Sierra Club
December 5, 2005


Test Results Reveal a Broad Picture of Health Hazards for Entire Gulf

New soil samples taken in Mississippi and Alabama communities hit by
Hurricane Katrina show dangerous levels of pollution, including
arsenic, heavy metals, dioxin and E. Coli.

The tests, conducted by award-winning chemist Wilma Subra, showed that
many of the pollution problems that continue to haunt New Orleans are
prevalent throughout the entire Gulf Region.

"The sediment sludge carried on the land by the storm surge is
contaminated by heavy metals and a host of microorganisms, all of
which are known to cause acute and chronic impacts on public health,"
said Wilma Subra. "There is a need to determine extent of that
contamination and establish a plan to remove the contaminants in order
to prevent residents and workers from being harmfully exposed."

The results showed high levels of arsenic at nearly every site tested
in all three states with the highest levels at the Bay Bridge in
Alabama more than 90 times higher than what the Environmental
Protection Agency deems safe. The highest arsenic levels in
Mississippi were at Moss Point on Elder Ferry Road near the site of
the former Rohm & Haas chemical plant, Big Lake in Gulfport, and
Pearlington in Hancock County. All three sites were 27 times over the
EPA arsenic limits.

There were also unsafe levels of arsenic near the DeLisle Elementary
School near the DuPont chemical plant in Mississippi's Harrison
County. Testing also showed unsafe levels of dioxin, barium,
chromium, lead and mercury at the school and immediately outside the
chemical plant as well. Ongoing local concerns about pollution from
the DuPont DeLisle facility worsened after Katrina buried the plant at
least 7 to 9 feet of floodwaters, but EPA has not done any testing at
the plant itself or at the schools and residences nearby.

"There are around 1,200 students at DeLisle Elementary, many of them
brought in from other schools that were damaged or destroyed by
Katrina," said Becky Gillette, co-chair of the Sierra Club's
Mississippi Chapter. "The EPA and Mississippi Department of
Environmental Quality should step up to protect the safety of these
children by conducting additional testing to determine if exposing the
students to these soils causes long-term health hazards."

In addition to other types of toxic heavy metal contamination, Subra
found very elevated levels of bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella,
staphylococcus, yeast and mold in throughout all three states.

"We tested a layer of sludge that was not there prior to Hurricane
Katrina. The sludge was dry, but the organisms were still viable,"
said Subra. "Some government officials feel that once the sludge dries
up, the organisms are dead. But that isn't the case here. When people
are out walking in their yards and streets, they are inhaling these
particles that contain microorganisms that are still unsafe."

Dr. Peter L. deFur of Environmental Stewardship Concepts, which has
extensive experience with similar health assessments, expressed
concern that "once the sludge dries, it can become airborne dust,
carrying with it the metals and pathogens." He added that those
facing the greatest risk of dust exposure are children, who are lower
to the ground, and people, such as cleanup workers, who are exerting
themselves and breathing hard.

The Sierra Club is urging the EPA to conduct additional testing
outside the fence line of the DuPont chemical facility, in residential
areas and in schools. Air conditioning filters inside schools that
have not been replaced since Katrina should be analyzed then replaced
with new ones. Experts at LEAN also suggest that residents returning
to these neighborhoods avoid contact with this layer of contaminated
sludge and caution seniors, small children and pregnant women to stay
away from these areas entirely. It is also recommended that residents
obtain recovery kits that include Tyvek suits, respirators, gloves,
smocks and other protective equipment before returning to these areas.

The results were made public today during a press teleconference
hosted by the Sierra Club in partnership with Subra, Dr. Peter deFur
of Environmental Stewardship Concepts, and Marylee Orr, Executive
Director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN).

The independent testing was funded by a grant from the Jennifer Altman
Foundation and processed by Altamont Environmental Inc. of Asheville,
NC. The results may be viewed in their entirety {here}.

For more information about how Katrina impacted the DuPont DeLisle
chemical plant, look {here}.

In addition, the American Diabetes Association has published research
into the connections between diabetes mellitus and environmental
toxics, namely arsenic and dioxin. That research can be found {here}.

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health collaborated on
an international study that linked arsenic exposure to reduce
intellectual function in children. More information is available

For further information, contact:
Christina Kreitzer 415-977-5619
Eric Antebi 415-977-5747