Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New research reveals Hurricane Katrina's impact on ecological and human health

Date:
May 15, 2010
Source:
Wiley-Blackwell
Summary:
Scientists studying the environmental impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans have revealed the ecological impact and human health risks from exposure to chemical contaminants. The findings demonstrate how Hurricane Katrina caused significant ecological damage by altering coastal chemistry and habitat.

Scientists studying the environmental impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans have revealed the ecological impact and human health risks from exposure to chemical contaminants. The findings, published in a special issue of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, demonstrate how Hurricane Katrina caused significant ecological damage by altering coastal chemistry and habitat.

The research reveals how chemical concentrations across coastal areas varied, but within New Orleans elevated concentrations of lead, arsenic and other chemicals were found, particularly in the most disadvantaged areas of the city following Hurricane Katrina. The team also discovered how airborne contaminants known to pose health risks, were released through demolition projects during the city-wide cleanup operation.

"While evidence suggests that hurricanes may increase in intensity, resulting in even greater economic damage in the future, social and cultural factors are also important aspects to consider for the future impact of hurricanes," said Dr. Bill Benson of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). "It is important that higher priority is given to understanding social factors and demographic patterns pertaining to continued development along our nation's coastline."

Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in August 2005, remains one of the costliest and deadliest hurricane ever to hit the United States. When the hurricane hit land, the resulting surge extended six miles inland, breaching the levees of New Orleans and causing flooding to 80 percent of the city to depths of six meters.

In human terms Katrina resulted in 1,800 confirmed fatalities spread over six states with at least 700 people confirmed missing and an additional one million people displaced. Katrina-related damage is estimated to exceed $84 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in US history. Yet it is the indirect environmental impact that continues to pose a risk to the population of New Orleans.

To discover the impact of chemical contamination Dr. George Cobb from Texas Tech University led a team to study 128 sampling sites from across the city, combining their findings with data sets generated by Dr. Burton Suedel and co-workers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Maps were then compiled from the resulting data to reveal chemical distribution across the city.

Elevated concentrations of arsenic and lead were demonstrated to exist throughout New Orleans with the highest concentrations observed in soils from the poorer sections of the city. The team also discovered that lead concentrations exceed the regulatory threshold for safety, with the highest concentrations found in the oldest parts of the city. Lead in soil poses a significant risk to residents who returned to their homes following the evacuation, especially children.

While the team's findings indicated that levels of lead frequently exceed regulatory thresholds, further research showed that many of the contaminants were present in high concentrations before the storm season and that lead may have posed a significant risk to New Orleans residents for years before Hurricane Katrina.

The results also revealed elevated concentrations of arsenic in surface soils and flood sediments across New Orleans, caused by sediment deposition or from flooded building materials.

"Our evaluation of contaminants in New Orleans was critical in determining whether storm surges and resultant flooding altered chemical concentrations or distribution," concluded Cobb. "Our results show how long-term human health consequences in New Orleans are difficult to attribute to chemical deposition or redistribution by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, yet reveal how chemical contamination is a historical problem for old cites in the U.S. Our results and the data from coastal ecosystems reveal the value of long-term monitoring programs to establish baseline concentrations and distributions of contaminants in the environment."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Marc Slattery, Kristine L. Willett, George P. Cobb, William H. Benson. Multiple facets of environmental impacts from Hurricane Katrina. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 2010; DOI: 10.1002/etc.213

Cite This Page:

Wiley-Blackwell. "New research reveals Hurricane Katrina's impact on ecological and human health." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100513212429.htm>.
Wiley-Blackwell. (2010, May 15). New research reveals Hurricane Katrina's impact on ecological and human health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100513212429.htm
Wiley-Blackwell. "New research reveals Hurricane Katrina's impact on ecological and human health." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100513212429.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — The pair of rare white northern rhinos bring hope for their species as only six remain in the world. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trick-or-Treating Banned Because of Polar Bears

Trick-or-Treating Banned Because of Polar Bears

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) — Mother Nature is pulling a trick on the kids of Arviat, Canada. As Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) tells us, the effects of global warming caused the town to ban trick-or-treating this Halloween. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — The United Nations says water is a human right, but should it be free? Detroit has cut off water to residents who can't pay, and the U.N. isn't happy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins