Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist is recruiting participants for a study examining the health impacts of the Winston Weaver Fertilizer Plant fire, which forced mass evacuations in Winston-Salem nearly one year ago.
The study was prompted by concerns from residents about the fire’s physical and emotional health effects, according to Dr. Callie Brown, the study’s principal investigator. She and her colleagues attended several community meetings after the fire, and she says they found there was a clear desire for more research to be done.
“And for this not to get lost or swept under the rug or forgotten about," says Brown.
The study has three components. First, Brown says her colleagues at the Wake Forest University School of Engineering will look at the quality of the air, water, and soil within a two-mile radius of the plant.
The second component is centered on the long-term health effects of people living within that radius. Researchers will start by identifying residents who visited Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist facilities in the year before the fire.
“And we're going to follow them over time, see if those patients have different health problems than another cohort of patients that live in Winston-Salem, but didn't live around the site of the fire.”
The last element of the study involves interviews with 40 residents from the community surrounding the plant. Twenty Spanish speakers have already been recruited. Researchers are now looking for 20 English speakers.
“We want to know about what they think about the safety of their neighborhood and whether there has been effects on their mental health and their physical health and their financial health.”
Brown says they’re aiming to publish the majority of their findings within a year. Additional information about the study will be shared at a community meeting scheduled for February 1 at Hanes Hosiery Community Center.