Natural (coastal storms, wildfires, floods) and human-induced (structural failures, building collapse, oil, and/or chemical spills) disasters occur every year in the United States. Minimizing loss of human life and damages to personal property and infrastructure is the focus of most disaster response and preparedness activities by federal, state, and local communities. However, the potential for threats from exposures to chemicals and pathogens during post-disaster events is typically unknown but is speculated about by the media and public based largely upon their perceptions or fears. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Environmental Health Mission Area Disaster Science Team's unique expertise uses novel field- and laboratory-based science tools to rapidly assess, understand, and anticipate the potential health hazards posed by disaster-related contaminants and pathogens to employees, residents, visitors, and Native American populations on public and U.S. Department of Interior managed lands, and to fish and wildlife species.
What Are the Health Hazards from Contaminants Released to the Environment by Natural Disasters?
Current Science Questions and Activities
- Create a capabilities toolbox based on USGS Environmental Health Mission Area's unique role before, during, and after a natural or anthropogenic disaster
- Develop Environmental Health Mission Area response matrices for USGS scientists to improve communication within USGS and federal/state response agencies to more effectively utilize our unique capabilities during the disaster cycle
- Research to inform mitigation and preparedness for future disasters/events through supplemental studies originating from previous disaster events:
Develop unique capabilities to acquire, process and analyze remotely sensed data to assess the health effects of disasters due to contaminant releases and to inform planning, response, remediation, and restoration
Science to support Inland Oil Spill Preparedness Project (IOSPP): Glacier Fish Baseline Health Assessment
Science to support Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR)
Development of passive sampling and sensing platforms for field sampling of chemical contaminants for baseline and post-disaster hazard identification
- Avian migration models that integrate toxic response, physiological ecology, and natural history to assess environmental contaminant effects in migratory bird populations
- Persistent organohalogen pollutants, elemental contaminants, and stable isotopes in Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) eggs from Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
More Environmental Health Science Science Teams