Journal of Environmental Health Articles
Following are previously published articles relating to terrorism and emergency preparedness from the Journal of Environmental Health. This professional journal is one of the many benefits of being a NEHA member.
Response and the Environmental Health Role: The Million Dollar (and Some)
This article discusses some urgent reasons for environmental health to be involved in terrorism response and emergency preparedness and the question of what form that involvement should take. It also takes a frank look at some obstacles to involvement, as well as at some good reasons for the distinct ambivalence that exists within the profession. Finally, some possible solutions to the obstacles are proposed, including more nationally coordinated leadership.
and Durability of Bacillus anthracis Bacteriophages Used Against
Antibiotics and vaccines help fight anthrax disease, but there are no anthrax spore control methods suitable for use in environments where humans are present. The work reported in this article indicates that bacteriophages may help reduce risk from anthrax spores. Dose-response studies demonstrated that higher concentrations of mixed Bacillus anthracis bacteriophages (3.5 x 108 plaque-forming units per milliliter) inhibited subsequent growth of bacteria when sprayed on B. anthracis spores. Phages also were tested for durability under conditions designed to simulate environments possibly encountered during mass phage production, storage, and use against anthrax spores. They remained infectious at temperatures from -20°C to 37°C, under filtration, aerosolization, and treatments with perspiration and blood. Phages were sensitive to temperatures over 55°C and to desiccation. Ultraviolet light reduced spore viability more than phage infectivity under similar conditions. The potential for personal or environmental decontamination of anthrax spores with phages is discussed.
Although biological agents have been used
in warfare for centuries, several events in the past decade have raised
concerns that they could be used for terrorism. Revelations about the
sophisticated biological-weapons programs of the former Soviet Union and
Iraq have heightened concern that countries with offensive-research
programs, including those that sponsor international terrorism, might
assist in the proliferation of agents, culturing capability, and
dissemination techniques, and might benefit in these undertakings from the
availability of skilled laboratory technicians. Release of sarin nerve
agent in the Tokyo subway system in 1995 by the Aum Shinrikyo cult
demonstrated that in the future terrorists might select unconventional
weapons. Certain properties of biological pathogens may make them the
ideal terrorist weapon, including 1) ease of procurement, 2) simplicity of
production in large quantities at minimal expense, 3) ease of
dissemination with low technology, and 4) potential to overwhelm the
medical system with large numbers of casualties. Dissemination of a
biological agent would be silent, and the incubation period allows a
perpetrator to escape to great distances from the area of release before
the first ill persons seek medical care. Countermeasures include
intelligence gathering, physical protection, and detection systems.
Medical countermeasures include laboratory diagnostics, vaccines, and
medications for prophylaxis and treatment. Public health, medical, and
environmental health personnel need to have a heightened awareness,
through education, about the threat from biological agents.