Lead, arsenic, iron, pesticides, bacteria. They are all found in the New Orleans soil, in some areas at dangerous levels. Researchers at Texas Tech say they would not put their own kids in school there until further testing is done. During a press conference on Wednesday at the Reese Technology Center, Texas Tech Institute of Environmental and Human Health, Dr. Ronald Kendall told the crowd, "The sediments knew no boundaries. The sediments moved into playgrounds, play boxes, people's homes down the street."
In the first peer-reviewed scientific study of New Orleans' soil since hurricane Katrina, Texas Tech researchers found levels of lead in some areas that are two thirds higher than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe. Lead can lead to brain damage and developmental disorders. Study leader Dr. Steven Presley says, "We're not trying to make statements whether or not people should go back into New Orleans schools. We're just presenting evidence those toxicants do exist and we advise more sampling and studies be performed." Dr. Kendall says, "We have no obligation to anyone, just to good science."
On Wednesday, schools on the west bank of the Mississippi River, an area largely unscathed by the storm, reopened. 7,000 students are anticipated to return for the current school year. Dr. Presley says, "We need to know it's safe, before anyone can say it's safe." Duke DeWare, President of the Jeffersonian Institute in Jefferson, Texas, a partner in the study, says, "The very important research being done here in Lubbock is being used to help people on the coast get their lives back together and make informed decisions." Dr. Kendall adds, "I remember seeing Miles O'Brien from CNN standing in black muck near the Superdome and he says what's in this sediment, this muck. What is in there? And we as a team we said we're gonna go figure that out."
Researchers also found a contaminant called arimonius in flood waters and many humans may have come in contact. They are studying now whether it is still a danger in the soil. Arimonius is a bacteria that entered through wounds suffered in the Tsunami disaster and caused diseases and infections.
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