Resident Perceptions of Environmental Pollution in Recreational Areas Flooded by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas


Parks benefit public health in many ways, from improving stormwater management to mitigating disparities associated with physical and mental health. Parks and recreational areas can be adversely impacted by disasters. Perceptions of postdisaster environmental contamination of parks can limit residents’ willingness to use parks and thus their benefits. In this study, teams of trained interviewers surveyed residents in Houston, Texas, who were using parks in the months following Hurricane Harvey. Data about resident perception of and emotional response to environmental pollution, as well as self-rated postdisaster mental and physical health, were collected. Respondents felt certain that Hurricane Harvey caused environmental contamination in their communities and that this contamination would impact health. Of respondents, 40% reported anger, while only 21.4% felt afraid. Survey respondents had significantly lower mental health composite scores than a national comparison group. Although residents report strong concerns and need information about hurricane-associated environmental contamination, little data have been collected or made available to residents by federal or state agencies. The use of recreational areas for flood mitigation potentially exposes residents to environmental contamination after flooding. More information is needed about risks to health from these exposures.


Speaker / Author: 
Jennifer A. Horney, MPH, PhD, CPH, Department of Epidemiology, University of Delaware
Katy L. Stone, MPH, Department of Health and Human Performance, Middle Tennessee State University
Ibraheem M. Karaye, MPH, Department of Epidemiology, University of Delaware
Emily A. Rauscher, PhD (deceased), Department of Communication, University of Utah
Month Year: 
July 2020
Page #: 
Publication Month: 
July/August 2020
EH Topics: