2013 Conference of the International Medical Geology Association (25–29 August 2013)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM


PLUMLEE, Geoffrey S., U.S. Geological Survey, MS 964 Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225, gplumlee@usgs.gov

In addition to the physical damages, casualties, injuries and psychological effects they cause, disasters can also produce large volumes of hazardous materials. These disaster materials can be geogenic (e.g. volcanic ash, landslides), geoanthropogenic (e.g., polluted flood sediments, smoke and ash from wildland-urban fires), and anthropogenic (e.g. industrial chemical releases, dusts and debris from building collapses, and smoke and ash from building or industrial fires). Environmental and medical geochemists can collaborate with hazards, emergency management, and public health experts to: characterize the physical, chemical, and microbial makeup of disaster materials; fingerprint and assess relative contributions of materials from multiple sources; elucidate how environmental processes modify disaster materials; monitor, map, and model the dispersal and evolution of disaster materials in the environment; characterize pre- and post-disaster environmental conditions; help understand exposure pathways and toxicological implications of disaster materials for urban populations and ecosystems; and, help identify appropriate disposal options for disaster materials to minimize additional health impacts or exposures. Environmental and medical geochemists can also contribute substantially to interdisciplinary disaster scenarios, which are increasingly used by hazards experts to help governments and communities prepare for future disasters. This presentation, growing from the outstanding efforts of many collaborators, will summarize environmental and related health implications of several such scenarios. These include the Southern California ShakeOut (which modeled the impacts of a hypothetical 7.8 magnitude earthquake on the southern San Andreas fault), ARkStorm (which modeled the impacts of a hypothetical weeks-long winter storm hitting southern and central California), and a California teletsunami triggered by an Alaskan offshore earthquake. Helping understand the plausible sources, types, environmental behavior, and health implications of natural and anthropogenic contaminants and pathogens that are involved in these disaster scenarios will ultimately enhance preparedness for and resilience to environmental and health consequences of future disasters.