Epidemiology Counts – Episode 40 – Disasters & Risk Assessment

The recent train derailment in East Palestine (apologies for host Bryan James’ mispronunciation in the Intro), Ohio raised major concerns over the release of harmful chemicals such as vinyl chloride into the environment. The town was evacuated for 5 days until authorities deemed that it was safe to return, though many lingering questions remained as to the safety of the air and water after such a disaster. This train derailment raised questions as to how experts assess the risk to exposed persons after a major disaster—both quickly assessing the immediate threat to residents, as well as observing long term health effects like increased risk for cancer. In this episode of Epi Counts, hosts Bryan James and Ghassan Hamra talk to Keeve Nachman from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, an expert in risk assessment, about how these decisions are made, and whether we really can ever get a yes or no answer to “is it safe now?” after a major disaster.