As Hurricane Sandy made landfall across the New Jersey shoreline, a catastrophic storm surge caused severe flooding and devastation to the New York City Significant Maritime Industrial Areas (SMIAs). The SMIAs house clusters of heavy industrial facilities located in close proximity to residential communities. Due to the heavy industrialization of the SMIAs, recovery workers in these areas may face adverse health effects from exposure to "fugitive" chemicals - chemicals dislodged from industrial sites and dispersed through floodwaters to commercial and residential areas where cleanup activities occurred. While hazard data has been collected in past hurricane events through sampling, so far no efforts have been made to characterize the range and types of activities recovery workers engage in that could lead to increased exposures and risks. Following the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's Research to Practice (r2p) principles, our study addresses Priority 2 of the Funding Opportunity Announcement. The main objectives of our study are to: 1) determine the exposure and health risks posed to recovery workers in one SMIA, Sunset Park, in Brooklyn, New York;and 2) develop a plan for dissemination, translation, and implementation of research products. To accomplish these goals we use a community-based risk assessment (CBRA) approach that includes Sunset Park community members as full research partners. We use an existing risk assessment model to predict health risks from exposure to hazardous chemicals during recovery activities in Sunset Park. Study activities are divided into a research arm and a translation arm. The research arm will support the collection of site- and recovery activity-specific hazard and exposure data, which will be integrated into the model and used to estimate health risks. The translation arm supports the development of a plan for use of study products to aid long-term recovery and also includes evaluation activities. This study addresses several important gaps in existing knowledge of the potential health effects faced by recovery workers. First, we fill in data gaps on hazards and exposure activities that increase both exposure and risk potential. Second, we use an existing risk model that can take into account consequences of exposures to single chemicals or mixtures. Finally, by using a CBRA approach, which has not been used in this context previously, we will be able to gather community-specific data that will provide information especially tailored to Sunset Park and potentially other industrial waterfront communities. As a result, stakeholders will be able to use study products to guide prevention decisions on what chemicals to prioritize for secure storage, mitigation decisions on the recovery activities or vulnerable populations requiring greater protections, treatment decisions on what groups may require targeted screening or healthcare follow-up, and communication decisions on what groups may need targeted warning messages.
The proposed research will provide key stakeholders such as emergency managers, business employers, public health officials, clinicians and healthcare providers, and recovery workers and volunteers in Sunset Park, NY, with information on the potential health risks posed by chemical contaminant exposures. The vast amount of contaminants potentially encountered by recovery workers, coupled with the range of recovery activities performed, complicates the predictions of short- and long-term risks and poses challenges for prevention and mitigation planning. Because the risk model used in our study can estimate relative exposure potentials to multiple contaminants and relative health risks from exposure to different hazards, our research will guide prevention decisions on what chemicals to prioritize for secure storage, mitigation decisions on the recovery activities or vulnerable populations requiring greater protections, treatment decisions on what groups may require targeted screening or healthcare follow-up, and communication decisions on what groups may need targeted warning messages.