Epidemiologic methods lessons learned from environmental public health disasters: Chernobyl, the World Trade Center, Bhopal, and Graniteville, South Carolina

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012 Aug;9(8):2894-909. doi: 10.3390/ijerph9082894. Epub 2012 Aug 16.


Background: Environmental public health disasters involving hazardous contaminants may have devastating effects. While much is known about their immediate devastation, far less is known about long-term impacts of these disasters. Extensive latent and chronic long-term public health effects may occur. Careful evaluation of contaminant exposures and long-term health outcomes within the constraints imposed by limited financial resources is essential.

Methods: Here, we review epidemiologic methods lessons learned from conducting long-term evaluations of four environmental public health disasters involving hazardous contaminants at Chernobyl, the World Trade Center, Bhopal, and Graniteville (South Carolina, USA).

Findings: We found several lessons learned which have direct implications for the on-going disaster recovery work following the Fukushima radiation disaster or for future disasters.

Interpretation: These lessons should prove useful in understanding and mitigating latent health effects that may result from the nuclear reactor accident in Japan or future environmental public health disasters.

Keywords: accidents and injuries; chemical safety; environmental health; epidemiology; occupational health.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bhopal Accidental Release*
  • Chernobyl Nuclear Accident*
  • Disasters / history*
  • Epidemiologic Methods*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks*
  • South Carolina