Superstorm Sandy’s most dangerous long-term effects may not be broken buildings or infrastructure, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez warned Friday.
Citing illness caused by mold and toxins overflowing the banks of the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek, Rep. Velázquez (D-NY) called on the federal government to establish a task force to respond to public health and environmental concerns.
Velázquez is the coordinator for federal recovery efforts related to Sandy.
In a letter to Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Velázquez said that while much attention has been focused on the billions of dollars in physical damages from the storm, public health and environmental challenges are not being given the attention they warrant. Illnesses caused by mold and toxin exposure may place further strains on the already-stressed public health system, Velázquez fears.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a 2006 study after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans found that even if a home was only flooded partway, toxic mold often crept up inside the walls, well past the waterline.
Another study found children’s allergic sensitivity to mold increased after the storm – bad news for kids with asthma. Social disruption and stress caused mental problems to soar as well.
Velázquez has requested that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), local hospitals, and environmental and public health agencies join the task force.