A new website with a Global Information System will provide valuableinformation for assessing environmental hazards caused by HurricaneKatrina. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences(NIEHS), one of the National Institutes of Health, created the websiteto provide the most up-to-date data to public health and safety workerson contaminants in flood waters, infrastructure and industry maps, aswell as demographic information for local populations.
The NIEHS Hurricane Katrina Information Website, accessible at http://www-apps.niehs.nih.gov/katrina,provides information on assessing and evaluating hundreds ofpotentially hazardous environmental pollutants that may pose a risk tohuman health. The website draws from information that NIEHS hasacquired from a variety of sources including its research programs, aswell as through its Superfund Basic Research Program, Worker Educationand Training Program, and Environmental Health Science Centers.
The website also includes a link to a new Global InformationSystem (GIS) that NIEHS is developing with several academic partners.
The GIS will contain layers of data, including the locationsof refineries, oil pipelines, industrial facilities, Superfund sites,Toxic Release Inventory Data, agricultural operations, as well as mapsand satellite images of schools, neighborhoods, and medical facilities,that will help assess the short and long effects of Katrina on the Gulfregion.
"With a disaster of this magnitude, people need many things,including easy access to science based information so they can makeinformed decisions to further reduce their risk of harm," said NIEHSDirector Dr. David Schwartz. "Consolidating information in this newwebsite is one vehicle that NIEHS is using to help our fellowcitizens."
Information in the GIS, such as the demographics of populationsbefore Katrina will be helpful as health officials treat displacedcitizens who may have been previously exposed to toxicants. Subsequentphases will provide more in-depth information to fully assess exposuresand make informed decisions about risk of disease.
"This GIS has the capability of being a powerful tool to fullyassess and evaluate the short- and long-term environmental healtheffects of Hurricane Katrina. It will help us all make informeddecisions about the uncertainty of risk of exposure and potentiallyenable us to better understand the links between exposure and disease,"said William A. Suk, Ph.D., Director of the NIEHS Superfund BasicResearch Program.
Other partners working with NIEHS in the development of thevarious phases of the GIS include Duke University, University ofCalifornia at San Diego, University of Kentucky, Johns Hopkins,University of Arizona, Boston University, Columbia University, ResearchTriangle Institute and Harvard University.
The Hurricane Katrina Information Website also provides otherongoing NIEHS efforts related to recovery efforts, includingcollaborations with other federal agencies.
The NIEHS, a component of the National Institutes of Health,supports research to understand the effects of the environment on humanhealth. For more information on environmental health topics, pleasevisit our website at http://www.niehs.nih.gov/.
The above story is based on materials provided by NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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