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New Orleans: pestilent vs chemical plagues

  1. Sep 7, 2005 #1
    We first heard of the contagions spread by human waste, dead bodies and mosquitoes around New Orleans. Next came the threat of seepage by poisons, petrochemicals and other toxins into its water.

    What do you think is the possibility that the chemicals leached into the flood water actually reduce the potential biological hazard, eliminating many microbial vectors of disease?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 7, 2005 #2
    I would think it is a poor possibility, or if it is happening it is a subtle effect. I also see a possibility that it might cause an increase in pathogenic activity by damaging natural enemies of pathogens. Spilled fertilizer could cause an algae bloom and subsequent algae die-off which could reduce the oxygen content of the water. Oxygen is a natural enemy of anaerobic bacteria.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2005
  4. Sep 7, 2005 #3


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    There are so many types of bacteria that where one dies off, another thrives. All the dead bodies and vegetation are going to provide plenty of nutrients for bacteria. I also don't expect the various toxins will be uniformly distributed, so there will be areas of lower concentrations of toxins to harbor bacteria.

    They might be able to clean and rebuild buildings, but I don't know how they'll ever decontaminate all the soil and water. Has anyone heard anything about that aspect? Nature will take its slow course in dealing with organic matter, but it's not going to make it habitable to humans any time soon.
  5. Sep 8, 2005 #4


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    Gotta agree with Moonbear on this one. While there will be point sources where toxicant/chemical pollution may cause some risk, the overwhelming risk will be to biological contamination. One would assume that the major reason for this is that, in general, the further one gets from the source of a chemical spill, the more dilute the agent becomes and thus risk decreases (you may have heard:the solution to pollution is dilution (this doesn't always work, but in this case it should rule the majority)). The biological contamination can bloom out of control and spread rapidly to reach dangerous levels in a short time across a large area. Once again "the dose makes the poison" and with an ever increasing potential for biological exposure due to uncontrolled growth, there lies the greatest risk.
  6. Sep 8, 2005 #5
    What are the possiblilities of a pandemic occuring throughout the USA from what is happening in New Orleans?
  7. Sep 8, 2005 #6
    That seems to fail to address the question.
  8. Sep 8, 2005 #7
    What can we learn from Bangladesh and other flood-prone, highly populated areas?
  9. Sep 8, 2005 #8


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    Maybe I wasn't blatantly clear, but if I stated that the overwhelming risk would be to biological contamination, then that would logically follow that I don't hold much faith in the chemical pollution "outcompeting" the biological.
  10. Sep 8, 2005 #9
    From AP

    The danger of infection was not limited to the New Orleans area. The bacteria are feared to have migrated to crowded shelters outside the state, where many evacuees are staying. Four deaths _ one in Texas, three in Mississippi _ have been attributed to infected wounds, said Tom Skinner, spokesman for the CDC.

    I know they are now taking any cloths that had gotten wet, and are burning them. Also at the shelters they have passed out thousands of disinfectint hand wipes and have warn mothers to watch and wash there children's hands/toys often.
    I don't think we need to worry about a nation wide pandemic, the rest of us have access to clean water/soap
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