Health Issues Plague East Coast Residents In Sandy’s Wake

East Coast residents fear health hazards left by Sandy.
Volunteers and residents are concerned for health safety in the toxic environment left in Sandy's wake. Some wonder if the city is doing enough to keep residents safe.

Volunteers are working hard to help clean up the mess in many waterfront Long Island neighborhoods. Lindenhurst has become a toxic wasteland, with volunteers and residents mucking through toxic fumes, mud, and oil.

Many volunteers are sick after only a few days, coughing up black mucus and complaining of headaches. For residents who have been exposed to these toxins since the storm, concerns over health safety are rising.

Homes lay gutted and garbage is strewn about Artic Street, where Jill Vaneck lives. She has been coughing since the storm, and complains of a constant headache. Mike Hoffman, a volunteer relief coordinator, notes, “Volunteers are getting sick, spitting up black mucous, getting respiratory infections – some just after two to three days. Victims have been exposed much longer.”

Residents such as Vaneck are concerned. “I’m concerned over mold, but definitely the oil – it’s everywhere, in the streets, in our homes,” Vaneck said. “The smell of oil has given me a headache every day, and I have this bad cough. So, yes, I’m concerned. I’m worried about the water . . .not only for the plumbing in my house, but there is water all around us. It’s toxic down here.”

Other residents are concerned about hypothermia, frost bite, dysentery, and respiratory infections, said Hoffman, 33.

A spokesperson for State Island University Hospital reports that there has been an “increase in the number of emergency room patients complaining of respiratory problems in the past week.” Spokesperson Diana O’Donnell added that there has also been an increase in ER visits due to injuries relating to the storm.

According to SILive, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection does not think the “extensive refuse poses potential health hazards.”

“Because debris piles are wet, the outdoor air on Staten Island should remain free of contaminants, including asbestos,” said Environmental Protection. “However, out of an abundance of caution, we will monitor for asbestos at debris piles over the next few days.”

Hoffman maintains that the city must also test the air in the city. “They need air quality testing, hot showers, heat and electric,” Hoffman added. “Myself and many others are working vigorously to get them most of that but the city needs and must check air quality.”

For those with existing respiratory problems, such as asthma, the current air quality could post a danger. According to Fox News, “Those with a reduced immune system – such as elderly individuals, people with asthma and lung disease, as well those with mold allergies – are at an increased risk of worsening their disease with mold exposure.”

Do you think the city is doing enough to ensure that the victims of superstorm Sandy remain healthy in the wake of the storm?