retrieved 18 July 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-07-houston-residents-chemical-exposure -post-hurricane .html

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