Tags: One | Reporter's | Opinion | Katrina | Toxic | Time | Bomb

One Reporter's Opinion - Katrina, A Toxic Time Bomb

Friday, 09 September 2005 12:00 AM

The devastation seen each day on our television screens and reported by on-the-scene broadcasters, including Andrew Gumbel and Rupert Cornwell, is only what they show us. What we do not see can be more dangerous. The polluted waters contain human and animal waste, the bodies of people and animals, and a mixture of chemical and petrochemical toxins from the refineries that dot the Gulf coast.

Even before the pumping is complete (some engineers believe it could last months; for sure it will be a long time - possibly a year - before decent, potable water can be drawn again), the consequences for all living creatures - humans, animals, fish, and microorganisms - are simply devastating.

Chemical toxicologist Harold Zeliger, speaking of the mass decomposing of dead bodies and animals, refers to this as "a horrible festering of unknown consequences." And we are beginning to receive stories of victims who have died from bacterial infections caused by the filthy water. Health officials report the victims were infected with vibrio vulnificus bacteria, a deadly water-born pathogen related to the bacteria that causes cholera and common in waters off the Gulf of Mexico. Vibrio vulnificus is one of the bacteria now being found in the floodwaters left by Katrina.

But this is only one of a number of pathogens found in that "toxic soup." Another disease they could have predicted would be on the rise in this disaster is Hepatitis (A, B and C), which is highly infectious and transmittable by human contact, inadequate hygiene and contaminated food. And just as we have found with the influx of illegal aliens, there is a recurrence of Tuberculosis. There are many horrendous diseases that have returned to the impoverished engulfed by Katrina and even numerous venereal diseases, one for which they have found no cure.

How does one avoid these and other diseases? Simple hygiene, washing hands, and teaching our children proper hygienic habits is a start. But we have an added problem: as humane and generous as Americans are, relocating the vast numbers of our population from the blighted areas will mean introducing our children and whatever health problems they bring with them into our school system. We're all familiar with childhood diseases, and this adds yet another challenge to our present situation.

There are so many communicable diseases and so many of our people go undiagnosed and therefore untreated. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to protect our kids, the elderly and the helpless.

If we will just use common sense, we can do what Americans have always done in the past to survive, rather than to resort to shame and blame, right or wrong and finger pointing. That is not to overlook the fact that we have the right to question the choices our public officials make on our behalf and to determine who is guilty of malfeasance in this terrible crisis.

Thousands of families remain separated from one another. Many are still searching for missing relatives. As New Orleans and the southern states come to grips with the disaster and begin the long road to recovery, we pray the cleanup is swift and thorough. Once the pumping is complete and the debris is cleared away, it will be time to rebuild. But nothing will ever erase from memory the tragedy of Katrina. Our hopes and prayers are constantly with these fine surviving fellow Americans.

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The devastation seen each day on our television screens and reported by on-the-scene broadcasters, including Andrew Gumbel and Rupert Cornwell, is only what they show us. What we do not see can be more dangerous. The polluted waters contain human and animal waste, the...
One,Reporter's,Opinion,Katrina,,Toxic,Time,Bomb
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2005-00-09
Friday, 09 September 2005 12:00 AM
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