Rick Bissell, emergency health services, was as an invited panel discussant at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, DC. The panel discussed public access to timely and valid science-based information in disasters and other emergencies. This topic has risen in importance in recent years following information inaccuracies or withholding in the following incidents: airborne particulates and contaminants secondary to the collapse of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, several “mad cow” incidents in the last decade in which information has been obfuscated, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and various “superbug” infections at the NIH hospital, in which information was not shared with the public, emergency management, or other clinical centers.
These incidents were discussed as examples of the problem, and are not exhaustive. Bissell was one of three panelists, among 16, with an emergency public health and emergency management background. Other panelists represented journalism, food safety, environmental science, public policy, library science, political science, consumer safety, government communications, physics and nuclear proliferation, civil liberties and government accountability.
The Union of Concerned Scientists expects to have a preliminary policy paper available within the next month.