Health and environmental risks remain after Hurricane Harvey

by Cheryl Piccio, ABS-CBN News

HOUSTON, TX — Health officials in Houston are just beginning to turn their attention to the health and environmental risks that remain after Hurricane Harvey — massive flood waters that overwhelmed the city are currently soaking through dry wall, carpeting, mattresses, and furniture, and are bound to pose a major cleanup and public health challenge.

Houston also lies at the center of the nation’s oil and chemical industry.

Damaged refineries and other oil facilities have already released more than two million pounds of hazardous substances into the air this week, with unknown amounts carried off by the waters.

Health officials were urging people to stay out of the water if they could, although it is already too late for tens of thousands.

“I would be concerned about first of all like their skin it causes a lot of skin infection rash on and people who have open wounds or obtained wounds from the water can have the infection on those wounds,” said Dr. Amelita Lourdes Basa. “I also would be concerned about the respiratory which means inhalation of certain chemicals. on them you could also develop bad things like kidney problems liver problems, from certain types of organisms.”

Houstonians who experienced flooding in their home are anxiously waiting for the opportunity to return and clean up. But re-entering a home that has been flooded brings new risks.

Health officials are also worried about people who had three or four feet of water in their houses would not realize that flooded homes also are at high risk for mold.

People with allergies, asthma and compromised immune systems in particular can be sickened if mold gains a foothold in a house following flooding.

 “In terms of inhaling, pag mag na inhale po silang chemicals there are certain organisms that can infect the respiratory system, symptoms could range from just wheezing, nasal stuffiness, to shortness of breath, or even to real distress nahihirapang huminga. And then we really need serious medical intervention,” said Dr. Amelita Lourdes Basa.

People returning to their homes before the waters have fully receded are also putting themselves at risk for injury.  

“People get hurt by walking through water they can’t see what’s under their feet they can step on nails our trip and fall so after flood’s injuries are very common especially injuries to the legs and feet.”

While officials are still assessing the effects of Harvey, they estimate that at least 136,000 homes were damaged by the storm.

Texas residents will continue to face a host of potential health problems from the water — and from what the water leaves behind.

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