February 8, 2018
Journal Article

Comparing Residential Contamination in a Houston Environmental Justice Neighborhood before and after Hurricane Harvey


Introduction: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are complex environmental toxicants; exposure to them has been linked to adverse health outcomes including cancer, as well as diseases of the skin, liver, and immune system. Based on an ongoing community engagement partnership with stakeholder groups and residents, we conducted a small longitudinal study to assess domestic exposure to PAHs among residents of Manchester, an environmental justice neighborhood located in the East End of Houston, TX. Methods: In December, 2016, we used fiber wipes to collect samples of household dust from 25 homes in Manchester. Following Hurricane Harvey, in September 2017, we revisited 24 of the 25 homes to collect soil samples from the front yards of the same homes. Wipes and soil were analyzed for the presence of PAHs using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) methods. Principle component analysis plots, heatmaps, and PAH ratios were used to compare pre- and post-Hurricane Harvey samples. Results: While direct comparison is difficult, we present three methods for comparing PAHs found in pre-hurricane fiber wipes and post-hurricane soil samples. The methods demonstrate that the PAHs found before and after Hurricane Harvey are likely from similar sources and that those sources are most likely to be associated with combustion. We also found evidence of redistribution of PAHs due to extreme flooding associated with Hurricane Harvey. Discussion: Residents of the Manchester neighborhood of Houston, TX, are exposed to a range of PAHs in household dust and outdoor soil. While difficult to compare directly, we were able to use several methods to assess detected concentrations, changes in site-specific PAH allocations, and PAH origination. Additional research is needed to identify specific sources of domestic PAH exposure in these communities and continued work involving community members and policy makers should aim to develop interventions to reduce domestic exposure to and prevent negative health outcomes from PAHs.

Revised: April 14, 2020 | Published: February 8, 2018


Horney J.A., G.A. Casillas, E.M. Baker, K.W. Stone, K.R. Kirsch, K. Camargo, and T. Wade, et al. 2018. Comparing Residential Contamination in a Houston Environmental Justice Neighborhood before and after Hurricane Harvey. PLoS One 13, no. 2:Article No. e0192660. PNNL-SA-134072. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0192660