Joplin Aftermath Raises Health Concerns

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COLUMBIA - Joplin volunteers from Columbia told KOMU Wednesday that they've felt under the weather since their return. Symptoms of volunteers range from runny and stuffy noses to sore and itchy throats as well as chest congestion.

Dr. Troy Scheidt, an ear nose and throat doctor, said respiratory problems volunteers might be experiencing may be due to the increased particles in the air. "Allergy symptoms are usually triggered by living organisms. In the summer, there's lots of grass pollen, tree pollen and molds, so that added with possible residue from insects in the debris might increase allergy symptoms," said Scheidt. Scheidt said that when there's an increased concentration of what we're already exposed to (such as dust), symptoms are likely to increase.

Scheidt said non-allergic symptoms might be caused by chemical irritants in the air, which he noted are difficult to pin point. Chris Whittley of the EPA Region 7 said there is no indication of asbestos in the air. He said the EPA has been monitoring the air since Saturday. Whittley noted the EPA is making sure debris removal is being executed in the safest way possible.

Scheidt said he doesn't foresee anything contagious coming out of Joplin. "Just common colds, the same type of thing you might get while you're at the mall." For those who continue to volunteer in Joplin, Scheidt suggested staying well rested and healthy to support a healthy immune system and avoid getting sick.