Researcher Cautions South Mississippi About Arsenic, Sediment Sludge Levels

Many South Mississippians who have damaged homes have already taken on the dreaded task of cleaning all the "muck" out of their homes. However, an environmental chemist who has conducted studies in South Mississippi, says you may want to think twice before you expose yourself to sludge and other elements.

While Katrina leveled tens of thousands of homes in South Mississippi, the catastrophic storm left behind a mounting problem--sediment sludge. Dr. Wilma Subra says some areas have up to 8 feet of this unsightly and unhealthy buildup.

"In the short term, it's very available," Dr. Subra said. "It's on the surface, people come in contact with it. People scoop it up, they inhale it. And so you get skin rashes, sores that don't heal. You get asthma and all of these things are short term with a long term prognosis of increased cancer risk and increased chance of miscarriage."

Dr. Subra told the crowd at Tuesday night's meeting to take precautions.

"If you're going to walk through the sludge, get a protective tyvec suit, get booties and gloves, get a respirator. Protect yourself to reduce your risk of coming in contact with it," Dr. Subra said.

Dr. Subra has sampled ten sites in South Mississippi for arsenic post-Katrina.

"All but one have exceeded the standards for arsenic and had a multitude of other chemicals and microbiologicals in them. So it makes them a very toxic material that people come in contact with."

Dr. Subra encouraged the crowd at Tuesday night's meeting to join forces and rally for more testing and government studies to protect themselves and others.