To discover the impact of chemical contamination Dr. George Cobb from Texas Tech University led a team to study 128 sampling sites from across the city, combining their findings with data sets generated by Dr. Burton Suedel and co-workers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Maps were then compiled from the resulting data to reveal chemical distribution across the city.
Elevated concentrations of arsenic and lead were demonstrated to exist throughout New Orleans with the highest concentrations observed in soils from the poorer sections of the city. The team also discovered that lead concentrations exceed the regulatory threshold for safety, with the highest concentrations found in the oldest parts of the city. Lead in soil poses a significant risk to residents who returned to their homes following the evacuation, especially children.
While the team's findings indicated that levels of lead frequently exceed regulatory thresholds, further research showed that many of the contaminants were present in high concentrations before the storm season and that lead may have posed a significant risk to New Orleans residents for years before Hurricane Katrina.
The results also revealed elevated concentrations of arsenic in surface soils and flood sediments across New Orleans, caused by sediment deposition or from flooded building materials.
"Our evaluation of contaminants in New Orleans was critical in determining whether storm surges and resultant flooding altered chemical concentrations or distribution," concluded Cobb. "Our results show how long-term human health consequences in New Orleans are difficult to attribute to chemical deposition or redistribution by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, yet reveal how chemical contamination is a historical problem for old cites in the U.S. Our resul
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