After the flood

posted in: Science | 4

As flood waters are receding or moving downriver, I have been wondering what is in the water. The health and environmental risks now faced by the flooded areas and beyond were ignored for a while, but seem to be coming out – notedly in a few AP and NPR stories. The CDC has an entire website devoted to health after a flood. The flooding all over Iowa is extensively covered by the Des Moines Register, but the one article on health issues is severely lacking, focusing on injuries instead of infection. Many ignore the environmental consequences.
Fecal bacteria from manure lagoons and sewers will reside in mud left behind by the floodwaters. People cleaning up debris are at risk of tetanus and other infections in scrapes and scratches. Residual water will be a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may carry West Nile and other viruses. And, of course, the mold will grow.
Topsoil has been washed away. Pre-emergent herbicides may have effects from from their intended fields. Nitrogen from fertilized fields and animal waste will flow downstream, likely not causing problems until reaching the Gulf (this has been covered by some news outlets but is typiclly and incorrectly blamed on ethanol, more on that in another post).
All this on top of the structural damage and destruction of public and private property…
I’m upset about my own field – but am thankful that this is the only way I’ve been affected by the floods.

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Anastasia is Policy Director of Biology Fortified, Inc. and the Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. She has a PhD in genetics with a minor in sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. Her favorite produce is artichokes!