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      Environmental Lead after Hurricane Katrina: Implications for Future Populations


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          Background: As a result of Hurricane Katrina, > 100,000 homes were destroyed or damaged and a significant amount of sediment was deposited throughout the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Researchers have identified the potential for increased lead hazards from environmental lead contamination of soils.

          Objectives: We assessed the distribution of residential soil and dust lead 2 years poststorm and compared soil lead before and after the storm.

          Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study in New Orleans in which households were selected by stratified random sampling. A standard residential questionnaire was administered, and lead testing was performed for both the interior and exterior of homes. Logistic regression was used to identify significant predictors of interior and exterior lead levels in excess of allowable levels.

          Results: One hundred nine households were enrolled; 61% had at least one lead measurement above federal standards. Of homes with bare soil, 47% had elevated lead and 27% had levels exceeding 1,200 ppm. Housing age was associated with soil lead, and housing age and soil lead were associated with interior lead. Race, income, and ownership status were not significantly associated with either interior or exterior lead levels. The median soil lead level of 560 ppm was significantly higher than the median level of samples collected before Hurricane Katrina.

          Conclusions: The high prevalence (61%) of lead above recommended levels in soil and dust samples in and around residences raises concern about potential health risks to the New Orleans population, most notably children. Steps should be taken to mitigate the risk of exposure to lead-contaminated soil and dust. Further research is needed to quantify the possible contribution of reconstruction activities to environmental lead levels.

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          Most cited references46

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          The prevalence of lead-based paint hazards in U.S. housing.

          In this study we estimated the number of housing units in the United States with lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards. We included measurements of lead in intact and deteriorated paint, interior dust, and bare soil. A nationally representative, random sample of 831 housing units was evaluated in a survey between 1998 and 2000; the units and their occupants did not differ significantly from nationwide characteristics. Results indicate that 38 million housing units had lead-based paint, down from the 1990 estimate of 64 million. Twenty-four million had significant lead-based paint hazards. Of those with hazards, 1.2 million units housed low-income families (< 30,000 US dollars/year) with children under 6 years of age. Although 17% of government-supported, low-income housing had hazards, 35% of all low-income housing had hazards. For households with incomes greater than or equal to 30,000 US dollars/year, 19% had hazards. Fourteen percent of all houses had significantly deteriorated lead-based paint, and 16% and 7%, respectively, had dust lead and soil lead levels above current standards of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The prevalence of lead-based paint and hazards increases with age of housing, but most painted surfaces, even in older housing, do not have lead-based paint. Between 2% and 25% of painted building components were coated with lead-based paint. Housing in the Northeast and Midwest had about twice the prevalence of hazards compared with housing in the South and West. The greatest risk occurs in older units with lead-based paint hazards that either will be or are currently occupied by families with children under 6 years of age and are low-income and/or are undergoing renovation or maintenance that disturbs lead-based paint. This study also confirms projections made in 2000 by the President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children of the number of houses with lead-based paint hazards. Public- and private-sector resources should be directed to units posing the greatest risk if future lead poisoning is to be prevented.
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            Pathways of lead exposure in urban children.

            A linear structural equation modeling procedure was used to explore the mechanisms and pathways for lead intake among urban children and the relative contribution of various lead sources to lead-contaminated house dust. Dust lead levels were significantly associated with children's blood lead levels, both indirectly and directly via hand lead. Both soil and paint lead contributed to dust lead levels, but paint contributed significantly more lead to house dust than soil (P < 0.001). Black race and income level both directly affected children's blood lead levels. Finally, time spent outdoors was associated with children putting soil or dirt in their mouths which was, in turn, associated with children's blood lead levels. These data indicate that mouthing behaviors are an important mechanism of exposure among urban children with low-level elevations in blood lead and that lead-based paint is a more important contributor of lead to house dust than is lead-contaminated soil.
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              Trace elements in street and house dusts: sources and speciation.

              The sources and speciation of trace elements in street and house dusts are reviewed. Soil is a major component of both dusts, but a number of elements are enriched in both materials. These include Pb, Zn, Cu, Cd, As, Sb, Cr, Ca, Na, Au, Cl and Br. They arise from a number of contributing and polluting sources. In the case of house dust, some elements, such as Cu, Co, As, Sb, Zn, Cd, Au, Cl, C and Pb, are produced in the house. There are a number of problems associated with the determination of the speciation of trace elements in dusts. These include the low concentrations of many of the elements, and the interpretation of the results from selective sequential extractions. The mobility and potential availability of the trace elements from dust lies in the order Cd greater than Zn, Pb greater than Mn, Cu greater Fe.

                Author and article information

                Environ Health Perspect
                Environmental Health Perspectives
                National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
                03 November 2011
                February 2012
                : 120
                : 2
                : 180-184
                [1 ]Department of Epidemiology, and
                [2 ]Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
                Author notes
                Address correspondence to F.A. Rabito, Department of Epidemiology, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 1440 Canal St., SL18, Room 2016, New Orleans, LA 70112 USA. Telephone: (504) 988-3479. Fax: (504) 988-1564. E-mail: rabito@ 123456tulane.edu
                Copyright @ 2011

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 06 April 2011
                : 03 November 2011

                Public health
                housing,children’s health,soil pollutants,lead exposure,environmental exposures
                Public health
                housing, children’s health, soil pollutants, lead exposure, environmental exposures


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