Following Hurricane Harvey, Baylor studies Disaster Research Response mode

For the past two years, at the request of residents, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and around the Houston area have been studying the health impacts on the population following Hurricane Harvey.

Dr. Cheryl Walker, professor and director of the Center for Precision and Environmental Health at Baylor College of Medicine said they were able to determine what each person tested was exposed to and how they were affected when the flooding subsided.

"Even though dioxin was measured in the flood, unless people were actually putting their hand and their wristband in those floodwaters, they would not have been necessarily exposed, and that's what we saw," said Walker.

She said they asked about people physical and mental health following Hurricane Harvey.

"We saw there was no detectable dioxin exposures in any of our cohorts, but we did see, for example, high levels of exposure to pesticides and some other industrial chemicals," said Walker.

She said the study also found a big variation in exposure due to location.

Baylor healthcare workers studied four areas immediately following Hurricane Harvey flooding.

  1. Addicks Resovoirs—the flooding was from water topping over, not rainwater;
  2. Baytown—center of refineries and Houston Ship Channel which are some of the most contaminated flood sites in this country;
  3. East Houston—which has the lowest socioeconomic status and number of undocumented people;
  4. as well as Baylor workers who worked all over, including the Meyerland area.

Walker said the data was unique because of:

  1. being able to get in the community immediately after Harvey hit,
  2. using brand new technology never used after a disaster to see how a disaster affected health,
  3. measuring changes in residents microbiomes

Each person who took part in the study received their own personal report.

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