HONOLULU (KHON2) — In January, two federal agencies teamed up to survey how civilians have been impacted by the Navy’s petroleum-contaminated water as a result from the leakage at the Red Hill fuel facility. Hundreds of people at the time complained of physical ailments from ingesting the water.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry investigated the potential health impacts at the request of the Hawaii State Health Department. Now, the results are in.
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A total of 2,289 eligible participants submitted surveys between Jan. 7 and Feb. 10. At least one household member participated from 1,389 (14%) of 9,694 estimated affected households.
Among all participants who were residents in the affected area, 1,115 (52%) reported at least one sign that their water was contaminated. Examples included the smell or taste of petroleum and a visible oily sheen. According to the CDC survey, 93% of participants switched to a different water source after learning of the incident, and 80% reported improvement in symptoms after the switch.
After the incident, 87% reported experiencing new or worse symptoms. Many of those participants (75%) said their symptoms lasted more than 30 days. Those symptoms included issues with their nervous system (62%), followed by the gastrointestinal system (58%), skin (58%), ear, nose, and throat (47%), mental health (46%), eyes (42%) and respiratory system (31%).
The survey also revealed that medical care was sought by 853 (37%) of participants after the incident, including 17 who were hospitalized overnight.
“These results highlight the need for preventing exposure to petroleum products and might aid public health professionals and clinicians in detecting and responding to future similar incidents. Exposure levels, duration, and long-term health effects, however, are uncertain,” the report said. “Additional follow-up of the affected population might improve understanding of the overall health impact of this and other petroleum exposure incidents.”
To read the full report, click here.
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The CDC survey was voluntary and confidential. Participants were predominantly female (59%), non-Hispanic (81%), military-affiliated (88%) and identified their race as white (74%).