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.