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Abstracts of the 2019 Annual Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology, August 25-28 2019, Utrecht, the Netherlands

Socioeconomic Disparities in Incidents at Toxic Sites during Hurricane Harvey

W, Lieberman-cribbin1,,3; R, Schwartz1,,2,,3; E, Taioli1,,3

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Environmental Epidemiology: October 2019 - Volume 3 - Issue - p 239
doi: 10.1097/01.EE9.0000608504.45519.77
  • Open

OPS 04: Environmental justice, Room 117, Floor 1, August 27, 2019, 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Background/Aim: Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on August 25 2017, resulting in extensive flooding, high-winds, power outages, and chemical exposures. The environmental justice implications of the storm are still being investigated. Here, we highlight the socioeconomic disparities present in reported incidents at toxic sites from Hurricane Harvey exposure.

Methods: The location of toxic sites and those with reported incidents due to Hurricane Harvey was retrieved from the Sierra Club environmental organization and overlaid on the FEMA Harvey Flood Depths Grid product. An index of socioeconomic disparities (ISD) was created from Zip Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA) data downloaded from the 2017 American Community Survey 5-year estimates; it included the proportion of ZCTA residents: (1) aged > 25 years with less than a high school education, (2) aged > 5 years with limited English language proficiency, (3) below the poverty level, (4) of Hispanic ethnicity, and (5) aged > 16 years and unemployed.

Results: Seventy-five of the 1431 toxic sites (5.2%) had reported incidents during Harvey, mainly at Chemical Facilities (34.7%), Hazardous Waste/Superfund Sites (17.3%), and Petroleum Bulk Terminals/Petroleum and Natural Gas Facilities (41.3%). Each component of the ISD was associated with increased likelihood of an incident at a toxic site at univariate analysis. At multivariate analyses, ZCTAs with a higher socioeconomic disparity score were associated with increased odds of an incident (adjusted odds ratio (ORadj): 1.17; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.02 - 1.34), while flooding at the facility location was not (ORadj: 1.41; 95% CI: 0.88 – 2.25).

Conclusions: Reported incidents at toxic sites during Hurricane Harvey cannot be explained by flooding alone; areas with higher socioeconomic disparities were disproportionately exposed to incidents at toxic sites. Future disaster preparedness and response efforts must recognize these disparities and include careful maintenance and assessment of chemical and toxic waste facilities.

Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. on behalf of Environmental Epidemiology. All rights reserved.