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Harvey victims wear wristbands to track chemical exposure

BAYTOWN, Texas - As residents return to their homes, questions are arising about the possible health effects of exposure to contaminated floodwater and airborne exposures to health hazards such as mold.

Dr. Cheryl Walker, director of Center for Precision Environmental Health at Baylor College of Medicine, says Baylor is prepared to assist residents returning to their homes with "real-time" monitoring of possible chemical exposures during cleanup and recovery after Harvey.

Working with researchers from UTHealth-School of Public Health, Texas A&M University and Oregon State University, researchers from the Baylor Environmental Health Service, the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research are teaming up on a project to monitor chemical exposure in communities affected by Hurricane Harvey where cleanup and recovery efforts are now underway.

Related: Wristbands given out to test for chemical exposure from Harvey floodwaters

Wristbands provided by Oregon State will be handed out to people who are currently living in or working in homes that were flooded.

The wristbands can detect volatile and semi-volatile chemicals directly from air and water. After seven days, researchers will collect the wristbands for measurement of chemical exposures.

“That’s the mystery. And we want to know what the mystery is,” said Curtis Poulard. He and his 4-year old daughter signed up for the study at a church in Baytown Sunday. “What’s going on in our neighborhoods.”

“No. It’s not going to change colors. What’s going to happen is, it’s going to enter into the wristband. And within a week, I’m going to return it back and they’re going to tell us what exactly is in this wristband,” said Poulard.

"It is so important to establish a cohort of those affected by Harvey to understand short-term and long-term health effects as a result of flood waters," said Dr. Melissa Bondy, professor of medicine-epidemiology and population sciences and associate director for Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

More information on Harvey environmental health and safety related issues can be found at www.swcoeh.org/harvey. The study is being funded by Baylor College of Medicine.

For more information contact Georgina Armstrong at 713-798-2951 or Melissa Bondy at 713-798-2953

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