Screening For Sandy Respiratory Problems

By Phil Gregory, WBGO News
Toms River. August 23, 2013

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screenings at Toms River High School East
Deborah staff provides free breathing tests at Toms River High School East (photo by Phil Gregory)

Some residents and employees in Jersey Shore towns that were hard hit by Superstorm Sandy are being screened for respiratory illnesses..

Staff from the Deborah Heart and Lung Center offered free breathing tests at a high school in Toms River.

Ortley Beach resident Kathy Ragazzo says she and her husband decided to get tested because they’ve had persistent coughs since their home was extensively damaged by Sandy.

“Our house was so moldy. We had like five feet of water. By the time we got into Ortley Beach it had already gone up and underneath, and we were doing it ourselves. I wore a mask but obviously it wasn’t a good enough one.  Now I have to do a follow up because of a mild restriction.”

Toms River resident Frank Campagna says he was glad he got the screening.

“Our house was totally flooded out and mold started growing, and I thought it wise to get myself tested. It shows some adverse condition. It’s not dire or critical, but I got to follow up on it.”

Plumbing inspector Bill Meyer decided to get tested because he’s been going into Sandy-damaged homes that owners are trying to repair.

“They take the sheet rock down and try to put new plumbing in. Meanwhile, the crawlspace is still loaded with water, mold, and my lungs started feeling bad. Now I’m going to wind up in Deborah."

Donna McArdle is the media coordinator for Deborah. She says about 50 people out of the more than 300 tested during nine screening events that have been funded by the Robin Hood Relief fund are being referred for follow up care.

She says there is no proven link, though, between respiratory illness and Sandy cleanup.

“We’re collecting medical data. So until all the medical data is in it’s really hard to say everybody has a problem, there is a problem, we don’t want to make those kind of assumptions yet.”

McArdle says says free cardiac screenings were also offered.

“A lot of the people from Sandy did undergo tremendous stress related to losing their home, maybe losing their businesses, having their lives disrupted, in addition to worrying about possible health consequences.”

Additional free testing events are planned. McArdle says the goal is to screen about a thousand people by November.


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