Invisible Threat Following Natural Disasters

After a natural disaster strikes, it’s difficult to decide where to begin the recovery process. From water damage and electrical outages to damaged infrastructures and scattered debris, it can be an overwhelming task that requires endless months of hard work to salvage what’s left behind.

First responders, clean-up crews and local patrons are often eager to start the cleanup process and restore the home they all know and love. However, the reality is that the likelihood of environmental exposure is just as prominent as the visible damage left in front of our very eyes. We encourage anyone impacted by a natural disaster to protect their health before jumping into restoration efforts by learning of the typical toxins that arise from extreme weather.

Natural disasters can occur anywhere at any time and include everything from severe storms and floods to earthquakes, landslides, wildfires, dust storms, and tornadoes. While it’s true that the extent of toxic exposures depends on the location, those who live near areas that are vulnerable to natural disasters, such as the coast, are at higher risk.

Just this past summer, The D.C Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the EPA enforcing prevention practices to combat the accidental release of toxic chemicals. While these safety practices were planned to be implemented in March 2017, unfortunately the plan was delayed just three months before Hurricane Harvey struck our nation.

This catastrophic event resulted in major power outages throughout Houston, leaving the Arkema chemical plant unable to function and stop volatile chemicals from flooding the city. On top of this, New Orleans was also saturated with toxic sewage that included lead and arsenic, and both found to have adverse effects on human health.

Along with contaminated water, building products were once full of dangerous ingredients including lead, PCBs, and asbestos; thus, leftover debris can also pose a threat. Residents and workers should remain cautious of any old infrastructure including homes, public buildings, and even abandoned property that could have released airborne toxins as a result of damage. In the case of asbestos, avoiding exposure can be life-saving as the toxin is often associated with insidious cancer, mesothelioma.

While Hurricane Katrina ravaged three entire states covering nearly 90,000 miles, this major event brought government officials together, agreeing that our nation should have better protection practices in place for the future. Fortunately, the Obama administration began to relieve some concerns; however, certain manufacturing companies were unwilling to reveal relevant information and petitioned the EPA to reconsider the accidental release risk management policy. Although the agency is still processing the proposal, officials agree that first responders, at the very least, should be fully trained on the matter and provided with protective gear proper decontamination tents to prevent unnecessary exposure.

by Editor

Monday, April 8th, 2019 at 14:48
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