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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

UTHealth: Response to ITC Deer Park Fire

Faculty, staff, and students of University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health’s Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health are monitoring air quality changes caused by last month’s major chemical fire at a Houston-area petrochemical facility.

The fire sparked March 17 at the Intercontinental Terminals Company Deer Park facility, which stored chemicals used in the production of gasoline, nail polish and other products.

The fire burned for days with a thick black plume of smoke visible from Galveston Bay to downtown Houston, spurring shelter-in-place orders, school and park closings and public concerns over air and water pollution.

Following the incident, the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health dispatched volunteers to the surrounding area to monitor pollutants that can cause health effects when inhaled or deposited on the skin, including particulate matter, ultrafine particles, total volatile organic compounds and black carbon.

“These types of fast-response interdisciplinary public health projects are critical for informing public safety and future research directions,” says Dr. Arch Carson, associate professor of occupational health at UTHealth School of Public Health. “It is the dedication of our students that make these fast-response efforts possible.”

Monitoring efforts and other SWCOEH outreach activities continue in the aftermath of the fire. For more information, visit the center’s website.

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