The physical and emotional recovery from Harvey has been underway since flood waters have slowly receded across Houston and surrounding communities. As residents return to their homes, questions are arising about the possible health effects of exposure to contaminated flood water and airborne exposures to health hazards such as mold. Dr. Cheryl Walker, director of Center for Precision Environmental Health at Baylor College of Medicine, says Baylor is prepared to assist residents returning to their homes with “real-time” monitoring of possible chemical exposures during cleanup and recovery after Harvey.

Working with researchers from UTHealth-School of Public Health, Texas A&M University and Oregon State University, researchers from the Baylor Environmental Health Service, the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research are teaming up on a project to monitor chemical exposure in communities affected by Hurricane Harvey where cleanup and recovery efforts are now underway.

“It is so important to establish a cohort of those affected by Harvey to understand short-term and long-term health effects as a result of flood waters,” said Dr. Melissa Bondy, professor of  medicine- epidemiology and population sciences and associate director for Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Wristbands provided by Oregon State will be handed out to people who are currently living in or working in homes that were flooded. The wristbands can detect volatile and semi-volatile chemicals directly from air and water. After seven days, researchers will collect the wristbands for measurement of chemical exposures. Biosamples, which can detect some exposures wristbands cannot, such as mold, and health questionnaires will also be collected from participants. The information gathered will be used to assess the possible health impact of chemical and environmental exposures.

Community events to obtain more information on who can qualify and enrollment in the study are being scheduled at the following locations:

Addicks: Saturday, Sept. 23, 9 - 11 a.m. at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, 625 Nottingham Oaks Trail, Houston, TX 77079

East Houston: Saturday, Sept. 23, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.at East Houston Civic Center, 7418 E. Houston Road, Houston, TX  77079

Baytown: Sunday, Sept. 24, 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. at Holy Family Catholic Church, 7122 Whiting Rock St., Baytown, TX 77521

More information on Harvey environmental health and safety related issues can be found online.

This study is being funded by Baylor College of Medicine.