Environmental Health and Hurricane Katrina

Examining Hurricane Katrina's toxic brew

3 min read

The immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina brought a tremendous amount of suffering to residents of the Gulf coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi. More than 800 000 homes were destroyed or became uninhabitable, communities were shattered, and families were torn apart as members were relocated to the far corners of the country. Financial and emotional stress escalated, resulting in heart attacks and high blood pressure, which could be measured immediately. Now, more than two years into the recovery period, many residents believe the worst is over, even as their neighbors show signs of suffering from long-term health problems that may be due to Katrina and its aftermath.

Many Gulf Coast residents in FEMA trailers have experienced short-term respiratory problems as a result of excessive formaldehyde exposure (from poor-quality pressed board and particleboard used as building materials). Some residents and volunteers alike have developed infections from post-storm exposures to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus , often after injuring themselves while clearing debris and rebuilding their communities.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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