U.S. Geological Survey - Environmental Health

What Are the Health Hazards from Contaminants Released to the Environment by Natural Disasters?

Photo Montage of USGS Hurricane Sandy Work

Montage of Hurricane Sandy images showing storm tracks, storm waves and surge damage to the barrier island at Mantoloking, New Jersey, dune erosion at Normandy Beach, New Jersey, and sampling of sediments and fish by USGS and Shinnecock Nation scientists after the storm. Graphic design by Denis K. Sun, USGS. Photo credits: Inset photos USGS. Background image is courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Our specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, and geologists working together at field sites in Northeastern US after Hurricane Sandy have shown:

  • Metal contaminants were released to the environment after Hurricane Sandy due to some dune restoration activities.
  • In other locations the storm actually decreased contaminant exposures to bottom dwelling aquatic biota.
Natural-color satellite image of Hurricane Sandy

Natural-color image of Hurricane Sandy captured by the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 13 at 1:45 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on October 28, 2012. (Courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Natural disasters like hurricanes exert powerful forces that can cause spills or mobilize contaminants where contact by humans, wildlife, and commercial fisheries is possible in the immediate aftermath of the storm and potentially much longer.

Questions We're Working On:

Are there long-term contaminant hazards months or years after natural disasters?

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