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Tulane to Study Katrina Cough

A new five-year study by Tulane University will examine 1,000 local workers to try and determine the cause of increased respiratory problems among New Orleans residents.

Participants will fill out an annual survey and wear monitoring devices at work to determine if they are being exposed to asbestos, mold or other possible allergens that could explain why workers and residents are complaining of persistent respiratory problems.

Between 1948 and 1993 records indicate 123,158 tons of asbestos were used for construction by the city of New Orleans. How much of that asbestos became airborne during the storm and in later cleanup/renovation projects has yet to be determined.

The study was made possible by a $1.86 million from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and will be led by Henry Glindmeyer of Tulane's medical school.

An April 2006 study by the state health department of 56,000 emergency-room visits did not find an increase in respiratory problems but in the year and a half since. The study included anecdotal evidence which suggested that complaints were often from people with pre-existing respiratory conditions.