Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health Responds to ITC Deer Park Fire

Inkyu Han and students rapid field training

Inkyu Han, MPH, PhD, trains students how to monitor pollutants.

Faculty, staff and students of UTHealth School of Public Health’s Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH) teamed up to monitor air quality changes caused by the Intercontinental Terminals Company Deer Park terminal fire last week.

The center monitored outdoor air levels of pollutants that can cause health effects when inhaled or deposited on the skin, including particulate matter, ultrafine particles, total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs) and black carbon.

SWCOEH and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences (EOHS) teams of faculty and staff involved in monitoring activities are Inkyu Han, MPH, PhD, assistant professor; Heyreoun An Han, PhD, faculty associate; Michelle McDaniel, BS, CHES, continuing education and outreach coordinator and Masoud Afshar, MS, research engineer.

Graduate students Eduardo Reyes, Brian Christensen, Grace of God (Grace) Innocent-Utulu and Oluwafunmilayo (Funmi) Koleosho set up equipment and monitored the air sampling equipment readings.

“These types of fast-response interdisciplinary public health projects are critical for informing public safety and future research directions.” says Arch Carson, MD, PhD, associate professor. “It is the dedication of our students that make these fast response efforts possible.”

Elaine Symanski, PhD, professor and SWCOEH director, together with Grace Tee-Lewis, PhD, health scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF); Amal Rammah, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow and Susan Wu, graduate research assistant, worked with the Houston Health Department and EDF to deploy air monitors in 20 locations throughout the Houston metropolitan area.  

Monitoring efforts and other SWCOEH outreach activities continue in the aftermath of the fire. For more information, visit the SWCOEH website.

-- Photos and article by Michelle McDaniel, SWCOEH Continuing Education and Outreach Coordinator