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10 Years After Katrina and Other Disasters

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As the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, dedications and remembrances have been showing up in the news in New Orleans and beyond. Many of these pieces concentrate on the significant emotional and mental impact that Katrina had on those whose lives were impacted by the disaster. Some look at the continued struggle to rebuild the city even after all this time. What these pieces have in common is the acknowledgement that while Katrina’s devastating effects may have been diminished, they have not disappeared and there is a chance they never will.

In April, State Representative Joseph Bouie, with the support of Toxic Free Schools for NOLA, introduced House Bill 180, which would prohibit the construction of schools on former waste sites. This bill was necessitated by the city’s intention to move forward with building a school on the former site of another school, despite evidence showing elevated levels of lead, arsenic, mercury, and other toxic chemicals in the soil. The bill passed unanimously in the LA House of Representatives, but was tabled by the Senate Education Committee in June.

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Floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina cover a portion of New Orleans on Aug. 30, 2005. (Photo: David J. Phillip, AP)

During a disaster, children are especially vulnerable.
  • They rely on adults to make protective decisions for them
  • Their smaller bodies are also at higher risk of being overcome by strong winds, strong water currents, etc.
  • They proportionally eat, drink, and breathe more per pound of body weight than adults. One study estimated that 1740 metric tons of arsenic treated wood was deposited by the storm, which can leach into the soil and groundwater. Studies have shown early-life exposure to arsenic can lead to several types of cancer and other diseases later in life.

Even after a disaster, children are still vulnerable to any environmental hazards left behind. However, the are several resources outlining precautions to take before allowing children back into homes or schools.

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Inside a school in St Bernard Parish Photograph: Seph Lawless

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