A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF SLUDGE HEALTH EFFECTS
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
|2theadvocate > Suburban and State > Officials: Health ills likely lifestyle issues 08/05/05
Officials: Health ills likely lifestyle issues
St. James residents feared environment
By STEVEN WARD
River parishes bureau
Results of a public health review released Thursday show that the skin problems of some
residents in Convent are not linked to environmental issues and are more likely related to
lifestyle, according to the state Department of Health and Hospitals.
The health review, requested by a group of Convent residents, was conducted by the
department's Section of Environmental Epidemiology and Toxicology.
The concerns of the residents surfaced in late 2003 after a group of people in St. James
Parish complained of skin conditions including severe itching, rashes, burning feelings and
The residents, unofficially led by Albertha Hasten of the Louisiana Environmental Justice
Community Organization, went to the state in 2003 to ask for an investigation of their health
concerns because they thought the problems were connected to the use of treated sewage
sludge used as a fertilizer in the area as well as other possible environmental causes.
Those other possible causes, the Convent residents said, include sugar-cane burning, grain
dust, pesticides applied on sugar-cane fields and chemical releases into the atmosphere.
A total of 185 residents submitted health complaints either verbally or in writing to DHH.
According to the health review, 63 percent of the complaints were about itching, 32 percent
were about rashes, 13 percent complained of burning, 12 percent complained of sores and 4
percent complained of hair loss. A scattering of other miscellaneous ailments including
diarrhea, headaches and nausea, among others, also were reported.
Convent-area residents met with state and federal environmental officials several times in
2003 and 2004 and by request of the community, DHH developed a survey for the residents
to complete by August 2004 and the agency's staff conducted a medical records review to
study the residents' medical histories.
The review was conducted, DHH said, to determine if drinking water quality, agriculture
practices, chemical or pesticide releases and sewage disposals were causing the health
Hasten could not be reached for comment on the report Thursday.
Raoult Ratard, the state epidemiologist with DHH who worked on the review, also could not be
reached for comment Thursday.
DHH officials said the skin problems are "most likely related to individual circumstances." Bob
Johannessen, spokesman for DHH, said "individual circumstances" means lifestyle.
According to the DHH health review, members of the state department will distribute health
information to Convent-area residents and hold a health fair to better inform them of ways to
treat and prevent skin infections.
The state also plans to continue to monitor the area's water system regularly.
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