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J Public Health (Oxf). 2004 Dec;26(4):376-83.

Public health impacts of floods and chemical contamination.

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Chemical Hazards and Poisons Division (London), Health Protection Agency, Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital Trust, Avonley Road, London SE14 5ER.



Flooding accounts for about 40 per cent of all natural disasters that occur worldwide. In 2002-2003 many counties in England experienced severe floods. Floods are particularly important in public health terms as they may have multiple environmental consequences.


Details of floods reported to Chemical Hazards and Poisons Division, London [CHaPD(L)] were analysed and a literature review was undertaken to identify published reports of flood-related chemical incidents that have had an impact on public health.


Epidemiological evidence shows that chemical material may contaminate homes and that in some cases flooding may lead to mobilization of dangerous chemicals from storage or remobilization of chemicals already in the environment, e.g. pesticides. Hazards may be greater when industrial or agricultural land adjoining residential land is affected. Less evidence exists to support the hypothesis that flooding that causes chemical contamination has a clear causal effect on the pattern of morbidity and mortality following these flooding events.


In the light of this evidence, a checklist/pro forma for public health response to and investigation of flooding events that may result in chemical contamination was needed. This is available from CHaPD(L).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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